Nestled in historic downtown Whittier is a café which not only surprised, but impressed the hell out of us. I am here for dinner with a friend, and find ourselves completely enamored by this neighborhood eatery.
The restaurant is unassuming, but don’t let that fool you. The food is solid, and each bite reveals a certain kind of love one puts into creating dishes that can’t be replicated through rote learning.
We begin with Spanish Octopus Salad ($17) with perfectly executed nodules of char-grilled octopus with an ideal chew. It is so refreshing to find a chef who doesn’t sous vide the octopus! There is pickled French green beans, roasted fingerling potatoes, and a bright salsa verde oil that pops on the palate.
We are huge fans of escargot, but so few restaurants offer it these days. Les Escargots ($13) is prepared in the traditional way with the French Burgundy snails baked in their shells with lots of butter, and garlic. We ask for more sliced baguette to sop up all the remaining garlic butter, not wanting to leave even a little drop behind.
I am impressed with our appetizers, but when our entrées arrive, the realization that we’ve discovered a hidden gem sinks in. Chilean Seabass ($35) is a special this evening, and the sake and miso marinated fish is melt-in-your-mouth tender. Composed with wilted garlic spinach, organic bamboo infused rice, and finished with a miso-sake glaze, this is exactly the kind of food I like to eat!
Lately, I’ve been ordering chicken more when dining out. I’ve come to realize that this is a good indicator as to what the rest of the menu will reveal. Chicken, though a humble protein, is difficult to cook perfectly.
Simply Roasted Chicken ($25) is our second entrée, and upon first bite, I knew we had a winner. The boneless half chicken is juicy, and moist, with a crispy skin lending both flavor and texture. It is splendid! It is honest, good food, something that’s becoming less and less common in a lot of kitchens these days. Roasted baby carrots, mashed potatoes, and a to-die-for garlic pan jus complete the plate.
We finish with two desserts, my favorite being the Apple Tart Tartine ($9) which tastes like someone’s grandma had made it. Caramelized apples are paired with a tasty crust, served with vanilla ice cream. The crust is fantastic and there just isn’t enough of it!
Bread Pudding A La Mode ($9) a classic bread pudding is a tad too sweet for my palate, but my dining companion relish it with delight.
After the meal, all I can think of is when I’m going to return again. Uptown Vintage Café reminds me of Dominique’s Kitchen in Redondo Beach. It is the same kind of solid, good, unpretentious cooking that seems to be dwindling in the current atmosphere of trying to “one up” your peers. I am more excited by humble cuisine that shines, rather than fancy, schmancy shock-inducing plates that over-hype the senses, rather than focusing on the one thing that matters – the star on the plate.
Walking away from a meal should always feel like this. Sheer satisfaction, happiness, and that fulfillment which satiates every part of my being.
Uptown Vintage Café
6741 Bright Ave
Whittier, CA 90601