I ate here twice. FIrst time with my friend. I ordered from their vegan and vegetarian menu. My friend ordered the Calafia burger with fries. My vegan entree was simple, kale, mashed potatoes, and one other seasonal thing I cannot remember. My friend's burger was a little on the dry side. The fries were soggy. For appetizers, we had the chicken wings, which was under seasoned and so was the chili dipping sauce (spicy but no real flavor). The vegetable tempura was very greasy. For dessert, we had the vegan chocolate something cake...which did not have any flavor, and the chocolate was so cold and hard that I needed to break the cake with a knife and fork. I was underwhelmed with my meal.
I gave Calafia a second chance on my birthday... I really wanted to like this restaurant. Again, the appetizers were under seasoned. My special of the day which were fish tacos was grilled poorly, and the promised Kimchee cole slaw filling never materialized...maybe it was there, but I swear I did not taste anything remotely close to Kimchi flavor. My son had the pork belly, which was probably the best dish of the night. Our other appetizer, the pulled pork buns had a greasy weird wrap that was a cross between a flour tortilla and roti. It was spicy but not much flavor, no salt, no seasoning. My husband had the skirt steak, which was homey...a nice way of saying, that a skirt steak is something I make within a half hour at home. We did enjoy the pizza. We had the one with the fresh buffalo mozzarella. I opted for the banana split for dessert, certain that they could not mess this up. But they did. The dessert looked like a mess...something a three year old would put together. I don't want a deconstructed banana split...I want a proper one. Too much whipped cream, not enough ice cream and banana.
I wanted to like this restaurant because I think it is the kind of establishment that all restaurants should try to strive for. Calafia has an ambitious menu...maybe too ambitious. They are organic, vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, dairy free, and everything else. Maybe this is their flaw...trying to be too much of everything, and little of anything. Diners excited about organic food might keep coming here for that, because even if the food does not taste that good, it is still safer to eat than the average eatery. I cook organic, grass fed, and locally grown almost exclusively at home, I don't eat dairy and avoid gluten. Calafia is right down my alley, but misses the mark on actual taste. I don't get it...how do you take fresh, quality ingredients, and turn it into something worse?
Service the first time was good...restaurant was nearly empty when we arrived. Second time it was packed and our server could not hear us under the noise, nor had any peripheral vision. He was nice enough...just not quick. We were missing place settings up until the appetizers arrived...missed appetizer plate...got those when the second appetizer arrived. We are not that picky, but we do need to eat on something other than the table itself.
Do not take my word for it...go try it. Support Calafia just once and maybe twice if you want to keep cheering for restaurants like this. I would still go back a third time in a few months, just to check and the hope of flavor. I still want to like this restaurant.
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