The Restaurant Re-Tread: Café Hiro, Cypress
Café Hiro is located in an awkwardly-situated strip mall on Valley View and Cerritos; the mall is turned so the exterior corner is facing the streets. This means that the restaurant can't be seen from Valley View, so diners need to know where they're headed. The interior is wood-lined benches and tables, with a partially-open kitchen and interesting art on the walls. The restaurant is small; maybe 30-40 seats. (Due to a camera malfunction, the pictures in this post, incidentally, were "borrowed" from Edwin's personal blog, Monster Munching.)
The menu is full of the Japanese take on Italian food, with a nod to Chinese influence now and then. There are many pastas with exotic (to mainstream Americans) ingredients like mentaiko (marinated fish roe) and uni (sea urchin), several curries, heartier main dishes, and a few blackboards above the bar with daily specials.
Peking Pork ($8) was very good; four slices of tender roasted pork tenderloin with just enough fat on to lend flavor, served with four steamed white buns (the folded kind, like you get for Peking duck, get it?), microgreens and a very tasty hoisin sauce. Some kind of pork crackling such as chicharrones would have made the dish absolutely perfect; as it was, it disappeared quickly.
The miso-marinated black cod special ($17) was something of a dated dish, but being dated doesn't make it less tasty. The fish was very juicy, perfectly cooked with a good crust on the outside and a soft inside, but the accompanying baby bok choy was dreadfully overcooked, to the point of being mushy. This came with the choice of bread, flat slices akin to Cuban bread, or steamed rice; the rice soaked up the broth that was used in place of sauce beautifully.
Desserts looked very tempting; walnut crème brûlée ($5) was a small pots-de-crème ramekin with a very soft custard shot through with softened walnuts. The crust on top could have used a bit more crunch; it seemed a bit like it had been burned in advance, and it seemed small for the price.
Service is very good; mostly attentive (it's a small place) and very warm and friendly, which made the restaurant seem homelike and inviting, like the little hidden bistros in Paris. The only issue was trying to get the bill, which is quite common and not such a big problem. The restaurant was mostly full, but Chef Hiro Ohiwa took time to visit and see how everything was going.
Value is outstanding: $17 gets you a three-course meal, with a sesame- and miso-dressed green salad to start and vegetable soup (they call it "minestrone") as a second course. While these dishes come standard with some of the menu items, you can add it to any other item for $3. These same dishes would be closer to $25 on L.A.'s Sawtelle Boulevard or in Torrance.
Cypress has a restaurant to be proud of; while Café Hiro is definitely off the main drag, it's worth a considerable drive.
Café Hiro, 10509 Valley View St., Cypress; (714) 527-6090.