Taste Test: Koko's Cafe in Irvine
This is a taste test. Only a test. Not a formal review, but a quick, dirty trial of two dishes from Koko's Cafe in Irvine, which as I noted in an annoucement post last week, opened recently in Irvine. It took the place of Dickey's BBQ at the corner of Irvine Center Drive and Jeffrey, and from what I can tell, kept the layout of the old restaurant.
Meals at Hong Kong-style cafes like this one, as I mentioned before, are a hodge-podge that mixes the Chinese with the Denny's. There are rice plates, noodles, and casserole-like dishes that defy classification except that it is in the style of Hong Kong cafes. There are at least three ways in which to get a pork chop: deep fried with panko crumbs, grilled, and baked with tomato sauce. The deep fried pork chop wears its panko-crumb coat loosely, while the pork, bone in, is as thick as the fattest part of my index finger. A mild and inoffensive but ultimately unnesssary black pepper sauce was draped over mine, but you have the choice of about four other options including curry and spicy orange peel.
The pork yielded easily to the blunt edge of my fork, the texture inexplicably spongy, almost as if the meat had been tenderized by mallet. When you choose a meal from this category, there are three sides to choose from, which does not count the rice or pasta that comes with it automatically (along with a watery tomato soup). Since one of the side dishes is mashed potato, it is entirely possible to end up with two starches dominating your plate. I opted instead for simply stir fried mix of veggies. The rice, by the way, is lightly flavored with tomato--like a very mild-mannered fried rice.
Another dish called "shrimp with fluffy eggs over rice", is exactly this. It's a very good rendition of the classic. The portion came out in an enormous mountain and steaming, the eggs actually fluffy, not overcooked, each scrambled curd harboring an extra savoriness you won't get at breakfast at the corner diner. It is what you'd expect to be served at a proper Cantonese restaurant or dinner at a Chinese friend's house where the dish would be a household staple.
For drinks, they feature signature concoctions called "milky drinks", which borrows and capitalizes on the Half & Half Tea House craze currently gripping the San Gabriel Valley. It is milky, yes, very much so, like a glass of milk that's blended slightly but not throughly with chips of ice; but also, it's chunky with boba and another filler of your choice such as pudding or grass jelly. The drinks are sweet but not overly done. In this case, they use brown sugar. Half & Half typically uses honey.
Koko's Cafe, 15435 Jeffrey Rd., Irvine, (949) 551-2888.