About a month ago, Misao Masuda quietly opened The Creek Cafe in the Lakewood Shopping Center. Masuda is new to Texas after cutting his culinary teeth at high-end restaurants in Japan and Hawaii. Now he's here, serving breakfast and lunch from his small four-table eatery.
The food is fast-casual, aimed at the grab-and-go set. You can order a pastry and a coffee at the counter or try something cooked to order. The menu, like the cafe, is on the slight side, consisting primarily of paninis ($7.50 to $9.50), soups, potatoes with all the fixings ($3.50 to $7.50) and omelets ($7.50 to $9.50).
Ordering an omelet at a restaurant for the first time can be like a game of gastronomic roulette. Will you be treated to a simple French-style omelet, with its buttercup yellow, ellipsoidal exterior and slightly runny interior? A half-moon fried golden brown and stuffed with goodies? Or will you confront the diner's dilemma that is the omelet made from eggs in a box, with its inch-thick, Plasticine casing?
The church ladies jump-starting this year's Christmas pageant planning at a nearby table lamented The Creek Cafe's omelet, which "just wasn't thick enough." Perhaps next time, a star will shine down from the heavens and guide them to the closest greasy spoon, where they might feast upon the colossal, rubbery egg coffins of their dreams.
No matter. That just leaves more of the cafe's omelets, with their delicate wrappers and tasty fillings, for the rest of us. The supreme omelet ($9.50) married gently smoky brisket with nibbles of bacon while fresh spinach and other vegetables offered freshness and textural variation. It was a good, honest omelette — one that was more Denver than French, and more delicious and skillful than so many at a similar price-point.
While there's nothing particularly exciting or fashionable about an omelet, both technique and trend are on display when it comes to the cafe's Japanese pancakes ($9.50 to $14.50). These fluffy, towering cakes have become something of a food blog darling as of late, but Masuda explained that in Japan, they're a favorite special-occasion food enjoyed post-breakfast or for brunch.
While most recipes call for cooking the cakes in a skillet, Masuda opts for the oven, which provides for a nice, even cook. Be warned: This dish is not for the hurried. It takes approximately 30 minutes to prepare and bake. But oh, it's worth the wait. These little golden-brown cylinders manage to be both light — their sweet crumb tempered by a hint of buttermilk tang — and substantial, with a slightly spongy, springy interior. The Creek Cafe serves them myriad ways, from a chocolate and banana version to the berry-berry ($14.50).
Japanese pancakes are meant to impress. Decked out with fresh fruit, ice cream and a bit of salted butter, The Creek Cafe's version did just that.
The Creek Cafe, 6334 Gaston Ave. Open 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
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