Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Off Citrus

For those of us who live in the Eastside, there aren't many alternatives when it comes to "nicer" restaurants where one can take business colleagues or clients to, other than the ubiquitous chain restaurants or fast food joints that dot the landscape around my part of town. Last year, I discovered Off Citrus and a what a great find it was.

Walking into a dining area with colors reflecting browns and creams as well as having exposed wooden beams up in the ceiling, you already can tell that this restaurant is certainly no neighborhood
Apple Bee's or like the kitschy Elephant Bar. The menu reflects California cuisine and as such, is seasonal. Dishes are swapped out periodically to take advantage of ingredients at its peak.

I've visited Off Citrus a total of three times and for the most part, I enjoyed my meals. The first time I had lunch there, I had their House Roasted Turkey Sandwich with Mango Chutney Sauce. Yummy! Other ingredients included spring mix greens and tomato. The slight bitterness of the greens really complemented the sweetness of the mango chutney.

For my second visit there, I had a stuffed pasta dish which was a special that day. Unfortunately, I don't remember the ingredients, but at the time, I enjoyed every bite. The last time I ate there, I did enjoy my meal, but there were definitely some things I'd change about some of my dishes.

First, I started off with their Yuca Frita. When the dish was placed in front of me, I wasn't quite sure what to make of it. There was a lot going on. The yuca was on a bed of dressed spring mix greens and topped with pickled cabbage and carrots as well as Parmesan cheese. It also came with a spicy chipotle sour cream.

The yuca itself was pretty good. The outer part had a nice crispness to it while the inside retained a bit of moisture so that it wasn't too dry. I've had fried yuca in the past that tasted like chalk, so I was quite happy with the Off Citrus version.

I also liked the kick of that sour cream. I do think that less is more though and for that particular appetizer, the
spring mix wasn't really necessary. I didn't even eat it. I was happy enough just dipping pieces of my yuca in the chipotle sour cream and eating a bit of the pickled veggies on the side. I didn't even think that the Parmesan cheese added much value and would have been fine without it.

My second course was a Warm Goat Cheese Salad. The salad, by the way, was dressed perfectly. There wasn't so much dressing that the leaves were drowning nor so little that the salad was dry. As for the breaded goat cheese, while I enjoyed its pungent flavor, I felt that it could have been fried to a more golden crispiness to give it more visual appeal. As it was, the breading on the cheese looked really pale.

Soon, my main entree came out which was a Persian Style Chicken Salad Sandwich. Since sandwiches are a la carte, I also ordered a side of sweet potato fries, which came with my sandwich. Considering that this chicken salad contained ingredients like lemon juice, paprika, oregano, garlic, olive oil, etc., I really expected bolder flavors. I tasted hints of the lemon and the garlic, but overall, this sandwich was much blander than I expected. The chicken itself was also a little dryer than I would have liked. The sweet potato fries; however, were stellar.

The highlight of my meal was dessert, specifically, Aunt Rose's Old Fashioned Spice Cake. Oh...My....You Know What! This cake was absolutely divine. You cut into it with your fork and steam actually was coming out. The cake itself was moist and flavorful and I fell in love with the walnut crackle that topped it. Apparently, there really is an Aunt Rose and thankfully, she was willing to share her recipe with Off Citrus.

Overall, it was a pretty good lunch. While my last meal there wasn't as good as my first two visits (except for that dessert), Off Citrus is still tops in my book and I would definitely go back and just make different choices.

To see pics, go to:

Off Citrus
114 E Italia St
Covina, CA 91723
(626) 732-2834

Off Citrus on Urbanspoon

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