Sunday, June 22, 2008

Beard Papa's - Costa Mesa

Unless you follow foodie bulletin boards and blogs, chances are you haven't heard of or had a Beard Papa's cream puff. That goes double if you don't normally venture out of Orange County, where there are only two outlets of this Osaka-based chain.

There's one at Santa Ana's MainPlace Mall, and another at the Japanese market in Costa Mesa that isn't Mitsuwa: Marukai. Both opened a year ago to little fanfare and zero hype.

From the first few weeks in business to now, visit either location and you'll see no queue, no crowds, nothing like the craze the owners must have observed at other Beard Papa's stores in Japan, Singapore, and Taiwan (even L.A.).

I have a few theories to why it hasn't caught on here in O.C. Aside from the not-so-convenient locations, there's the fact that cream puffs don't play kindly into low-carb diets -- it's far too similar to a Twinkie.

But I believe something else is to blame: the car.

Singapore, Japan and Taiwan are urban jungles, connected with a comprehensive network of subways which everyone uses. Almost no one drives. Most walk from their homes, to the stations, grabbing snacks between stops at food stalls which exist on every corner, at every turn.

In Singapore, in particular (a foodie city I recently visited), there's the equivalent of an American mall food court at every station (except a hundred times better, of course). It's in this kind of environment that I think Beard Papa's cream puffs function best.

The delicacy requires on-the-spot consumption, and therefore perfect for someone with both hands free and an appetite between train rides.

But here, if you try to eat one in your car on the trip home, you'll dribble cream all over yourself, the seat, the steering wheel...and pretty soon, the gurney in the ambulance that will cart your bleeding, broken body to the hospital.

So really, O.C.'s Beard Papa's outlets are pretty much out of luck. Even with these ridiculous gas prices, no one's going to give up their automobiles. But still, they relent.

Recently the Marukai Beard Papa's introduced a new "Cookie Crunch" crust to accompany their original, green tea, and chocolate eclair flavors. But save the extra cash it costs and get the original.

This new puff is just the old puff with a few crushed up cookie crumbs baked on top. It doesn't add anything and feels like a desperate gimmick, like Pizza Hut's Stuffed Crust.

Even the green tea flavor, which is filled with a green-tea infused cream and dusted with green tea powder doesn't improve on the original -- a cream puff the size of a small boulder with a shattering crust as pock-marked and cratered as a moon landscape, overstuffed with an injection of vanilla custard cream until it's practically ready to burst.

For those who've not tried one, there's a single rule of thumb on how to best enjoy a Beard Papa's cream puff: Eat it immediately.

The crunchy and creamy interplay between the choux pastry crust and the custard has a notoriously short half life. It's the reason they wait until the very last second before shoving it into a metal pipe to begin the custard pumping process.

If you let it sit overnight in the fridge, it will degrade into just another soggy cream puff. And by then, you might as well eat a Twinkie.

Beard Papa's (inside Marukai Market)
2975 Harbor Blvd.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

THIS WEEK ON OC WEEKLY:
A Restaurant - Newport Beach

46 Comments:

At 1:25 AM, Anonymous Eileen said...

I had original, green tea, coffee and chocolate ones. Still think the original is the best.

 
At 6:51 AM, Blogger Wandering Chopsticks said...

Have you stumbled upon the ever-elusive pumpkin creampuff? My cousin had it once and I've been searching for it ever since. :( Strawberry tastes like strawberry milk. I still like original best.

You also forgot the Little Saigon factor. For the cost of that one Beard Papa's, I could buy 10 in Little Saigon. :P

 
At 7:18 AM, Blogger Darlene said...

One thing I miss about working is OC is the drive to get those darn cream puffs. Maybe that's why I have a waistline line now. Perhaps if Beard Papa's offers a "fill it yourself cream kit" that it would overcome that sogginess factor. Okay, I'm just joking about that last part.

 
At 9:30 AM, Anonymous Cap said...

The pictures are good enough to convince me to try some regardless of price. But just curious, how much are they?

 
At 11:07 AM, Blogger Diamond Dog said...

I think they have one in San Fran and as I remember it was like eating sex in a puff pastry. It was that good! Glad to hear there is one closer.

BTW, what's with recommending Burrel's BBQ in your "Summer Recommendations" article for the OC Weekly? That place sucks and I think you even alluded to that fact when you reviewed them a while back. Expensive for what it is, location is in the middle of gang land, and its not even good food.

You are a very well respected reviewer...please don't sell out or write things just because OC Weekly gives you some stupid theme you have to put words to! I am your guardian angel, Elmo....the one that reminds you to keep your journalistic integrity ;)

 
At 2:06 PM, Anonymous howie said...

I *love* Beard Papa's, and I agree that the original flavor rules them all.

I always found it curious that the Beard Papa's craze didn't hit bigger down here. It's the only food fad of the last 5 years that I can really get into (unlike boba, tart yogurt, and cupcakes).

I thought the reason might be the low-carb thing too, but that wouldn't explain why cupcakes hit so big around the same time.

 
At 10:04 PM, Blogger nomnomnom said...

personally, i enjoy the green tea the best... not as sweet as the others.
you should try the other stuff that they offer at mammoth bakery/beard papa... the curry pan is soooooo good.

 
At 10:05 PM, Blogger colleeeen said...

cap, IIRC they are $1.75 each and it's cash-only (at least at Marukai). I have only had them once (OK, OK, we bought a 6-pack and i ate three of them within 24 hours!). I didn't refrigerate the last one and ate it for breakfast the next day (yes, I already know I'm nasty, thank you). Not as good as fresh but not really soggy, either.

 
At 9:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i agree with diamond dog.

i went out of my way to check out two blogs you posted on this site.

the first, at the mexican bakery (breakfast burrito) and the second at souplantation (chocolate chip cookies).

they both sucked real bad. i would NEVER get those items again. i'm not sure if you're getting free lunches from the stores you visit AND from the people at OCweekly, but PLEASE, lets get some quality items.

 
At 9:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh yeah, and saying in one of your posts that the pork dish is "the best pork dish ever" is pretty lame...

 
At 10:22 AM, Blogger Kai said...

I'm going to have to disagree with you about the cookie dough. I think it adds a nice crunch. ^____^

My own theory about the lack of popularity at the Santa Anita mall location is that they are REALLY slow. One time I had stood in line to buy one, than got tired of waiting and went shopping. Half an hour later, I saw the lady who was standing in front of the line still standing there.

That really discourages people to buy any cream puffs.

 
At 11:38 AM, Blogger Bill said...

I think the original is great but I sure won't go out of my way for them. Pricy is all I have to say about these morsel of cream bombs ;-)

 
At 12:28 PM, Blogger Diamond Dog said...

I don't think Elmo should just post about good places. I think he should post about all kinds of places, but not be afraid to tell is if it was bad. I don't know if its becuase certain places advertise with OC weekly or not, but it seems rare that there is ever a bad review. We need to know what places to avoid as well!

Most of the time Elmo has really accurate, great reviews of interesting places (a little heavy on the Asian and Mex places lately). I have tried a lot of places I have enjoyed because of this site!

But I stand by what I said about Burell's. It sucks, and Elmo even said it wasn't that good, then it shows up on a recommended place to eat in OC Weekly.

You'll never see a bad review for breast augmentation or sex escorts in the OC Weekly either as that makes up most of the advertisers in that liberal rag (ha ha)

 
At 1:56 PM, Anonymous colleeeen said...

dd - don't forget the adult toy emporiums and strip clubs! ha-ha!

 
At 7:30 PM, Anonymous A. said...

I LOVE Beard Papa's! I'm shocked to hear that it hasn't really taken off in OC. I guess I'll just have to keep buying cream puffs to keep them in business. :D

BTW, I'm pretty sure the pumpkin cream puffs mentioned above were a seasonal item. Hopefully they'll be back this fall. So yummy!

 
At 8:52 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

eileen,

Concur. Original is by far the best and cheapest too!


WC,

Pumpkin creampuff?! Whoa. You just blew my mind. I haven't seen one...but then this Costa Mesa branch is notoriously slow in introducing new flavors. But as good as Banh Mi Che Cali's cream puffs are, they're no Beard Papa's...though they will put you in the poorhouse at a slower rate!


Darlene,

"Fill It Yourself Cream Kit" is a great idea...except then you get people fudging around on the roads trying to fill their cream puffs! Disaster! HAHA!


Cap,

They're $1.75 for the original and $2.25 for the cookie crunch. They're also more expensive at Mainplace Mall by a few dimes or so.


Diamond Dog and Anon,

HA! Well, DD, you're just about the first person to say that I'm well-respected (other than myself).

And I am surprised that you guys put so much stock in what I say. Although DD, you were quite the prolific food blogger once! I've been looking forward to the resurrection of your blog. What gives with just depending on me? Get out there man!

I do write a lot of positive posts, but that's because if I don't like a place, I won't bother blogging. Case in point: 99 Ranch's $2.50 pork and egg rice that I tried recently...blech. I don't need to waste pixels on that.

But it's flattering that you guys think my influence is so great that people would try to buy a good review from me. Sure, one or two have tried, which I've summarily ignored or rebuffed politely.

So my opinions are unsolicited...no one tells me what to write here, not OC Weekly, not anyone...AND DAMN IT, I LOVE THOSE SOUPLANTATION COOKIES.....seriously!

And Magic Wok's sisig as THE GREATEST PORK DISH IN THE WORLD, well that's because it IS the greatest pork dish in the world! That and, I'm a fan of hyperboles. Great big honking ones!

Now Burrell's: I can't be more adamant about recommending it for its summeriness. It's true I liked Lucille's ribs better...but nothing, I mean nothing beats Burrell's on location. It's the perfect escape from Irvine. And maybe there's a bit of naivety in saying so: but if I'm not intimidated in going there, no one should. Besides, that backyard is made to enjoy the sunshine -- not the stars. So if you get mugged by following my recommendation, then you've come too late at night. But who eats a backyard BBQ at night? ;-)


Howie,

Oh man...I can't believe I didn't factor in the cupcake craze, that blows my low-carb theory out of the water.


nomnomnom,

The curry pan did almost get my attention...but I was full at the time. Next time: emptier stomach.


Kai,

Ah, well that makes the Costa Mesa branch even more enticing...no line there and they work like lightning.


Bill,

Yup. But come on! You know you want one right now!!!


Colleeeeen,

I'm still waiting for those business to try to buy a good review out of me. ;-)


A.,

HA! You and me both! I think that's my heart yelling "noooooo!"

 
At 8:23 AM, Blogger Diamond Dog said...

Come on Elmo. We come to you for food advice. The food at Burrells sucks ass. If it was served in Texas or Oklahoma, they would probably be arrested for calling it BBQ. If we want to know a nice place to sit in a park setting, we will go to Mile Square Park or something rather than a little patch of grass in Gang Land. We come to you for FOOD. We'll go to the Department of Parks and Recreation for Park setting info. Besides, what good is it to eat crappy Burell's BBQ in a nice park anyway? Here is an analogy: Thats like going to the nicest restaurant in the world with the best food and ambiance on a date with the ugliest, most obnoxious woman on the planet, who drools and smells!

And I don't think people "buy" reviews from you or the OC Weekly. Rather I feel that at times "safe" reviews are written as to not piss of sponsors or the potential customer base in general or to put words to some idea from some editor.

And I liked your cookie review from Souplantation and also would have liked to have read about the gross pork rice at 99 Market as I go there a lot!

I have gone to so many places because of your blog!

As far as my blog, I think my nice is being a blog critic rather than a food critic and my #1 priority is keeping my favorite food (Monster Munching) blog true and on the mark!

Now get over to Mi Casa and Steer Inn, but only if you are going to write a good review (ha ha ha)

 
At 8:47 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Touche DD, touche! But if the food sucks and the ambience is great, wouldn't the analogy be more like having McDonald's with Jessica Alba?

OK...now I'm equating Burrell's backyard to Jessica Alba...that's going too far! Even for me!

HAHA!

 
At 9:04 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

DD,

Oh and I think you've tapped into a new genre of blog! A blog that critiques other blogs! I would be proud to be your first post. ;-)

 
At 11:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

omg, those souplantation cookies tastes like crap.

 
At 9:23 PM, Blogger Bill said...

LOL I had some last week but I didn't buy it and it was goooood.

 
At 10:13 PM, Anonymous OCLoriAnn said...

I love the eclairs best because I love chocolate. I've been to the one in Corona at Dos Lagos and it's always been empty too, I don't know why since they're soo tasty. They have different flavors too, I think they have mango and I can't remember if caramel was a flavor too. The original is best, in the eclair!

 
At 8:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OMG.. I am so happy this place has finally made it to the OC!!! thanks for letting us know.

 
At 11:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OKAY, I USUALLY DONT POST A LOT, BUT SINCE I'VE HAD A NUMBER OF COMPLAINTS LATELY, I'LL CONSIDER SIGNING UP FOR AN ACCCOUNT...
SO I WENT TO THE MARUKAI MARKET TO BUY SOME CREAM PUFFS. IT LOOKED LIKE THEY'VE BEEN LYING THERE FOR HOURS OUTSIDE. I REPEATEDLY ASKED THE LADY AT THE COUNTER, "ARE THEY FRESH?" I GET A YES NODD, BUT SHE DOESN'T SEEM LIKE SHE UNDERSTOOD...SO I ASKED AGAIN, "ARE THEY FRESH?" AND POINTED, AND SHE GAVE ME ANOTHER NODD. I DONT THINK SHE UNDERSTOOD, BUT I WAS ALREADY THERE AND I WANTED TO TRY ONE, SO I SAID WHAT THE HECK...
UNFORTUNATELY, IT DID NOT TASTE FRESH AT ALL! THE LADY LIED TO ME!!!
I WILL GO TO THE ONE AT THE MAIN PLACE MALL AT AN EARLIER TIME IN THE DAY I GUESS....BEWARE!!!

 
At 11:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

by the way, i'm the one that complained about the souplantation cookies...

 
At 4:10 PM, Blogger Diamond Dog said...

Anonymous,

It seems like you are doing everything you can to post about how all of Elmo's recommendations are bad.

From the cookies, to the Breafast burrito, to the cream puffs.

Not sure exactly what your agenda is.

Don't hate on Elmo, his blog is better than any other OC food blog out there.

I mayhave disagreed with him on a few places, but there have been TONS that I have loved and that he introduced me to.

 
At 5:43 PM, Blogger Diamond Dog said...

Anonymous,

I also have something I think you should try and like...

LOWER CASE LETTERS.

They are really good, useful, and taste like cream filling.

 
At 8:24 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Bill,

To enjoy one without having to pay for it: That's the ultimate.


ocloriann,

Mango! Now that's wild. If they use bits of fresh mango in the cream, I can already tell that would be awesome.


Anon who is happy I posted about this,

You're welcome!


DD,

I've wondered the same thing. Thanks for keeping not only me, but my readers in line!

 
At 10:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The one at Marukai isn't that good. They don't offer the special flavors that other locations do. One of my favorites is Strawberry. If I crave Beard Papa's, I usually go to the one at Main Place.

 
At 12:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

lol...
elmo's blog is awesome.
i've found a lot of really good places on here, for example, Zon's, which i frequest every week since it's close to my work.
nothing personal.
=)

 
At 5:01 PM, Anonymous NickP said...

Main Place one down here is the best. BTW: They are similar enough to the locations in Japan, so fairly authentic.

I guess it doesn't catch on here due to the general problem with most people circling to chain or group restaurants... Independent restaurants or smaller chains tend to get little exposure except on blogs.

Orange County food for me is across the board mediocre, however Elmonster always finds places to bring your hopes up.

 
At 8:15 AM, Anonymous White On Rice Couple said...

What's even more lame are those anonymous posters who don't have the balls to put an identity to their cowardly comments.
That's what makes Elmo's site so great, he gives us the good, the bad and the ugly. Then leaves it up to the readers to decide.

Beard Papa's are seeming to pop up all along our munching trails in So Cal! We were in LA last month just strolling along and then...Whoa!! another Beard Papa's! Time for another cream puff!
WC- Hey girl! IMO- yeah, Little Saigon get you 10 for the price of one BP's but there's something more special about BP's lightly crisp outside and totally creamy and whipped filling. It leaves me in creamy puff heaven.

 
At 12:24 AM, Blogger joanh said...

your theory totally makes sense.. it is totally a eat on the spot food. I think they might do better in the states inside a mall foodcourt than in the random spots that they are in now. they never taste as good the next day.

 
At 5:43 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Anonymous 1,

And you get to burn off the extra calories by the longer walk from the parking lot!


Anonymous 2,

From "You've Got Mail":

Joe Fox: It wasn't... personal.

Kathleen Kelly: What is that supposed to mean? I am so sick of that. All that means is that it wasn't personal to you. But it was personal to me. It's *personal* to a lot of people. And what's so wrong with being personal, anyway?

Joe Fox: Uh, nothing.

Kathleen Kelly: Whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal.



NickP,

Hey thanks! Well, I try. Actually I get suggestions from readers too. So it's a mutually beneficial thing we've got going on here. Mututally beneficial to our bellies.


WoRC,

You're so right about anonymous commenters. At least Diamond Dog, who is quite blunt in his criticism, owns up to his comments. You know what? I just deleted a comment in the latest blog I wrote that attacked another commenter for no apparent reason. I'll tolerate any jabs made at my expense, but I draw the line at being rude to my readers. When did civility die?

Thanks again for this comment.


JoanH,

I figured this out the hard way actually. Once upon a time, I waited to eat one, and was sorry for it.

 
At 11:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

they are also planning to open another Beard Papa in Irvine this summer on Alton and Jamboree. hopefully this location will popularize the heaven-like taste of cream puffs in the OC. and also maybe replace the Yogurtland fad.

 
At 12:13 PM, Blogger SiBuduhMan said...

There's a Beard Papa's in a shopping mall here in San Diego that just opened (and it's the only one here, haha!). The puffs are going for $2 each, and it's located at the perfect place - the mall food court. Just had one today - and I can see why one can go crazy over these. And the original is best.

 
At 12:50 AM, Blogger Scotty Tran said...

I went to Main Place the other day, and I never knew that they had one. Because I read this review though, I bought one and realized how much I liked this. I think it was a bit pricey for a cream puff, but it was better than many I've had.

 
At 7:52 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Anon,

That's great news. I pass by that area everyday, twice! If a Beard Papa's were to open there, I'm in trouble!

Sibuduhman,

I'm waiting for one to be installed inside a movie theater. What better place is there than a dark room where no one can see you eat these blubbery bombs?

Scotty,

Definitely expensive. The one at Marukai is I believe a few cents less, but it's not much of a discount. I think it's good that they're expensive. If they were cheap then think of what would happen to the population! EGADS! Every clothing store would be a Big & Tall.

 
At 9:49 PM, Blogger NP said...

Sad news folks: the Beard Papa's in Main Place is now closed! Unless they moved somewhere i couldn't see... The location was boarded up with Westfield signage.

We also tried to go to the one in Marukai this weekend and they were "closed" - not fully closed just not staffed... Odd; wondering if the Costa Mesa one will stick around.

 
At 12:16 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Oh no! And it just made the OC Weekly's Best of OC. I'll be writing about this shortly on Stick a Fork In It, and I'll be quoting you. Hope you don't mind.

 
At 1:14 AM, Blogger NP said...

sure go ahead :)

 
At 7:00 PM, Blogger NP said...

What an odd turn of events! As of this morning (Nov 21st 2008) the Main Place Beard Papa's is open again.

From talking to the employees they did shut down and it was to be a permanent closure however they have a new owner who reopened this week

So let's hope they stay open this time.

 
At 7:44 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

NP! That is awesome news. Thanks for the scoop!

 
At 11:09 AM, Blogger NP said...

Guess what, main place one is CLOSED again - for good this time :(

Covered up with Westfield Mainplace signage now

Guess they still couldn't make a go at it considering the mall rent.

 
At 12:21 PM, Blogger Erin Fisher said...

YUM YUM YUM Was just talking to my bf yesterday about us needing to go to Beard Papa's. We stumbled upon one in Little Tokyo downtown LA, however I think going to the OC may be better as there is much to do. WOO HOO these are sooo good!

 
At 4:07 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Erin,

Unfortunately, we all have to drive to L.A. for some Beard Papa's. All O.C. locations have closed for good this year!

 

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