Pascal at Hutton Center - Santa Ana
If you are reading this and you do not live or work in South Coast Metro, which is really Santa Ana with Irvine aspirations, you can ignore this review. There's no need for you to go out of your way to try Pascal at Hutton Center.
Instead, you probably want to just suck it up and eat at Chef Pascal Olhats' real restaurants, Tradition by Pascal and Cafe Jardin, both of which I have not tried, but heard good things.
But if you do work near the 55 at MacArthur, have $8 burning a hole in your pocket and a hankering for a panini, then read on. Pascal at Hutton Center is the answer for when you've grown tired of the other ho-hum options at The Food Court at MacArthur Place.
It's part deli, part creperie, part airport terminal pitstop. But mostly it is Pascal's satellite location where most of the food is driven in from the bigger restaurants, dropped off daily by a van.
This is "Pascal's Jr.", if you will.
No "French Fries", but French food, fast.
There are prepared meals packaged in ready-to-heat containers and sealed in saran wrap. A meager selection of French pastries will be unimpressive, unless you are hypoglycemic.
But they can make you a crepe from scratch; and when you order a panini, they'll take a pre-assembled hoagie-type sandwich from the display case, brush the outer crust with olive oil, and then mash it flat to sear in a panini press.
What comes out looks like a Subway sub that's been trampled by a Size-12 hiking boot. As thin as its insole, but as crisp as toast, it's indicative of a true European panini (at least the ones I've seen in Belgium).
I took the lamb. Slices of roasted meat, a touch of feta, tomato, and the bracing wallop of chili (more on this later) were all smooshed inside a crusty sandal-shaped oval that eats like a glorified Hot Pocket. A Hot Pocket that, by the way, cost me almost $8 ($7.82 to be exact), which is a lot if you're used to overstuffed banh mi sandwiches that sell for $1.67 each.
Me? I'm a banh mi fiend. Read: I am a cheapskate. And because I am, I need to say that this sandwich did not satisfy my hunger or sense of value. But oh, the flavor!
It was savory to the max and hot in both definitions of the word. At first, I thought the chili component must have been Mexican, since it had the smoky burn of Tapatio. I later found out it was Sriracha, which still doesn't justify the price, I know, but made the panini even more endearing and me even more conflicted about how much I liked it.
Maybe when the recession is over, I'll get another one.
2 Hutton Centre Dr
Santa Ana, CA 92707
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