Cafe Hiro's Steak Dinner - Cypress
There are days that leave me feeling beat up and defeated, when I don't just need comfort food, but a comfort place. Cafe Hiro is my comfort place. My happy place. A few weeks ago, after one of these days, I told her, "I don't want to stay in tonight." And before we knew it we both said, "Let's go to Cafe Hiro."
This would happen two more times in two consecutive weeks. What can I say. It's been that kind of month.
But as soon as we arrive, everything seems to immediately get better. Calming and welcoming -- a refuge as a refuge should be -- it's almost as good as home, this place.
Knowing that we always order the passion fruit iced tea, our waitress already has it ready. Two tall, ice cold glasses of it are poured, even before we sit down.
At the center of it all stands Hiro Ohiwa -- the benevolent owner/chef, a Zen Buddha-figure with a backwards baseball cap -- who waves hello to us as he oversees his dominion. Order tickets go through him before it's fired, and he inspects every plate before it's delivered. If something isn't perfect, he'll make it so.
That night he had a surprise for us: a complimentary amuse bouche. Mozzarella, chopped and formed into two quenelles, sits on a extra virgin olive oil puddle, sprinkled with coarse sea salt and cracked pepper. Just a small token of appreciation, which for me, on that night, counted for a lot.
Her choice of main course, as it always is, was the uni spaghetti. Mine was steak, which comes with a salad and soup -- both gobbled up just as quickly as the salad is briskly cool, and the soup, a liquid-blanket of warmness.
Around the plate and flanking the gorgeously browned slab of meat, there's creamy scalloped potatoes fanned out like a magician's cards, but also a welcome bit of greenery: bok choy dappled with drops of miso.
And the steak? Of course, it carves like a dream, but also has just enough chew so that there's something meaningful and meaty to masticate. 'Neath it a soy and garlic pan sauce mingles and mixes with the escaping juices. But the garlic part of the sauce means business. It explodes in sweet but powerful tiny bursts.
I ate my meal hungrily, as if I were eating the first steak of my life. Good? To me, at that time, it was beyond good. It was more than just a steak; it was soothing balm applied to an open wound.
And it isn't fancy like steakhouse's. If I had to describe it, it's more like "mom's house." Cooked exactly to my liking, exactly medium, not too big, not too small...just right. Kind of like Cafe Hiro itself.
10509 Valley View St
Cypress, CA 90630
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