Sunday, March 01, 2009

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.

(714) 957-3087
2 Hutton Centre Dr
Santa Ana, CA 92707

Royal Kitchen - Irvine


At 6:19 AM, Blogger Juliet said...

You know, I've consumed my fair share of Vietnamese food, but have yet to try banh mi. We'll be returning to Chicago later this month to visit friends, though, and found a bakery that makes them, so woohoo!

Do you have Potbelly Sandwich Works there? Their sandwiches are amazingly good! So are their salads, desserts and big pickles.

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

I haven't been to this location,but have many times over the years eaten at the one next to Traditions. They have a larger selection there plus you can get a non-panini version of the lamb sandwich (feta, basil, tomato, and lamb on wonderful walnut bread) Each & every time my Mom is in town for a visit, that is our very first stop out of the airport!
Also their Parisian Breakfast is a relaxing Euro-style treat, when you have time to sit around & relax over a latte .
A bit pricey, yes, but there's quality in them there foods! Occasionally you can see Pascal himself flitting in & out between the restaurants, & he's always offered a friendly hello.
Gosh, I haven't been there in a while, feels like I'm due.

At 9:09 AM, Blogger Frequent Traveler said...

t came by to say hello and wish you a good week, Elmo :)

At 11:41 AM, Blogger Diana said...

I really enjoyed the ham panini and bowl of butternut squash soup I had at Pascal's Epicerie a few months back. Pricey, yes, but tasty nonetheless. The lamb one sounds even better (and more worthy of its price tag)

At 3:33 PM, Blogger Melissa said...

I would go regardless of the price because I love panini...

...which is dumb because I just bought a panini press recently. I'll just make ones at home. They may cost even more than $7.82 but at least I know that I'll have everything I love in it, with as much or as little cheese as I'd like. :)

At 9:58 PM, Blogger EatTravelEat said...

Looks interesting! Quality looks good though.

I agree about your caption on the Royal Kitchen post. It is so intriguing why Chinese restaurants would call the beef dish "french style beef", but I agree, it is scrumptious! :)

At 9:15 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


No banh mi yet?! You're in for a treat! Please let me know what you think of it after you've sunk your teeth in one.

Unfortunately, we don't have a Potbelly Sandwich Works around these parts. With a name like that, it has to be good!


AH! The lamb sandwich with the walnut bread! That's what I intended to order, but unfortunately, I came too early. The delivery guy hadn't arrived with the walnut bread. The panini was excellent anyway.


And a lovely week to you too!


Well, the butternut squash soup sounds great. Now I wish I spent another few bucks to order it. It would've been the perfect counter point to the spiciness of my lamb sandwich.


I'd be willing to pay more than $7.82 for a homemade panini from Alosha's Kitchen! Extra cheese please!


If I had to guess, I think the French Style Beef Steak takes its cues from Vietnamese bo luc lac (shaken beef). And you know how much the French has influenced that cuisine.

At 9:22 AM, Blogger christoofat said...

Speaking of paninis...has anyone tried the Panini place in the Aliso Town Center , in the former Pasta Pomodoro space?
I actually ate there for dinner , but got something else (shish kebabob, yeah weird combo of Italian/Middle Eastern menu - and it wasn't very flavorful either) Was wondering how their signature food product was.

At 9:58 AM, Blogger dad said...

Pascal (Jamboree/Bristol) makes a quality sandwich, flashy where it counts, on one's tastebuds. I like the banh mi at the bakery (edinger/euclid) kitty-corner from mile square park. I like the attention to detail at both places.
ps. does anyone know what happened to Sammy's (hb)?

At 10:41 AM, Blogger christoofat said...

The bakery at Euclid/Edinger has been my go-to for banh mi for years, and is pretty consistently good, though I wish their BBQ pork has some char on it. But the "extra meat" edition at $3 kicks major tongue butt!
There's a tiny restaurant at Bolsa/Brookhurst that serves **the best** BBQ pork bahn mi. It's $3, but they grill the meat then & there, the bun is flaky & good and warm, with perfect texture. Wish I could remember the name of the is next to a Kim Loan, I think.

At 10:31 PM, Blogger Erika said...

I work here in Hutton Center and am happy to eat here once a week or every other... makes a much nicer sandwich than Togos (meh). I like that you can get any sandwich and not just the ones in the case. Mmmm, saucisson sandwich, an orangina and 2 macarons for lunch tomorrow.....

At 11:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pascal Olhats is to OC what Georges Perrier is to Philadelphia...someone who overlooked world-class meccas like NYC to set up shop elsewhere and sustain a French dining mini-empire to respect, revere, and treasure. It's nice to know he seems to be appreciative of his patrons, as Christoofat implied.

I love value and satiety, too, but I would be miserable if I knew that a tasty lamb panini wasn't as close by as that dusty area near Macarthur and Main where people connect to the Route 76 airport bus. Thanks for another great menu selection and another mouthwatering recap, Elmo.

At 11:33 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Thanks for the comments everyone! Especially JB. That's a great testament you made to Chef Olhats. And I hope to do him right by reviewing his "real" restaurant soon!

At 9:50 AM, Blogger Veronica said...

I was at Pascal Epicerie off of Bristol last week and had their Grilled Pannini with Proscuitto. It was sooo good.

At 11:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Forget Le Jardin. Way overpriced, average food, poor service.


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