A Diamond in the Rough - The Fantastic Croissant Maker Takes on Dinner Service - Bite Bar and Bakery [Review] w/ Pics!
(Formatted with All Pictures here:
In a matter of months, Bite Bar & Bakery has blossomed from a quiet soft opening with little fanfare, into one of the hottest topics on Chowhound. When soniabegonia first started a thread praising Bite Bar's Croissants, it immediately rose to the top of my "must try" list since those buttery, flaky crescent-shaped Pastries are one of my greatest guilty pleasures. :) I was excited to try it and before I knew it, even Chowhound luminaries like Servorg, bulavinaka, Dommy!, Mattapoisett in LA, noahbites, mollyomormon and many others hopped on the thread, adding to the growing enthusiasm over this new Bakery. And after finally settling in and getting their liquor license, Bite Bar & Bakery has just debuted their dinner service, emphasizing a Small Plates concept (true to their name :), with a short, focused Beer & Wine List.
Taking over the old Violet space, Bite Bar & Bakery is helmed by Chef Elizabeth Goel (who's been running a private catering company (Bite Catering Couture) prior to this, and a graduate of The French Culinary Institute (New York)). The space has been beautifully transformed into something warm and charming. Clean white walls with simple wood accents, cooking utensils and book shelves lined with a variety of cook books adorn a spacious but cozy dining room. During the day, the lighting scheme and large windows makes it a relaxing place to grab a Pastry and converse with friends. :) At night, with the new dinner service, the entire restaurant becomes a warm, charmingly lit place for Small Plates and Wine.
Even their Pastry counter is a reflection of this casual, relaxing attitude with simple, open wood tables displaying a variety of their fresh-baked goods, with a cute Cookie Jar section that shouldn't be missed. :)
During my 1st visit, I had to start with their homemade Croissant. :)
I feel the excitement begin to build as I take a bite:
The crisp outer layer crackles and gives way to this soft, airy interior. There's a gentle, buttery sweetness that permeates each bite; not too greasy, not too dry. I wear a perpetual smile for the rest of the day. :)
Since that first visit, I've gotten ~7-8 Croissants and thankfully they've been very consistent, except during my 2nd visit, when the Croissant was slightly burnt and dried out (pictured below). But the other 6-7 Croissants have been simply wonderful. :)
I'd have to say I enjoy Bite Bar & Bakery's Croissants more than the well-respected Amandine, but I prefer Anisette's Croissant with Normandy Butter just a tad more (but it's very close). But Bite wins in the convenience category, since it's outstanding and easier to pick up than Anisette on most days). :)
Bite Bar & Bakery serves a variety of Organic Teas (in silken sachets) from Shangri La. On this visit, I try their Organic Breakfast Tea.
Shangri La's take on the traditional English Breakfast Tea is quite fragrant, smooth and invigorating. :)
Another much-lauded item is their Lemon Bar on Shortbread Crust.
While not my favorite sweet, after hearing so many endorsements for Euro Pane's famous Lemon Bar and then for Bite's version, I had to give both of them a try for a taste test. :) Chef Goel's version at Bite Bar & Bakery is an explosion of intense lemony goodness! I thought Euro Pane's Lemon Bar was pretty intense, but Bite Bar's is even more concentrated, but also sweeter (so there's less of the slightly bitter citrus notes you get with Euro Pane's version). Both are very good, but the sweeter, more in-your-face lemony topping and light Shortbread Crust makes it my favorite of the two. :)
While I'm not the biggest Chocolate fan out there, their Pain Au Chocolat (Chocolate Croissant) is another excellent pastry.
Building upon the excellent foundation of Chef Goel's regular Croissant, it shouldn't surprise me that her Pain Au Chocolat is great as well. It features a similar crisp exterior and pillowy inside, and there's a nice thin ribbon of Chocolate running through the center and for a non-Chocolate lover, it's just the right amount to be enjoyable without turning it into a total dessert. :)
During one of my later visits, I remember hearing about their Naanwich (Chickpea Curry on an Open-Faced Homemade Naan with Cilantro, Tomato Salad & Mango) so we place an order for this interesting-sounding Sandwich.
I wouldn't say it's a Curry that would rival any of the top Curries in town, but it's a very flavorful dish, fragrant with exotic spices and a great balance of ingredients. The Homemade Naan is actually quite thick and soft, but a great complement to the Curried Chickpeas and Tomato Salad. Lastly, a note that those expecting a Sandwich should be warned that this is more like a fork and knife dish than a hand-held traditional Sandwich. I'm just happy that something this flavorful and tasty happens to be Vegetarian and healthy. (^_~)
Their Warm Spinach Salad (with Andouille Dressing, Goat Cheese, Creole Spiced Nuts and Homemade Duck Prosciutto) arrives next.
The Spinach is excellent. It's not often you can say that about this common vegetable, but there's a brightness that you don't normally get with many Spinach Salads around the city. The combination with Goat Cheese is very good and the Andouille Dressing has this porcine edge that gives this Salad some verve. :)
Unfortunately - and I can't believe I'm about to type this - there's just too much Homemade Duck Prosciutto. The Duck Prosciutto is intense and very salty, and in small quantities it's quite tasty, but there's too much of it in comparison to the Spinach, and it ends up overpowering the dish quickly. Perhaps keeping the same generous portion of Prosciutto and just adding more Spinach might do the trick. (^_~)
One of the more controversial sandwiches on the menu might very well be their Reuben Sandwich (Homemade Corned Beef and Sauerkraut on Rye with Thousand Island and Cheese).
Hearing Ciao Bob rave about this item made it a "must try" for me :), so I couldn't wait to order it. The first thing that struck me about this Sandwich (and most of their Lunch Sandwich offerings) is that they're served like Panini Sandwiches, pressed with that signature crinkle pattern. I don't mind Panini, but those expecting either traditional grilled Sandwiches or non-pressed Sandwiches should take note.
I'm not a big Reuben connoisseur, so it's nice to enjoy a new style of Reuben without getting a hulking, grease bomb of a Sandwich. :) The Homemade Corned Beef is quite tasty, having a milder taste than most hole-in-the-wall versions (which are far more salty). My only beef (no pun intended :p) with this Sandwich was that our Reuben came out with the Swiss Cheese unmelted (or barely melted), perhaps not enough heat in their Panini Press machine?
There's a really nice balance of flavors with a more manageable amount of Corned Beef (instead of exploding out of the Sandwich), some Thousand Island Dressing and a bit of Sauerkraut and the crisped Bread. If the Cheese was melted, I'd enjoy this Reuben a bit more, but overall I'd be happy to order it again. It's an excellent, healthier, alternative Reuben. Although I have to say, having just had Langer's Hot Corned Beef, Sauerkraut, Swiss Cheese, Grilled on their wonderful Rye Bread... it's a hard call to make. :)
Their side of Cajun Fries are adequate. Usually crispy with a hollow, airy center, on some visits they're unfortunately fried at the wrong temperature, soaking up too much oil.
Crab Sandwiches aren't too common in So Cal, so it's nice when you get a solid version with their Toasted Crab Sandwich (on Sourdough with Paprika Aioli and Watercress Salad).
The Crab is lightly briny, but still relatively fresh with a good balance of flavors. One of my guests is a big fan of all Crab dishes and she couldn't get enough of the Toasted Crab Sandwich. I thought it was enjoyable, but nothing amazing.
One of the strangest things about Bite Bar is the quality of their produce outside of their Salads. Their Salads have been consistently strong and vibrant, but the little "side" of greens served with their various Sandwiches have ranged from average to disappointing depending on the day. On this visit, we're served some less-than-good quality Watercress with much of it being comprised of the more unsightly spotted leaves that are usually thrown out (see pic below). On other visits, their little side of greens tastes dull.
Continuing on, their Asparagus Soup with Tuille is a wonderful surprise.
This is one soup where it tastes like they distilled down an entire bunch of Asparagus into a single bowl, sitting in front of you. It's intensely Asparagus, verdant, yet lightly creamy, and I can't stop sipping it. :)
One of my guests is a cookie fiend, so I'm powerless to stop her from ordering their homemade Lavender Shortbread Cookie and the Dark Chocolate Heaven Cookie with Pecan. :)
The Lavender Shortbread Cookie is light and crumbly, a touch dry, but exuding a pleasant Lavender aroma with each bite.
And while I'm not a Chocolate fiend, their Dark Chocolate Heaven Cookie with Pecan is mind-blowingly good! (^_^) It's so rich and intensely chocolaty, yet it's not too sweet. Probably one of the best Dark Chocolate Cookies I've had in recent memory.
We finish up with their Pecan Caramel Bar with Chocolate Ganache.
It's packed with Pecans, giving it a different nuttiness than the more commonly found Peanut or Almond sweets. In addition, the Pecans really help balance out the Caramel and Chocolate Ganache, making this one of the more enjoyable sweet creations on the menu.
On another visit, we begin with their Egg Souffle with Garlic.
It's slightly bready on the outside with a moist, soft center. There isn't really a strong Garlic note present, but the lightly dressed Tomato adds a nice sweet acidity to the Souffle.
For those that can't get enough of their Lemon Bars, their Lemon Olive Oil Cake might satisfy that craving and then completely steamroll you afterward. :)
The outside of this Lemon Olive Oil Cake is firm and Cookie-like, which then gives way to an oozing center of Lemon Custard. It's almost as citrusy as their Lemon Bar, but with ~2-3 times the amount of oozing Lemon goodness to enjoy. Overall, I enjoy their Lemon Bar more, only because the sugary frosting on top makes this Olive Oil Cake too sweet for my tastes, bordering on cloying.
The first savory dish arrives at this point, their Pulled Pork Sandwich (served on Focaccia Bread with Coleslaw).
Going through their menu of Sandwiches so far, the one unfortunate aspect that brings down some of their Sandwiches from time-to-time is their Bread. Bite Bar & Bakery does not bake their own Bread (they source it from an external vendor), and while some Sandwiches are fine, others are hampered by it, such as in their Pulled Pork Sandwich.
The Focaccia Bread is simply too dry and thick, and while it stands up to the very wet Pulled Pork, it also sucks out the moisture from your mouth as you're eating it. To make matters worse, the Pulled Pork itself is very sweet, and has the consistency of mush. :( The spicy tang undertones are appreciated but everything else is disappointing. With so much good 'Q around town, it makes it even harder to recommend this to anyone except out of convenience.
Things bounce back nicely with their Grilled Pressed Asparagus Sandwich (with Sundried Tomato Pesto and Havarti Cheese).
The Cheese is thankfully melted this time, and the balance of Grilled Asparagus with the mild, creamy, gooey, delicious Havarti Cheese and crunch of their Panini-pressed Bread makes this one of their better Sandwiches on the menu.
The BITE BLTA (with Fresh Tomato, Greens, Smoky Bacon, Avocado and Homemade Tarragon Aioli) shows up soon after.
This is, sadly, another disappointing Sandwich on the menu. The Focaccia is dry, but less dense than the one used for their Pulled Pork. The Tomatoes, Mixed Greens and Avocado are fine, but the real problem lies in the star of this dish: The Bacon. It's cold and soggy. :( To be fair, many places around town batch cook a bunch of Bacon and serve the pre-made Bacon in their BLTs as well, but with all the attention to detail and quality of most of their items, it's unfortunate that Bite's BLTA isn't served with fresh-cooked Bacon (made-to-order).
On a recent visit, I'm joined by my dear friend Jotaru for Bite Bar & Bakery's Grand Opening Dinner. As we enter the restaurant during the inaugural run of their Dinner service, we're warmly greeted by a gracious hostess who shows us to our table immediately.
Our server explains the menu concept (of Small Plates, meant for sharing), and we begin with their Bacon-Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Chorizo and Manchego Cheese.
This is probably one of the most deceiving plates on the new Dinner menu. While it may look bite-sized, it's a *substantial* mouthful. The Bacon is hot and crisped (a big plus :), but from there, the rest of the bite is just a long, chewy, very meaty experience in a slightly unpleasant way. At the center of the problem is the chunk of Chorizo. While a Date may seem like a simple, bite-sized thing to eat, the dry, chunky piece of Chorizo adds a density that brings down this dish. The Date itself is a big, meaty specimen during this evening's meal, and using a whole slice of thick-cut Bacon (as hot and crisped and tasty as it is by itself :) is just too much.
It seems like a more logical choice (given the refinement and daintiness of the rest of their menu) is to go with the more svelte cousin of this appetizer: Prosciutto-Wrapped Figs or some variation of that (when available).
Next up is their Napa-Style Artichoke Beignet with California Remoulade.
What arrives are tiny, deep fried, battered pieces of Artichoke that are fried at the wrong temperature, completely saturated with oil. The California Remoulade (with Shallots, Capers, Brandy and Lemon) is an OK pairing, but I'd be happy with just the Artichoke Beignets by themselves (if they were a little less greasy).
I can't resist a good Pate, so I have to order their Pate Tasting, featuring an exploration of 3 different proteins, all made in-house.
Going from right-to-left, we start with the Rabbit Rillette with Red Grape Marmalade.
As I use my knife to break into the mound of Rabbit Rillette, I notice it's surprisingly dense and very hard to break off a portion to spread on the Crostini. Rabbit is inherently a lean protein - and perhaps I've been spoiled by Palate's various Rillette preparations - but after having incredibly soft, smooth, spreadable Rillettes over the past few years, this dense, very tightly-packed Rabbit Rillette is a bit disappointing. The Rabbit itself tastes delicious once you work it onto the Toasted Bread, but be careful with the Red Grape Marmalade as it's extremely sweet.
But one thing that really ruins this dish (and the next one) is their Crostini. I realize that for a Grand Opening they want to ensure as easy a time for the kitchen as possible (if something can be prepped ahead of time, do it, to save time later). But for an establishment known for excellent baked goods, serving burnt, stale Crostinis is baffling. We were served 4 jars of Crostinis over the various courses this evening and they were all flat-out black-burnt (with some of the char scraped off, and they were all stale. (>_<) Very disappointing. The 2nd portion of the tasting is their Duck Mousse with Bacon Bits, Roasted Maui Gold Pineapple and Vanilla Compote.
I can't really taste any Bacon Bits as the Duck Mousse is very silky and smooth, tasting completely of Duck Offal. Unfortunately, the Maui Gold Pineapple and Vanilla Compote just doesn't work. While it's not as sweet as the Red Grape Marmalade, there's a *perceived* sweetness from the intensely tropical smell of Pineapple and the aroma of real Vanilla Bean extract, and both of those combine to overpower the Duck Mousse.
The third item is the Creamy Homemade Chicken Liver Pate with Fresh Spring Rhubarb Chutney.
It's certainly creamy (the complete opposite in texture to the Rabbit Rillette's density), but it's quite salty and screams of all things "Liver" (metallic, iron-y, pungent taste). It tastes more like "Pureed Raw Liver" than a usual Pate, due to its extreme taste. But, once paired with the Fresh Spring Rhubarb Chutney, this is the pairing that works the best of the trio, really mellowing out the flavors a bit. Overall, this Pate Tasting doesn't approach something out of Chef Florent Marneau's kitchen, or the surprisingly stunning homemade Pate from Chef Masataka Hirai, but I'm hopeful the kitchen will improve over time.
Continuing on, their "House Specialty" Piedmontese Steak Tartare (served with Quail Egg, Grilled Rustic Bread) arrives next.
A mini tower of Minced Beef is presented with the ingredients separated out, before being mixed tableside to finish off the Steak Tartare. Bite's version uses a combination of Anchovies, Capers, Cornichon, Horseradish and Cognac, with a Quail Egg, and the end result is a slightly too tart version of a respectable Steak Tartare. We're served the same, completely burnt, stale Crostini (Rustic Bread Slices) for this course and it really detracts from the overall enjoyment of the dish. :(
The Creole Crab Cakes arrive quickly after.
These are 3 small Crab Cakes made with Jumbo Lump Crab, topped with Chipotle Honey Corn Mashed Potatoes. It sounds delicious, but the Crab Cakes lack the crispy exterior that you'd hope for in a good Crab Cake, and the overall texture is a bit too mushy for my tastes.
The Garlic Herb Mashed Potatoes that it's served on has a wonderful Rosemary and herbal aroma, but is quite thick and dense. This isn't something I'd order again.
At this point, I'm getting worried about the menu, but then the Buttermilk Southern Fried Jidori Chicken (with Creamy Gouda Grits, Stewed Tomato and Okra) arrives.
The first bite is a series of emotions and feelings, from the slightly crunchy exterior yielding to completely juicy, succulent, mouth-watering Jidori Chicken that's pure and bright and simply delicious! (^_^) The Stewed Tomato and Okra adds a unique, light, vegetal sweetness to each bite of the Chicken that elevates it to a different plateau than what you might expect with Fried Chicken.
Fried Chicken purists should take note: This is definitely not a traditional "Fried Chicken." Those looking for the ultra-crunchy, crispy, traditional Fried Chicken won't find it here and may be disappointed. While I personally would like the crust to be a bit more crunchy, this is Chef Goel's alternate interpretation of Fried Chicken and it's my favorite item on their dinner menu. Excellent! :)
Bite's Signature Mini BBQ Bacon Western Kobe Cheeseburgers (with Niman Ranch Bacon and "Special Sauce") unfortunately can't match the greatness of the Jidori Fried Chicken.
While some dishes are quite ample in their portions (like the Fried Chicken), others feel quite dainty and too precious at times, like their Mini Cheeseburgers. These are smaller than most Sliders (really like a "single bite" version of a Cheeseburger).
It's a great concept, but like their Pulled Pork Sandwich, their outsourced Bread is the downfall of this dish. The Mini Burger Buns are very dry and dense, and really detract from the enjoyment of the 28-Day Dry Aged Beef Patty which is excellent. There's a real beefy, intense quality that's lovely and that's more enjoyable than most of the "big boys" for Burgers around town (like 8 oz, Lucky Devils, etc.). I applaud Chef Goel for using a 28-Day Dry Aged Beef; it really accentuates and concentrates the flavors to give you a true Beef flavor, but the Burger Bun drags this dish down, as does the "Special Sauce" which doesn't really accentuate or move the dish in any direction; it just tastes like a moisture component that was thrown in because it was needed more than anything.
The Kurobuta Pork Tenderloin (served on Market Greens with Pork Jus) is our final savory course of the evening.
This super-lean cut of Pork is tender considering how lean it is, but still quite dense and chunky at times. I think we're getting spoiled with the ubiquitous Pork Belly and various long-stewed Pork dishes around town (with meltingly tender chunks of Pork), so going back to a tightly-packed, dense, lean Pork Tenderloin that's semi-tender can feel underwhelming at times.
It is thankfully not too salty at all, with the necessary sodium coming from the Bacon-wrapped exterior and Bacon Bits on top. :) On this evening, the kitchen uses some Chinese Chives which is an unusual, refreshing pairing.
For dessert, we decide on the Chef's Choice Trio, featuring 3 of their excellent selections from the Dessert Menu.
I start with their Vanilla Bean Yoghurt Panna Cotta (with Balsamic Strawberies and Fresh Mint).
It's a little bit firmer than what I'm used to, but still very well made with beautiful notes of Vanilla and fresh, in-season Strawberries. It's delicate, and the least sweet (in a good way) dessert on the menu.
The Triple Berry Streusel Crostata (with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream) is next.
Chef Elizabeth's prowess really shines here with an excellent crust giving way to fresh, lightly sweet Berries and the Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. Lovely. :)
And then we finish off with the most decadent, but stunning Warm Valrhona Molten Chocolate Cake.
The Cake is excellent, warmed through, featuring a molten core of this deep, slightly bitter, aromatic Chocolate. Wonderful. :)
Despite some hiccups on the menu (service was great), I can't wait to return for another Dinner. :)
On my 5th visit, the meal begins with their Deviled Eggs with Smoked Paprika.
These are an excellent starter, with a creamy, mustardy, Paprika-tinged filling.
Their Truffle Fries with Garlic Butter are even better than their Lunch-time Cajun Fries.
They're crispy on the outside with a slightly hollow center, and Chef Goel judiciously uses the Truffle Oil without overusing it, giving just the right amount of enhancement while letting the Garlic Butter do the rest. :) Delicious!
Probably the biggest surprise on their Dinner Menu would have to be their Salads. Normally the "boring" or overlooked section of a menu, Chef Elizabeth creates an absolute winner with the Edamame and Sugar Snap Salad (with Spicy Sriracha-Sesame Dressing). The Edamame and Sugar Snap Peas are just cooked through, maintaining a good firm texture while being slightly supple, and when served chilled with a little bit of heat from the Sriracha-Sesame Dressing, it makes for a rare, delightful Salad during this hot season. :)
And even more unusual and just as standout is Chef Goel's Summer Salad (Watermelon, Feta, Mint, Aged Balsamic, Arugula and Basil).
At first you might do a double-take when reading "Watermelon" and "Feta (Cheese)" :), but it works, brilliantly. The Watermelon chunks are chilled and refreshing by themselves, but then the sprinkling of Feta Cheese (a mild version) adds a slightly tangy, unusual component, which is then immediately brought to harmonize with the Aged Balsamic and Basil. The bits of Arugula, with its peppery spiciness, and finally, the always uplifting Mint, all combine to create this strange, but unique Salad that's invigorating and perfect for Summer. :)
Their House Mac 'n Cheese (with Crunchy Panko Topping) arrives next.
Mac 'n Cheese is a very personal thing: Some people love a Mac 'n Cheese that's loaded with Cheese that's hot and gooey; others prefer it creamy, with less Cheese; while others relish the gourmet improvements like Truffle or some kind of animal protein, etc.
Bite's version has a nice crunchy topping of Panko, while underneath is a more minimalistic type of Mac 'n Cheese: Not too cheesy or creamy. The Aged Cheddar gives it a nice funk and appeal, but I like my Mac 'n Cheese to be creamier with a little more Cheese.
I can't resist trying their Buttermilk Southern Fried Jidori Chicken one more time, and this time the outside crust is a bit softer and falls away from the Chicken too easily. It's still absolutely juicy and delicious overall, but it looks like they're still working out some kinks with the crust falling apart so easily. Still, quite delectable. :)
The final course is their Classic Grand Marnier Creme Brulee (served with Lavender Shortbread Wedges).
It's beautifully presented, but the caramel top isn't cooked hot enough to form a satisfying crunchy thin layer shell (there's a thin layer that's been caramelized, but only slightly). Besides that, the Custard within is delicious, creamy and silky, but it becomes saccharin very quickly. If it was just a little less sweet it'd be perfect. The Lavender Shortbread Wedges are expertly crafted, floral and a great complement to this dessert.
Service is a mixed bag at Bite Bar & Bakery. Over the course of my 5 visits, I've found that during Breakfast and Lunch, service is extremely slow at times. Everyone's nice and cordial, but even at only ~20 - 30% capacity, getting more Coffee or a refill of Hot Water for Tea is an exercise in patience. On one visit, after waiting around for 15+ minutes with no server that we could get attention from, it was faster for me to get up and go to the counter and wait for someone to acknowledge me to get a refill. Dishes also arrive surprisingly slowly. Whatever the inefficiencies may be, I can't imagine what it'd be like if the restaurant was running at ~80 - 100% capacity.
Dinner, on the other hand, despite it being a Grand Opening weekend was stellar. There were new servers present and everyone was attentive with plates cleared quickly, and any other needs met with equal alacrity. Bite Bar suffered none of the nightmares in service that plague many businesses during their initial opening phase. Prices range from $2.50 - $4.50 for Pastries; $4.95 - $13.25 for Sandwiches; and $3 - $12 for Dinner Small Plates. We averaged about ~$42 per person (including tax and tip) for Dinner.
Bite Bar & Bakery is currently at an interesting growth period: Already an accomplished Bakery with excellent Pastries for Breakfast and Brunch, its Lunch Sandwiches ran the gamut from disappointing (Pulled Pork) to delicious (Naanwich, Grilled Pressed Asparagus, Reuben), while the new Dinner service and menu exhibits similar fluctuations. With its current Dinner Menu, if one can navigate away from the land mines (Artichoke Beignet, Bacon-Wrapped Dates, Crab Cakes, Pate Tasting) and stay with their winners (Jidori Fried Chicken, Salads and Truffle Fries), Bite becomes a good place to stop in for a quick bite if you're in the neighborhood.
As a Bakery, Bite is the purveyor of some of the best Croissants in So Cal, and thus, holds a special place in my heart for Breakfast. :) For their new Small Plates Dinner concept, I'm holding out hope that Chef Goel and company will continue to improve and develop the menu, bringing it to the same level of excellence as their Pastries. For now, I'll be happy to stop in for their surprising Summer Salad, Edamame and Sugar Snap Salad, Southern Fried Jidori Chicken, and maybe the Warm Valrhona Molten Chocolate Cake. (^_~)
*** Rating: 7.9 (out of 10.0) ***
*** (Rating for Pastries / Breakfast Only: 8.6 (out of 10.0)) ***
Bite Bar and Bakery
3221 Pico Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90405
Tel: (424) 744-8658
Hours: Tues - Sun, 8:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
[Brunch] Sat - Sun, 8:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
[Dinner] Fri - Sat, 5:30 p.m. - 10:30 p.m.
Bite Bar & Bakery
3221 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90405
Great review! I was a bit surprised they did not have any burgers on their lunch menu today, I perhaps misunderstood on another thread that they were doing burgers? Anyway, seems they've improved their BTLA sandwich, now on some toasted sourdough, as opposed to stale focaccia, and my bacon was warm and freshly cooked. My only complaint was that I wish the tomatoes were real full on slices. Small halved babies don't work as well, as they don't want to stay in the the sandwich....
I posted about their burger the week before. It was under their "Daily Specials" part of the board for lunch (which probably means they're giving it a test ride). I haven't had a chance to go back since (I know - pooh on me) so I don't know what the status is. As it seems many have mentioned, the focaccia has been an issue. Pure conjecture on my part, but maybe Bite is temporarily sidelining the burger until they get this issue straight.
Thank you. :) And it sounds like you got to experience a new BLTA perhaps? It sounds like a *much* better BLTA than what I got, if they're doing it now on Toasted Sourdough with freshly cooked Bacon. I agree on the Tomatoes.
If anyone else gets to try the BLTA going forward, please let us know if this is a permanent (good) change. :)
Re: Burgers - Yah I never saw it on the Lunch menu, but they have the super-mini bite-sized Burgers on their new Dinner menu (the Bun still needs work IMHO).
I learned about Bite Bar & Bakery here at Chowhound. I took my husband and his 93 years old mother a couple weeks ago and we fell in love with this place. It has a very nice and cozy vibe, and it is now one of our favorite lunch places. Since I read so much about the Chicken Salad Sandwich, I had to have it. Chicken pieces were big, tender and moist. It had roasted almonds; they were not slivers; they were either whole or halves which add a nice crunch to the sandwich. I liked the tarragon in the dressing. Focaccia bread was rather dry but the chicken salad was plenty moist to make up for it.
I agree with Exile Kiss about the quality of salad greens. It seems to be hit or miss. I was there for lunch twice, but both times I’ve noticed a few leaves in my side salad were old and started to turn black at the edges so that I had to pick them out of my plate.
I like their lemonade; it is not too sweet and not too sour. I have not tried all the baked goodies, but so far, strawberry crostada is my #1 favorite! Lastly but not the least, their wait staff are fantastic! They all are so nice and friendly, my mom-in-law is ready to adopt one or all of them!
I will try their dinner next!
Bite Bar & Bakery
3221 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90405
Bite's strawberry crostada is amazing. I had it back when strawberry season first came into full swing, and I couldn't believe how well this pastry literally caught the essence strawberries. I'd swear these were some special wild or alpine strawberries because of how fragrant and tasty they were. Enjoy them now as I'm sure Elizabeth will cease making these as soon as her excellent source for seasonal strawberries starts to dwindle...
Thanks for your report back. Another vote for their Chicken Salad Sandwich. :) I'll be sure to try it the next time I visit.
Sorry to hear you had the same problem with their side of greens. :(
Re: Strawberry Crostada - Ah! I keep missing out on these. :( During 3 of my visits, they were always sold out. Thanks for the reminder. :)
As always, a fantastically thorough write-up! Your assessment on things that I've tried seem to pretty much jive. I've missed Bite's dinner service so far, but hope to hit it in the near future. I'm a bit surprised that they served up a fair number of misses. But at the same time, it seems they are being a little ambitious from the start - it's good for them. Hopefully they'll learn quickly and take it from there. To run breakfast, lunch, brunch and dinner service along with putting out some excellent baked goods is no easy deal to pull off.
It's no secret that I've enjoyed a few things here - mostly hits - and there have been a couple of things that could use a revisit. I mentioned the bread issue in my last post concerning Bite, and it was about the focaccia that was used for the bun on their new burger - it seemed dry. This was my only experience so far with having less-than acceptable bread here. I know the folks at Bite have limited space and resources regarding their bread, but the hit & miss with this critical item seems to be a big disconnect relative to their otherwise excellent baked goods. Places like Rockenwagner and Drago have centralized their baking and do it off-site - I wonder if this might be an eventual move for Bite? Assuming they they achieve long-term success, I think this would work well for them in so many ways.
Luminary? I know you are, but what am I? :)
Kansha shimasu. _(._.)_
You are spot on in your assessment that it's definitely a challenging time for them, tackling Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch and Dinner, along with a full Pastry / Sweets selection.
I understand their Bread situation but it is unfortunate. Considering how good Chef Goel's Croissants and other baked goods are, I can only imagine how nice it'd be trying their Sandwiches with homemade, fresh Bread from Chef Goel. That's one of the most appealing things about Euro Pane's Egg Salad Sandwich (besides the absurdly good Egg Salad (^_~)): Their Bread, made in-house daily, really elevates that dish for me. So good!
I hope they find a better source for their Hamburger Buns because with a better Bun (and Sauce) they could have a real winner of a Burger.
Luminary: ie ie, sonna koto nai desu! :) Thanks for your enthusiastic recommendation of Bite in the first place. :)
Thanks for the review...your pics always tell a good story.
There seems to be a disconnect between the contents of the review and the overall rating you give the place/title of your post. Lots of misses in there for this place to be called a "diamond in the rough." Or maybe you were referring to the few items that seemed to work?
Thank you. Yah I was referring to the items that do work (they are stellar - like their great Croissants, most of their Pastries, a variety of Salads, Fried Chicken, etc.). And the "rough" part is pretty much all the items that still need improvement on. There are enough items at Bite that definitely make it a place to stop by if you're in the area. Thanks. :)
I was wondering who was going to post first about Bite's dinners. So glad you were able to give Bite your normal thorough and colorful review.
I went to one of the preview dinners and was curious how Elizabeth would change things up. I definitely need to get there soon.
One of my favorite items there is the waffle on weekends. It has a nice crispy airiness thats making me think about it even now.
One thing I enjoy about Bite is the personal care they have for all their food. They may not make the best crabcakes you ever had, but they sure care about it. That love for their food makes me go back again and again to see what else they've come up with. And knowing how savvvy she is with the Internet, she has already read your review.
Just another quick POV: I happen to love the crab cakes and the fish tacos. The fried chicken is also a clear winner. I'm surprised that exilekiss did not mention the great chicken salad sandwich served at lunch. My husband had the BLTA sandwich and agreed that the bread was too dense for the sandwich, but his bacon was hot and crisp and did not taste pre-cooked. Looking forward to trying the mac and cheese.
Thanks for your feedback on the Fish Tacos. I'm glad you were able to get hot Bacon for your BLTA. We were pretty shocked and surprised when we bit into ours and the Bacon was cold and soggy. But again, many places around So Cal make their Bacon ahead of time (to save time), so it's not that surprising. Maybe we just got unlucky.
Thank you for the recommendation on the Chicken Salad Sandwich; I was curious about it, but unfortunately I didn't get a chance to try that item. Next time, though! :)
That was a fair review. Some of the small plates are not worth the price at all like the crab cakes and the fish tacos. We were put off with the stale bread and some itmes were over cooked and some under. I really like this place for their crostata and some other baked goods. I too prefer Anisette's croissant's to bite's.
Thanks. :) We missed out on the Fish Tacos, but from what you're saying I'm glad we did. You also got stale bread? Sigh.
I'm hopeful the kitchen will continue to improve in the coming weeks. With their Bakery being so good, and the attention to detail shown there, I'm sure they will. :)