Ho hum.... California Pizza Kitchen, BKC, Mumbai

Finally went to the California Pizza Kitchen today. We were at Bandra Kurla during lunch time. I thought that we might as well try the CPK there out. All I had heard about it so far was that it was expensive. No one raved about the food.

We walked in to find the place quite crowded on a weekday afternoon. A mix of the white collar crowd and kids. Well BKC is a bit of a desert with fancy office buildings but hardly any eating places. There was some outdoor seating and the weather was pleasant enough for that. We sat inside though in the largish restaurant with a modern clean decor.

The service was friendly and prompt. There were quite a few smiling and attentive waiters around. And, yes, they did add a service charge for this.

I had a peach ice tea which had character and was not one of those sugar syrupy ones that they often serve at local restaurants.

We followed this with tortilla soups which my lunch mate recommended from her last visit here. It was a thick tomato soup. The menu card described this as having ‘vine fresh tomatoes’ with green chillies. The chillies were not visible but made their presence felt through their heat. There were crisp tacos strips which melted into the thick soup and combined with soft, sweet corn to give an array of interesting textures. This was a good pick.

There were pastas and salads but I wanted to eat a pizza. It was the ‘pizza kitchen’ after all. They didn’t have small portions or slices. So I chose a vegetarian pizza. Now, don’t gasp. My lunch mate is vegetarian and she offered to eat soup and salads while I had a pizza. That didn’t seem fair to me and the pizza sizes seemed to large for one person. She even sportingly suggested adding non vegetarian toppings on half the pizza. There were some interesting vegetarian combinations which I thought were worth trying. Plus I didn't want to be seen as the boss who bullies his juniors.

I chose a pesto pizza for us. The result was a dish which had a lot of promise and yet disappointed. And that had nothing to do with the lack of meat. The thin crust was phenomenal. Very limber and fresh. Not over crisp at all. Very elegant with a stream of melted mozzarella discreetly flowing through the crust. This was sheer genius.

The pesto was very disappointing though. It didn’t have the zest and spunk of a good pesto. I like pesto because I find it to be raw and fresh and with loads of attitude. The mix of fresh basil, sharp garlic, pine nuts and Parmesan is meant to be a robust and manly combination. The pesto in the California Pizza Kitchen on the other hand was too sweet and dainty. More feminine than masculine. Could have passed of as the sweet version of the Gujarati dish, Undhiyu. The presence of meat wouldn’t have made a difference.

The sun dried tomato added to the saccharine motif. The only respite came from the odd piece of chopped red olive which gave an occasional much needed edge to the dish. So it wasn’t the lack of meat which failed the pizza. It was the very poor pesto which spoilt the effect of the fantastic crust.

The regular version of the pesto pizza came with cottage cheese or paneer which had too neutral a taste to make a difference. In retrospect goat cheese, which was there in other combinations, would have helped. The nomadic salty taste of goat cheese could have salvaged the gulab juman syruped pesto pizza. On asking a waiter I found out that I could have opted for this. Too late.

The pesto was anything but robust

Crust was a work of art though

Just realised what was listed below the pesto pizza. What was I thinking?

So should you go to CPK? Only if you are at BKC. Don’t mind spending Rs 700 – 1000 (18- 20 USD) for two. And are not a very demanding eater.

As for me, maybe I need to visit it again and find some meat.