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If you're hankering for the rich and elegantly prepared food of France but don’t have a plane ticket, you're in luck, because Southern California's San Juan Capistrano, just over an hour south of Los Angeles, sports the perfect venue for that succulent meal and sophisticated atmosphere.
Here Pascal’s Café is a café, bakery, and a fine dining establishment. Chef Pascal Olhats, a native of Normandy, started his career by interning in the top kitchens in his home town. Next, his training continued in Brussels at a hotel and restaurant college. From there, he worked in Lyon, gastronomy capital of France. After several years, he worked at prestigeous St. Tropez, and finally we were fortunate to have him work in Newport Beach. Since then he has opened four of his own establishments in Southern California. Pascal's has been rated the number-one restaurant in Orange County for 15 years by the Zagat Guide, as well as garnering numerous other awards.
A group of Southern California members of International Food Wine & Travel Writers (IFWTWA) was fortunate to be invited to Pascal’s recently for one of his signature lunches.
We were greeted by Chef Pascal and served an elegant plate of paté and duck salami, accompanied by Pascal’s homemade pickles and mustard. In addition, we sampled his pastry with both a tomato and basil topping and small tartlets with caramelized onion.
What could be more French than the signature dish from Pascal’s hometown of Lyon, salade lyonnaise, consisting of bacon, croutons, lettuce, and a softly poached egg atop the salad. So divine!
One of my favorites is sea bass, and today we were served the best I have ever experienced. The fish was topped with a mix of thyme, parsley, garlic and butter and served over a velvety sauce true to the best of French cooking composed of Chardonnay, cream, and broth from shrimp and mussels. The blended flavors let us know we were experiencing an elegant dish prepared by one of the best French chefs in the world.
Pascal’s travel to Macau and his position working for the Macanese government of tourism to promote their cuisine was displayed by beautiful plating of our dessert of berries aside a Macanese egg custard tart. This dessert was exceptional, exuding a velvety and creamy custard wrapped in a flaky pastry.
For a truly special dining experience, Thursday through Saturday Chef Pascal does a 24-person seating at 6 pm. No need to rush through the gourmet experience, because he only does one seating a night for this elegant meal served in a beautifully appointed room at his café. Chef Pascal let us know that he can prepare a five-course vegan meal if guests prefer.
Elegance and sophistication abounds at Pascal’s Café making it the perfect spot for a memorable lunch or dinner. I found I needed to take home a few pastries from the bakery for my breakfast the next day, too.
Pascal's Café is located at 31451 Rancho Viejo Rd., #103, San Juan Capistrano, and can be reached for reservations at 949-488-0031.
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