By John Bergano
With two locations in Long Beach, the French mini-chain La Creperie Café opened its third spot in Chino Hills a little over a year ago. According to assistant manager Joe Carlin, the thought behind the move was to bring a much needed crepe restaurant to the Inland Empire. On La Creperie Café’s side are a number of positive points: attentive service, consistently strong menu options, and a casually funky space. The self-described bohemian bistro is reminiscent of a billiards hall with low, funnel-shaped lamps over wooden booths. Cartoonish murals of can-can girls and Parisian life decorate the walls. A prominent bar anchors the vibrant scene with televisions that breathed outside life into the comfortably dark dining room. Friday and Saturday nights brings live music—jazz to be more precise.
A staple of most French bistros, Le Creperie’s French Onion Soup ($6.95) had depth and was full of robust onion flavor, as the emmenthal—or “emmental”—cheese (Swiss) was plentiful without being overbearing. Our server, Jake, who was on top of service and comfortably discussed the menu, made recommendations that were helpful. His most enthusiastic suggestion was the savory crepes.
The Parisian ($10.95) included a chicken breast that was both stuffed inside the fold of the thicker-than-average crepe and atop the dish as well. Sautéed spinach and diced red peppers were simplistically resting in the feta cheese sauce, with traces of mozzarella, on top. The only critique is that the chicken was a little on the dry side. A side garden salad was an additional $3.25, while a Caesar or Greek was $3.95.
Garlic-lovers would attack the roasted garlic-smothered, thinly-cut fries that accompany the Steak Sandwich ($11.95), which was built with marinated rib eye, romaine, chipotle aioli, provolone, tomato, red onion, avocado and toasted ciabatta. Although our server took the temperature at a requested medium, the thin piece of meat was easily cooked though to a medium-well. An ample bowl of Caesar salad accompanied this selection, which was served beforehand.
The diverse and surprisingly extensive wine list was reasonably priced, as was the menu, with unique and whimsical choices that complemented the fare. That evening, there was a $5 special for a glass of Fat Bastard (normally $7 per glass or $26 for the bottle). The chardonnay hails from Languedoc, France and was introduced as “a golden hue wine with aromas of vanilla, hazelnut, and toast.” Fat Bastard’s dry nature and clean finish worked well with the creamy richness of the Parisian crepe.
Cupcake Red Velvet ($6 per glass or $22 for the bottle), was a sweet blend of zinfandel, merlot, cabernet, and petite syrah from Monterrey County, California whose taste actually resembled the creamy, chocolate small cake it is named after. It paired better with dessert than with the entrées.
As a grand finale to our fine French conquest, the Napoleon ($8.95) sweet crepe seemed to be an ideal choice. Fusing a crème brulee with a crepe, this ingenious stab at bringing two dessert favorites together was a success. With a vanilla custard filling, the top was caramelized and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Strawberries and whipped cream rounded out the ingredients that ended the evening with an exclamation point.
La Creperie Cafe, 3968 Grand Ave., Chino, (909) 342-6016; www.lacreperiecafe.net.Mon-Thurs, 11am-10pm. Fri, 11am-10pm. Sat, 9am-11pm. Sun, 9am-9pm. AE, D, MC, V.