12081 Wilshire Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA
8.13.06 - Monday, 10:30 AM
Literati Cafe has been raking in the accolades. This charming little cafe on a popular stretch of Wilshire is known for organic, fresh goodies and a no-fuss, simple food philosophy. I finally had the chance to swing in for breakfast; my very first visit. It's problematic when the masses have cheered you to pieces, however - expectations can be lofty and unreachable. Such was this trial run.
Suffice to say I was disappointed with my meal; not because it was at all poorly executed, but because those expectations left me wanting more pizzazz. Still, I take responsibility for this one. I think we ordered incorrectly, the whole trio of us.
The story goes like this -
Justy, an angel from way, way back, comes to town from Seattle once a month to visit his charming ten-year old son, Zach. The two of them were headed to Six Flags, and as Zach lives nearby, I chose Literati as the spot for a first-time meeting. We loved the interior - very cozy, neighborhood-centric, and inviting. It's counter service here, which doesn't bother me in the least - only I suffer from a "must order now" stress, and always cave to the first thing that looks remotely interesting in such circumstances. It's a neurotic thing with me. I saw pancakes and eggs and said - YES! That'll do! When I'm table-side and making friends with a menu, I'll study the delicacies and choose not just what sounds good to me, but what the kitchen seems to excel at, or be known for. That way it's a fair assessment.
This time, I failed. I can admit that.
Here's what we had:
Fantastic, full-bodied organic soy latte. Urth, eat your heart out - something about the java here just made me feel awake and soothed, all at once. And they do milk decorations - I'm such a sucker for details.
Buttermilk Pancakes and Scrambled Eggs
* I know, I know - how can I judge a kitchen's talents with such mundane items? I will say the eggs were well-cooked and fluffy, and the pancakes had a serious buttermilk kick; yet, the latter were very, very average. Perhaps I've been spoiled by The Griddle Cafe, but these just left me feeling ho-hum. The syrup was also a disappointment - tasted just like a sugary table-type, instead of something more hearty and authentic.
* Huge, thick slices of bread dipped in a cinnamon-spiced batter, dusted with powdered sugar and served with maple syrup.
This was much better than the pancakes, but overcooked - the outer edges were crusty, and the taste of the griddle was more prominent than the spices. Still, these sure beat the standard white bread dipped in egg routine.
* Could we have ordered more carbs? I should have had a pastry on the side. The waffle measured up to the pancakes - good, not great, without any special elements and the same runny syrup.
* We shared a side of overly-cooked bacon.
The damage for three breakfasts, one soda, one latte, and a side of bacon was about $33, not including tip.
My question to you all - how should I order next time? Is Literati best experienced in the evening hours? I need some guidance, lest I cave to the pressure and play it safe again.
RESTAURANT REPORT CARD - Literati Cafe, Visit 1
Ambiance - B-
Service - N/A (it's counter service, so I hesitate to grade them)
Food (Taste) - C
Food (Presentation) - D
Wine/Drinks - N/A (just had coffee, and although it was fab, that's not enough to grade)
Value - B-
Vibe/Energy/Scene - B
Overall Experience - C+
Final word - Disappointing at best, but I take partial credit for being a silly ordering fool. I'll try, try again.