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California Cafe (Closed)
2336 N.W. 23rd St.
Oklahoma City, OK
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily
24 Chinese
Hong Kong
Tea: Jasmine (loose leaves)
MSG: Yes
Smoking: No Smoking
Buffet: No
Dim Sum served Sat. & Sun.
Fish Fillet: with hot bean curd sauce
Tofu and Vegetable Hot Pot:
Dim Sum:
Fried Tofu:
Sticky Rice:
Egg Yolk Bun:
Lotus Seed Bun:
17-Mar-06 5
California Cafe is one of those places that I was extremely happy to find. I love Chinese food, but most restaurants do not represent the cuisine correctly, and are Americanized in either the menu selection or the presentation. My mom describes these places exactly by saying "everything on the menu tastes the same."

At California Cafe, however, everything does not taste the same. In fact, I even discovered a sauce I had not tried anywhere else--hot bean curd sauce served on a Fried Sole Fish Fillet. This is a delicious, slightly spicy brown sauce that is so thick it sticks to the fish so that at the end of the meal you do not have a pool of unused sauce sitting on the plate.

Known as California Seafood Restaurant when it first opened, chef Danny Wong, originally from Hong Kong, brought his restaurant experience from southern California to this rather small and unassuming Oklahoma restaurant. The whole concept here is not to cater to "Americanized" tastes as so many restaurants do, but to provide Hong Kong cuisine that is as authentic as possible. I think Mr. Wong has succeeded beyond any expectations I ever had for a Chinese restaurant located in the Great Plains region of America's Heartland.

I knew this was going to be a good restaurant when they served the jasmine tea that is brewed with loose leaves--Grand House also served the loose leaf tea on a recent visit but the one here was much better. In fact, before trying anything I noticed on the menu that several hot pot dishes were served--a mark of a good Chinese restaurant. The Vegetable and Tofu Hot Pot lived up to my expectations--it was much like the other good versions in OKC except that it had some unusual Chinese vegetables not found in the ones served at other restaurants.

The Dim Sum served on weekends seems to be as good as the regular menu, and in fact is one of the chef's specialties. I have found the dim sum to be of higher quality than the one served at Grand House, although there is not as great a variety of items served. Fried Tofu and the Egg Yolk Bun are the best dim sum items I have discovered so far, and several desserts are available such as Egg Custard. Prices for dim sum seem to be extremely reasonable (and are lower than at Grand House).

I have found the food to be inconsistent to the point that I am not ready to anoint it as the "best Chinese restaurant in OKC," but it is certainly one of the best. I think California Cafe, like several other restaurants around NW 23rd & Classen, excel in some dishes but are not as good in others.

My gripes with California Cafe do not have much to do with the food. When smoking was allowed, the non-smoking area was so small it was ineffective (state law has now caused them to ban smoking as of March 2006). The handicapped spaces have paint that is so faded I think the general public pretty much ignores the fact that they are supposed to be reserved for those with permits. Some of the music played over the intercom is so annoying that it has caused me to really wish I had eaten somewhere else. The Grand House, which has similar food, has much better customer service, and would be a much better choice if ambiance is important to you at all. Still, the food is the big draw at California Cafe, and many dishes are offered that just cannot be found anywhere else.

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