Monday, June 23, 2008

Urth Caffe - Melrose's Healthy Cafe

I remember the first time passing by Urth Caffe on Melrose, on my way to the Pacific Design Center. With just a few seconds and a partial glance, I could see that this had the makings of a cute, relaxing neighborhood cafe / coffee shop. Since then, each time I've passed by Urth Caffe, it's always packed with people, which made me want to try it out even more. This past Sunday, I finally set aside some time and ventured out to try it.

Perusing their website ahead of time, Urth Caffe has some noble causes - Organic Coffees and Teas (whenever possible); buying from farms that practice sustainable agriculture; the farms must pay their laborers a fair wage, etc. - and reading their menu, they proudly proclaim that their pastry chefs come in every day at 1 a.m. to fresh bake all their pastries for the day.

I was in the mood for some fine tea, so I tried their Organic "Awakened Buddha" Herbal Breakfast Infusion Tea with Ginseng. At $6.25 I was hoping this was some good tea. (^_^; In total, Urth Caffe overs 27(!) different hand-picked, freshly imported Teas. Some border on outrageous prices, such as the Yin Zhen Silver Needle, White Tea from China, that they sell for $35.00 per 4 ounces!

The Infusion Tea arrived and it was refreshing, with a beautiful floral scent and mild Ginseng undertones, but nothing overpowering. It was a nice way to start breakfast. :)

All the eggs served at Urth are from locally raised, cage-free, vegetarian fed chickens. I ordered their Salmon Scramble to start, which was made of three Eggs, natural smoked Salmon, Roma Tomatoes and Chives. It came out nicely presented with a mound of Organic Mixed Greens, and some warm Bread.

The Mixed Greens and the Urth vinaigrette were nice and light, but unfortunately the Salmon Scramble was a bit overcooked. The Eggs were a tad too dry. The smokiness of the Salmon combined nicely with each bite, and I noticed that they were missing the Roma Tomatoes, probably due to the health scare with Tomatoes in the U.S. at the moment. That might've added some needed moisture to this dish. Overall it felt a little lackluster and poorly executed.

We also ordered a side order of their Chicken Turkey Sausage, which arrived sliced in half and grilled on both sides. It was a decent Sausage, but really lean (i.e., healthy with very little fat / grease :), but nothing standout.

We also ordered The Poached, which is comprised of two eggs steamed in a ceramic cup with Parmesan Cheese and Pepper, and served medium or well-done only, which seemed to defeat the purpose of calling the eggs "Poached." Regardless, the dish came out and was served with a little slice of Red Onions, an Orange and two pieces of Bread. The Eggs were basically "medium well" in terms of doneness, and was ~Ok.

We finally ended with one of their fresh-baked Plain Croissants. It was fresh and flaky, but a bit too buttery for my tastes. And after having the fresh-baked Croissants at Anisette last week, it overshadowed the good (but not great) Croissants here at Urth Caffe.

The interior of Urth Caffe looked like a fancier version of a Starbucks, and it would've been enjoyable if not for the complete lack of sound dampening in the inside space, which made it very *loud* as at least 7-10 workers were furiously working to put out the latest espresso order, plating various pastries, and just going in and out of the kitchen. The outside was nicer, but given how hot it was (even in the morning), and we were caught between a rock and a hard place in a way. :) Service was very perfunctory, with numbers put on your table and your order brought out to you when it's all ready. The total came out to be roughly ~$21 per person (including tax and tip).

Urth Caffe on Melrose serves up Organic Coffees, fresh imported Teas, and healthier Food, all with some noble causes in mind. On a cooler day, their outdoor seating area would be perfect, a charming little setup along a relaxed neighborhood along the fancier side of Melrose (near Pacific Design Center). However, after having the brilliant Breakfasts and Brunches at Anisette, and simpler (but better prepared) fare throughout L.A., Urth Caffe's rough execution of their dishes would warrant a visit only if you're in the area. A cafe devoted to some great causes, but in need of more polish from their kitchen staff.

Rating: 6.8 (out of 10.0)

Urth Caffe
8565 Melrose Avenue
West Hollywood, CA 90069
Tel: (310) 659-0628

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