Recently California Pizza Kitchen asked me and Hubby to try out (our meal was paid for, opinions my own) what was new at the Galleria location in St. Louis, Missouri. I actually had not been to this location before but after our visit I will be back for sure! CPK is obviously known for their fabulous pizzas, but they actually have quite a wide variety of other foods on their menu as well. Now they are launching their next chapter with a new look and feel in the restaurants and on the food and drink menu.
Hubby and I went last week to give CPK a try. Now the manager, Billie, and staff knew we were coming and that I was going to be blogging and sharing about our visit and so I am sure they wanted to make a good impression. However, Hubby and I both watched all the staff while we were there and how they interacted with other guests and I have to say they gave everyone very friendly experiences and plenty of attention from what we saw. Customer service is huge for us and we both were really happy to see that everyone got great attention and service, not just us.
After we sat down the manager, Billie, came over and brought us a nice little sample of their White Corn Guacamole and Chips. Plus Billie also explained that she placed this bright yellow napkin on our table as a sign to show that we were new to visiting California Pizza Kitchen. Explaining that the yellow napkin is a signal to all the staff that they should make sure to answer questions we may have and just make sure we understand the entire CPK experience. I think this is a fabulous idea as many times on a first visit to a restaurant I have more questions than usual.
The White Corn Guacamole is delicious. While it has the creamy fresh avocado texture it is mixed with some super fresh white corn that provides a fabulous contrast to the creaminess of the guacamole. I’m going to start adding fresh corn like this to my own homemade guacamole too I think!
If you are new or a regular visitor to CPK you also get a bit of super fresh French bread and some amazing olive oil with plenty of herbs to dip the bread in. Bread is one of those things that a small handful of places do really well, CPK is one of them. This bread was super fresh and had a wonderful yeasty taste that was the right amount to not be overwhelmed by the herbed olive oil they served it with. If you are so inclined, ask them to add a little balsamic vinegar into the herbed olive oil as well for another fabulous taste.
You all know that I had to try out a cocktail! I opted for the new Strawberry Lime Margarita and it was a phenomenal choice. A blend of Casamigos Tequila Blanco, fresh strawberries, perfect puree strawberry, fresh agave, sour and lime. Super fresh and fruity but with just enough of a kick from the tequila to let you know it is still a margarita. On my next visit I will be trying the new Strawberry Mojito which also sounded amazing. Hubby had a scotch and water tonight – he is on a scotch kick lately.
There are different areas in the restaurant. We were over in the area by the counter seating and where they make the pizzas. It was fun watching the chef toss the pizza dough up so high and he caught it perfectly every single time. I love being able to see what is happening in the kitchen when I go out to eat – it’s like watching Food TV but in real life!
Hubby is usually pretty good about deferring to me to pick the appetizer when we go out to eat but this night I thought I would let him pick. I was really surprised at his choice but he said he was trying to spread his taste buds a bit more and try new things. We ordered the Sesame Ginger Chicken Dumplings. Excellent choice by Hubby! The dumplings were so wonderfully light and tender and filled with a flavorful savory bite of chicken and topped with a glorious sweet and salty and spicy Soy-Ginger Chili Sauce.
Now it was time for the main course. Hubby opted to try “The Works” hand-tossed pizza. He loves pizza with peppers and onions and olives but I generally do not so when he has the chance to get a pizza all of his own with his favorite toppings he jumps on it. I did try this pizza though too, just picking off the green peppers and olives (Hubby was happy to take the extras) and I was really impressed. The pizza crust was very hearty and had that wonderful yeasty taste but was also very light at the same time – this is a hard combination to find so I was really impressed. The vegetables were all incredibly fresh and cut to that perfect thinness that still gives you full taste but not too thick that a bite overwhelms the rest of the bite of pizza. The spicy Italian sausage was one of the best I have ever had. This pizza was a good serving size for a really hungry person or could easily be shared for those with a lighter appetite. The Wild Mushroom pizza was one that really jumped out at me and I think I may try that next time I visit CPK.
I went an entirely different way for my entree and went for the new menu item – a Fire-Grilled Ribeye Steak. I knew I was having oral surgery in a few days so I wanted to take advantage of something chewy while I still could and this steak just sounded amazing. Ordering a steak at a “pizza place” may seem a little odd, but I promise you that this steak is fantastic and you should not be afraid to order it even though this is not a steak house. The steak had a wonderful flavor and texture with just the right amount of marbeling and is seasoned with a house made Pinot Noir sea salt and topped with a decadent blue cheese butter. I love that the sides included a peppery lemon-garlic arugula salad and some fingerling potatoes that had a crispy light crust on one side and seasoned well. Oh my, my, my was this a fabulous meal!
Now what is a great dinner without a great dessert? Originally I was thinking about ordering the new Salted Caramel Pudding but then our server said that the manager had mentioned this special order dessert….
Salted Caramel Bacon Butter Cake…OMG!
After hearing that there was just no ifs, ands, or butts that we had to try this for dessert. Butter cake is actually on the California Pizza Kitchen menu, but this extra special version is not listed on the menu but you can easily order it. AND YOU SHOULD! Oh my my! The base is an amazing piece of butter cake – think pound cake but even richer and more buttery. On top of that they add Haagen-Dazs ice cream, then a drizzle of a wonderful salted caramel sauce. Now a few dollops of freshly whipped cream and then, oh my, a generous sprinkling of large pieces of amazing bacon! This is one amazingly decandent dessert – I only had room for a bite or two but Hubby was happy to take up the slack and finish the rest by himself. Like I said, this is not listed on the menu but don’t be afraid to ask for it. Our server actually told us that CPK is fabulous for special orders on anything on the menu and they aim to please all their customers.
We really had such a nice visit to CPK and enjoy the staff, the food, and the atmosphere so much. Hubby and I are both ready to go back right away and enjoy another fun evening! Not only did the wonderful folks at California Pizza Kitchen provided a meal for Hubby and I, but they also are providing a $25 gift card for me to give away to one of my lucky readers. This would be perfect to try all of CPK’s lunchtime combo meals!
Good luck and thanks again to CPK for sharing a meal with Hubby and I!