Our next target ended up being Amaroma, one of Moraga’s only fine-dining experiences. We decided that we would get lunch at the Alimentari (we don’t speak Italian, but we assume that Alimentari means something along the lines of “cafe”) next door to the main dining room, as very few people are aware that Amaroma even offers lunch. What we found was certainly worth sharing!
Atmosphere: Inviting and comfortable. We sat at the copper-top bar, surrounded by shelves lined with bottles of wine for sale. There is a TV above the bar, and the Spain-Portugal soccer match was on. As we munched on fresh-out-of-the-oven bread dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, we felt as if we were getting a bit of a European experience! Very pleasant. It was quiet—we were the only patrons—but our timing was a bit odd (11 in the morning on a Tuesday isn’t necessarily a restaurant’s busy hour for lunch). On the bright side, that meant absolutely no lines.
Service: Our waiter was very good—friendly and personable. We suspect he might’ve been the manager. He made sure we were never short on bread as we waited for our food, and the food itself came in a timely fashion—in fact, it was the perfect amount of time to be able to call it a “leisurely lunch”! He made valiant attempts at conversation that, while funny and engaging most of the time, sometimes became a bit bracing, as we wished to have enough alone time to critique our experience! Better an overly friendly waiter than a mean one, though!
Food: To test out this Italian joint, we decided that we would try out their sandwiches and salads. We ended up getting two sandwiches with different side dishes, and our friend who came along with us ended up ordering one of the salads. The first sandwich was a grilled chicken breast on top of tomatoes, lettuce, cheese, and bacon on a nice sourdough bun. On the side was a caeser salad with parmesan cheese sprinkled on top. The sandwich was to die for, the chicken was nice and toasty inside its blanket of melted cheese, which was complimented nicely by the tomatoes and crisp lettuce leaves. The salad was great as well, though it was covered in a quite a bit of dressing (which I don’t mind, I love salad dressing). The second sandwich was comprised of roasted bell peppers, eggplant, and onions, layered with melted mozzarella, on a light-as-clouds bun that smacked of butter. It was toasted to a warm perfection and the flavors combined beautifully. This was served with a pleasant side of handmade fries, stained an orange color by the spice blend they were coated in. Pretty good fries, not the best, but certainly a few cuts above fastfood level. The entree salad—a combination of dressed spinach, pear, candied walnuts, and blue cheese—was not up to the standards of the food mentioned previously. The toppings were scarce, chunky, and set to the side of the salad instead of nicely incorporated throughout (the cheese, for example, came as a large pate on top of the greens. This made it difficult to eat). The dressing tasted good, but it was too thickly coating the spinach and felt a bit oily. In conclusion: while lunching at Amaroma, order sandwiches, not salads!
Price: We payed a total of $38 with tip, $33 without. That averaged out to roughly $11 per person. Let’s do a price comparison with the other sandwich place in Moraga—the much-better-known Bianca’s Deli. We’ll say that a sandwich from Bianca’s, just your plain ol’ cold cuts sandwich, would be roughly $6.50. Then factor in the same amount of sides, in Bianca’s’s terms, as we received with our sandwiches from Amaroma. Another $3. That brings us to $9.50, which is a dollar less than what we payed for our sandwich and side combos—but the sandwiches at Amaroma—pardon our French, or rather, our Italian—whoop the ass of the sandwiches at Bianca’s. They are seriously gourmet, and worth the extra buck or so.
The Rating: 4 happy Moraga cows out of 5. Molto Buono! This would make a great date destination—not too expensive, but its combination between a sit-down lunch spot and a casual deli make it feel mor upscale than just another deli. And who doesn’t want variety in their lives?
Mulberry yogurt panna cotta. Perfect quick summer desert.
- 500ml heavy cream
- 500ml yogurt
- 20g gelatine
- honey to your taste
- handful of mulberries
Mix gelatine with cold water and let stand for 5-10 minutes. Heat the heavy cream (don’t let it boil) then add honey and yogurt. Mix the gelatine in. Split the cream, add the mashed berries to one part. Pour to glasses in layers, leaving it in fridge for 30-40 minutes to harden between layers.
I suggest you guys go to Amoroma in Moraga along with the others on your to-do list.
Of course! Moraga’s only fine-dining experience! We can’t wait to try them out for dinner, and we’ll also be exploring their lunch offerings in the cafe adjacent to the restaurant—a lot of people don’t know about it. Spread the word about this project too, it’s all appreciated greatly!
Our first target ended up serving the first meal of the day—breakfast!! Many people don’t even know about the Ranch House Cafe, an old red building located near Safeway. But they certainly are missing out on a rather delicious dining experience! Everybody’s heard of Millie’s in Lafayette, but the Ranch House is both closer to home, and cheaper (though without the coffee cake).
So, now for our critique:
Atmosphere: Homey, if a little bit shabby, but the place is located in a 130+ year old building, so we can forgive it that! Inside, nestled between the wonky walls are basic diner booths and a dozen-odd other tables. When we got there (just before 9 in the morning on Saturday) 4 other tables were occupied, but we’d say that peak hour for this place is closer to 10 as families go for brunch. Overall, the noise level when we were there was perfect, enough conversations were happening but you didn’t have to scream to get your point across the table.
Service: Generally friendly, though impersonal. We were seated immediately, our drinks and food came quickly, as did the check when we were ready to go—plus, we were offered more hot water for our tea (in individual tea pots!!!), which we considered a plus!
Food: On to the important part of this review—the FOOD. Breakfast food is pretty difficult to mess up, but we’re sure everybody has had an unpleasant breakfasting experience at least once before (cough*airportfood*cough). Happily, the Ranch House gave us a pretty good, filling breakfast. We ordered the Ranch House Special (2 pancakes, 2 eggs any style, 2 sausage links or bacon slices, and choice of juice), Blueberry pancakes (which was the special of the day), and biscuits with gravy as a side dish, as well as two mint teas. The pancakes served with both dishes were perfectly cooked, fluffy, and tasted delish. The blueberry ones had a lot of fresh blueberries scattered evenly throughout. The eggs, ordered sunny side up, were likewise perfectly cooked, though the sausage links were very oily and a bit salty. Perhaps bacon would’ve been better? The biscuits and gravy were a bit of a miss—dense biscuits in a rather flavorless (and yet, strangely, salty) gravy with bits of sausage scattered throughout (which we thought was a nice touch). The gravy, despite being overly salty, was light and creamy, which was nice. Finally, the little things we liked—real, pure maple syrup in the syrup dispensers, almost-fresh-squeezed-tasting orange juice, and generally sweet, ripe fruit on the side of each of our dishes (though we would’ve skipped the out-of-season orange slices and bland strawberries). Additionally, the portion sizes were *perfect.*
Price: We payed a total of $25 (including the tip) for our meals and our drinks. The Ranch House special, which gave us about 13 bucks’ worth of food for only $8.50, was an excellent deal (perfect for hungry college kids!). Most of the items on the menu ring in under $10, and again, the portions are very good!
The Rating: 3.5 happy Moraga cows out of 5. A solid breakfasting experience! We recommend it! Skip out on your usual Nation’s oily breakfast and give The Ranch House a go!
In addition to sampling “local cuisine” (if you could ever call what we have here its own cuisine), we’re bargain hunting. Broke highschoolers is only a step down from broke college students after all… and whoever wants to constantly eat Taco Bell and leftovers? We all appreciate going out to get lunch or dinner every once and a while, but money really can be tight. So, as a twist to our forays into Moraga’s dining scene, we’ll be ordering the cheapest meals we can find, when possible, at each restaurant, and then tell you our thoughts. Cheers!
The Restaurants, in no particular order:
- Asia Palace
- Shish Kabab Show
- Chef Chao
- Ristorante Amaroma
- Lamorinda Pizza
- Bianca’s Delli
- Royal Siam
- Little Hearty Noodle
- Gourmet Bistro Cafe
- The Ranch House
- China Moon
- Kirin Sushi
- Moraga Country Club
- Terzetto Cuisine
We’ve got our work cut out for us!
We’re two current high schoolers on a mission, and a simple one at that: By the end of the summer of 2012, our goal is to eat at every non-chain restaurant in Moraga, California—our hometown—and blog about our experiences as the “Moraga Food Critics.” We’ve lived in this town for upwards of 10 years, but we still have yet to patronize every eating establishment here. Shame, tis not? There aren’t that many, either. So we are going local, pooling our funds, carving time from our summer, and eating out—Moraga style.