Haute Cakes is a small eatery with a big following. Though word of its reputation has spread beyond its Westcliff Plaza area location Newport Beach, the cafe has been primarily a neighborhood favorite for 10 years. The crowds of regulars that gather for lunch and breakfast are proof of its popularity.
The name of this restaurant is appropriate because its food is so cutting edge that it could almost be called haute cuisine.
Gourmets worth their arugula knows that food weaves in and out of fashion as often as clothes. Gourmet magazine readers stay on top of every herb du jour and the latest fads to impress fellow foodies. Like boutiques, stylish bistros like to stay ahead of the trends.
If the meals were simply faddish, Haute Cakes could be dismissed as just another hot hangout. But the cafe--or Caffe, as it is spelled here--offers deliciously innovative twists on basic sandwiches, salads and pastas. Breakfast, served every morning beginning at 7, is a collection of egg dishes, hot cakes, waffles and freshly made pastries, the latter sold from the bakery case and prepared daily by Haute Cake's pastry chef, Cherie Faulds.
Haute Cakes began as an espresso shop, and owner Paul Taddeo has built his business largely by offering remarkably fresh and tasty baked goods, which are featured at the restaurant and used in Taddeo's catering business.
Among the many pastries are rustic berry pies, creme brulees, brioche, cookies and a wonderful lemon gallette, a scrumptious pie with raspberries on the flakiest crust I've ever tasted. These treats alone would make a terrific brunch.
But you don't want to miss the inventive treatments of scrambled eggs--with asparagus, leeks, caramelized onions and feta, for instance--or the brioche French toast, bruschetta-and-egg and pancake combinations.
The specials on any given day are also must-haves. Try the lemon or orange ricotta hot cakes if they are offered; the huevos benedictos, a Latin-style eggs Benedict made of a masa corn crust topped with poached eggs, smoked chicken or turkey and chipotle hollandaise; the lemon and thyme potato gratin topped with poached eggs or the crab cakes topped with poached eggs and mango salsa.
Not as successful was the breakfast burrito--a flour tortilla filled with eggs, potatoes, onions and tomatoes and topped with mole sauce. The filling was too dry to support the even drier tortilla and was only minimally improved by the flavorful mole sauce.
Another item to avoid is the cafe's signature buttermilk "haute" cakes, which were bland and not as exciting as nearly every other dish available. Besides, if lemon or orange ricotta cakes are offered, why would anyone choose buttermilk cakes?
My favorites for breakfast are the Pierre's scramble of asparagus, leeks and caramelized onions and the breakfast sandwich, which combines eggs, bacon, avocado, tomato and chipotle mayonnaise on the restaurant's delicious fresh bread, baked by the Il Fornaio restaurant chain.
We enjoyed a number of items made with this great bread, including the breakfast bruschetta bagel, served on bread because there were no more bagels, and a yummy concoction of marscarpone cheese, raspberries and honey: Imagine bruschetta with fruit instead of tomatoes.
Haute Cakes is the ideal place to take a casual crowd of adults, kids and dogs. The outdoor tables can be arranged to fit a group. And because orders are taken at a counter with meals brought to the table, groups can stay as long as they want without offending waiters trolling for tips. It's a nice spot to meet friends, read the paper and tie on the feed bag.
Haute Cakes Caffe, 1807 Westcliff Drive, Newport Beach, (949) 642-4114. Breakfast Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 11 a.m.; Saturday, 7-11:45 a.m.; Sunday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Prices range from $3.25 to $7.95.