Thursday, July 27, 2000
Finally, someone has stepped outside the dreary status quo to beat the crepe out of the competition, winning the tastebuds of casual diners on the Monterey Peninsula. Inspired by the creperies that exist in so many cities throughout the world, where hungry folk can pop in and, for a reasonable fee, be served up mouthwatering crepes filled with every conceivable filling, Crepe Escape delivers the goods in a little corner spot between Rio Grill and Chevy''s in the Crossroads Shopping Center in Carmel.
The driving force behind Crepe Escape is Joseph LaSorsa. LaSorsa, who spent 23 years supervising the production of computer hardware in the Silicon Valley, decided to pack it in and take a couple of years off. When not working started to get old, he figured he''d go to the other extreme, so he opened this creperie. Now he puts in about a million hours a week, cooking up a storm. LaSorsa has infused his essence upon every square inch of Crepe Escape. He even did a Bob Vila during the build-out, personally constructing and installing everything, even the tile floor.
As I walked into the corner entrance of this giant letter-L, I was struck by the size of the enormous counter, which runs the entire length of the space. I approached the area where the orders are placed and awkwardly decided upon one of the specials, shrimp with a tarragon-Dijon mustard sauce ($6.90). My partner chose the Symphonie de la Mer; fish du jour, scallops and prawns in a light tarragon cream sauce ($7.90). We each ordered a Perrier--presently, only a nice assortment of soft drinks is available, but a wine license is imminent--and took seats at the rail inside. There are rails with stools both indoors and out as well as tables inside and out.
In no time our crepes were ready. They were steaming and aromatic, presented simply on a custom-shaped plastic plate. The crepe itself, that thin, fluffy pancakey disc, was perfectly spongy and delicately scented. The ingredients were all top quality, perfectly cooked, beautifully seasoned with expertly balanced flavors. The crepe acted as an exquisite conduit by which the tastes and aromas of the fillings were delivered to our mouths. Afterward we both agreed that they were filling, yet in a light way, leaving us sated sensually as well as intellectually.
On a follow-up visit for breakfast, my companion ordered Carmel Valley eggs with herbs and the addition of delicately wilted spinach ($4.80); I had eggs and herbs with the addition of Andouille sausage ($6.80). Both were brilliant alternatives to the hackneyed standard American breakfast.
I also ordered the hash browns, which were disappointing. They fell below the impeccable standard of the food here but were redeemed by the accompaniment of three sauces; red pepper pesto, basil pesto and an herb-infused airy light cream sauce. Those three sauces are the bases for many of the crepes here and each demands the old finger-swipe-and-lick maneuver at the end of the meal.
After the breakfast crepes, while stifling cries of "Vive la France," we did our patriotic duty and ordered a dessert crepe: The Brazilian ($5.90), with bananas flambe, toasted coconut and almonds. We watched as LaSorsa almost blew the roof off with a monster flambe, then crafted a beautiful baby boatload of banana brilliance. The bananas and coconut, either of which can potentially overwhelm any dish, coexisted peacefully with sliced almonds, syrupy sauce, whipped cream and, of course, the noble crepe.
My third trip to Crepe Escape, which was more the result of a crepe jones than any official compulsion, was more of the same as the three of us (had to turn-on a friend) tried the Philly Cheese Crepe ($6.90), the Chicken Riviera ($6.90) and another Symphonie de la Mer ($7.90). The outcome was the same. Within minutes after receiving our crepes, we were like the Three Stooges, taking two bites and passing the dishes around to each other until they were wiped clean.
At last there is a restaurant to go to for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack when you are dying for something really unique and satisfying. At Crepe Escape you can blow in when you''re in a hurry, grab a crepe and eat and run, or just run. Or you can hang out at your leisure, have a fresh berry or chocolate hazelnut crepe ($4.90) with a cup of good coffee, dig the sexy French music, and browse through one of the interesting books or copies of Le Monde that LaSorsa supplies.
The Crepe Escape is open until midnight on weekends so, naturally, after a movie at the Crossroads, a visit here is a no-brainer. Also, LaSorsa''s Crepe Escape is developing a cult following among the area''s service people, who are always looking for a bite when they get off work.
121 Crossroads, Carmel, 626-8841. Open daily from 8am.