Thursday, January 19, 2006

Merely scratching the Surfas

herbed tuna sandwich with lavender lemon bar

When I first heard about Surfas years ago, the food area was called Van Rex Gourmet and it was a small area inside a restaurant supply store on National. Well, the food section grew and grew, the Van Rex part went away, and recently Surfas moved around the corner to a large, well-designed space that shows off the gourmet section to better advantage and displays the cookware in a way that appeals to home chefs as well as professionals.
And cleverly, Surfas opened a cafe as well, with a carefully thought-out lunch menu as well as a coffee bar and baked goods. So far, I've tried the roasted tomato sandwich with grilled fig and taleggio cheese, which tends to be a bit soggy, but very tasty; and the herbed tuna, which is really flavorful with pickled okra and Fiscalini gold cheddar. Each sandwich (around $7.95) comes with two little sides -- addictive homemade granola and some sort of pickled vegetables, one day sweet cucumbers, another day mushrooms. There's also a few salads such as the Asian duck salad, as well as macaroni and cheese topped with roasted pepper hash, garlic sausage and gourmet hot dogs and filet mignon chili. I also tried an excellent lavender lemon bar, which had an amazingly interplay of sweet, tart and lavender flavors.
Surfas is like the sandwich shop I sometimes dream of when forced to eat in dreary delis on Wilshire -- a place where every dish has a little extra zing of flavor from quality ingredients like Maytag blue cheese, celery root slaw or chipotle ketchup. To drink, there's strawberry basil or ginger lemon thyme Italian sodas and plenty of quirky soft drinks, and there's an alcoholic beverage application in the window. Seating is at a few tables on the patio, which also has a little extra touch of kitchen tool imprints embedded in the sidewalk. There's lots of welcome attention to detail here (as well as a bit of preciousness, with quotations about food affixed to the sandwich boxes), and decent prices for the top-flight ingredients. The only problem I can see is that the premade sandwiches, which are put on a panini press to warm them up, sometimes fail to retain their integrity after a few hours in the cooling case.
Cafe Surfas
8777 W. Washington Blvd.
Culver City