Sunday, June 19, 2016

Hail to the Chef at the Anaheim White House

Anaheim White House Restaurant
887 South Anaheim Blvd.
Anaheim, CA 92805

If there's one thing I've learned in my first full year of being married, it's that if you listen to your wife, it will pay off in spades. Katie probably thinks that what she tells me goes in one ear, and out the other. For the most part it's probably true. I usually feign an interest in what goes on at her work, or all the latest news with her family, but when it comes to her talking about something she wants to do, or something that she likes, I take notice. That's how we ended up here, at the White House Restaurant on her birthday.

About three years ago she waxed on poetically about the White House Restaurant, and how she wanted to eat here, and donate money to Bruno Serato's charity, Caterina's Club.  This important charity, which has put Chef Bruno in the national spotlight, is named after his mother, Caterina Lombardi. After a visit to the Boys and Girls Club of Anaheim to meet some children, she found out that many of these kids resided in local motels, and many did not eat dinner. She asked her son to go back to his restaurant and make enough pasta to feed the hungry kids. Now in their 11th year, Chef Bruno provides over 5,000 meals a week in 28 different locations. They surpassed one million meals served, and are still going strong.

Not only has this program helped the children of Orange County, but it has also spawned new programs in other cities. This charity has also gotten Chef Bruno a lot of acclaim in magazines, TV, newspapers, and humanitarian awards. He was named a CNN Hero in 2011, and the accolades just keep on rolling in. I actually think that Katie has a crush on Chef Bruno, and with all he's done I'm kind of okay with that.

With all the good that Chef Bruno has done for the community, his restaurant should not be short changed in the attention department. Located on busy Anaheim Boulevard, and housed in an early 20th century mansion, this restaurant has won way too many awards for me to mention here, been visited by countless celebrities and dignitaries, and been named on a ton of best of lists. Chef Bruno took over ownership here in 1987, and his Northern Italian cuisine has been bringing people through the door ever since. It also brought us here for Katie's birthday dinner, and I was excited to finally show Katie that I do listen to her sometimes, and of course try Chef Bruno's cuisine.

Before we get to the real cuisine, I always like to show the bread that comes out before the meal. This was a good, crusty bread, which came with plenty of softened butter. They were a little shy about replenishing the bread, but that just helped me save room for the rest of my meal.

Both Katie and I started our night off with salads, and we'll start with the birthday girl's selection, the Caprese Salad ($13.95). All the crucial elements in the making of a Caprese salad were present here; Burrata mozzarella cheese, sliced tomatoes, balsamic vinaigrette, red onion, and fresh basil. Katie loved this salad, calling it perfectly executed. Very creamy cheese, with thick cut, crisp tomatoes made this a shining example of what a caprese should be.

My Caesar Salad ($8.95) obsession continued at the White House, when I ordered their version. This simple Caesar consisted of the obligatory romaine hearts, a very sturdy Caesar dressing, and a few sprinkles of Parmesan cheese. The presentation was something here. It was placed in a rice paper bowl, with some overflowing pieces hitting the plate below. Kind of like a Caesar salad waterfall. Even though this lacked croutons, I still really enjoyed this salad. It had just enough dressing, and the romaine was fresh. Pleasing to the eye, and taste buds.

Entrees were up next, and we'll start with this Braised Beef ($31.95). This signature item at the White House starts with some tender Midwest short rib, which is braised in a Cabernet sauvignon reduction, then topped with mushrooms and placed on top of a yellow polenta. Katie liked the way the flavors melded so well together on the plate. The flavor of the meat was on point, and the polenta tied everything together well. She claims that this is the epitome of Italian comfort food. She also ordered a side of Pasta Marinara ($8.50), which was kind of a little boring in my book. It came to the table a little more than lukewarm, and the sauce did not cling to the noodles like I wished it would. We'd get a different side item next time.

The online buzz about this Ossobuco Milanese ($44.50) compelled me to try this, and the internet has never let me down, and after this, it still hasn't. This cross cut veal shank was probably one of the best I have had. The veal was beyond tender, flavored well, and served with some smooth and creamy polenta. A very good and satisfying dish, and made even better when I scooped the bone marrow out of the bones, and ate it on a dinner roll. Butter of the gods is what I've heard someone call this, and they are not too far off. Definitely one of my most memorable dishes to date this year.

When this Chocolate Banana Tart ($10.95) was placed in front of us, I thought it had a striking resemblance to Donald Trump, which was reinforced by the Instagram comments that I got from a few followers the next day. This was another winner on this evening. The baked puff pastry was layered with caramelized bananas and vanilla gelato, and then bathed in a pool of vanilla and chocolate sauces. The puff pastry was soft, and easy to get a fork through, unlike others I have had. The bananas were cooked well, and the sauces tied everything together perfectly. There was plenty of gelato here, and even though I ignored the spun sugar topping this, I enjoyed the originality of it.

Even though we had ordered dessert, they insisted on bringing us even more dessert. This little mini dessert sampler included a mini creme brulee, white chocolate covered strawberry, and a cream puff. We enjoyed this, even though we were pretty full by this time. The creme brulee was the best of the bunch here, and would probably be what we would lean towards when dining at the White House again.

To be truthful, when coming here I was a little skeptical about the food we were going to be eating. I thought it might have been over-hyped because of what a great humanitarian Chef Bruno is, and it also crept into my brain that this restaurant has been here for a long time, caters to an older client base, and maybe their food has kind of slipped. We found none of that to be the case on this evening. A month later, and I still think back fondly on that veal and the chocolate banana tart, and we eat out almost every night, so that says something about the cuisine here. Yes, this is definitely more of a special occasion restaurant, somewhere that you will not eat on the spur of the moment, which is good because they do get pretty packed on weekends, and when there's big conventions in town. The presentation of the food, with the large bread towers are a little over the top, and the kind of gaudy decor here may detract some diners from the food, but I felt these things added to the special feel of the restaurant. The service at the White House is first rate. Our server, Antonio was not only knowledgeable about everything here, he also was very personable and it really felt like he wanted us to have a great experience on this evening. I'm glad I listened to Katie droning on and on about this restaurant and her infatuation with Chef Bruno. It made her birthday memorable, and helped me score some much needed husband points.

Out of five baby blankets, (because this mansion was the home of Dr. Truxaw, who famously delivered 3,500 babies during his career), five being best to zero being worst, the Anaheim White House gets 3.5 baby blankets.

For more information about the Anaheim White House Restaurant, head to their website here:

If you would like to help out, or learn more about Caterina's Club, click here to visit their website:

Anaheim White House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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