30990 Russell Ranch Road, Westlake Village
Choices, choices and more choices — that seems to be the vision driving CiCi’s Cafe. The casual chic eatery, recently opened in Westlake Village in the spot formerly occupied by The Counter, offers more than a menu — it offers a veritable tome of breakfast options, with page after page of pancakes (somewhere around 50 choices), waffles, French toast and crepes (a few dozen each) as well as a not-insubstantial selection of eggs, omelets and other protein-rich dishes. “Salt and pepper . . . sugar and cream” is the tagline, and CiCi’s lives up to that: savory and sweet, offered abundantly and in equal measure.
And while the sheer volume of dishes is enough to distinguish CiCi’s, it also excels at delivery: Those many, many specialties (at least the four we tried) were delicious and beautifully presented. If you want a brunch spot that will please a lot of palates and impress even the finickiest, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better restaurant.
The spare, clean lines of the décor, all metal and cream and dark brown, stand in stark contrast to the rococo-like excess of its culinary sensibility. This is a modern place, simple yet understatedly elegant. And already a hit: At 10 a.m. on a Monday morning, the dining room was packed — and very loud. We retreated to the relative quiet of the patio, which had plenty of shade and handsome revolving wicker chairs around its tables.
The chairs are quite comfortable, and that is a good thing: You’ll need to settle in a bit to take in that enormous menu. And it all sounds so good, too! Something fruity, something chocolately, something healthy, something playful or more traditional — it’s all there. It’s true that they don’t allow substitutions — but who could blame them? Just keep reading; you’ll find exactly what your tastebuds want . . . if you don’t blow a gasket first.
Our pint-sized dining companions were drawn to the sweet side, of course. The Yippy Waffle, with a scattering of Fruit Loops cereal over a very generous dollop of whipped cream, was made for the kid in all of us. And that waffle was excellent: crisp on the outside, tender and light inside, and with a touch of vanilla flavor throughout. Waffle lovers: You have a new Mecca. The Strawberry Dream Pancakes feature wheat bran pancakes topped with fresh strawberries and banana, a dollop of yogurt and almond crumble (sweeter than granola, less sugary than streudel topping). Health food with a touch of indulgence.
My husband, ever the purist, went for a simple sausage and eggs combo known as the boeing.
My choice was the veggie-filled Mama Bea Omelet (prepared with egg whites, no less) which got a huge boost in flavor from the wonderful, fresh, homemade tomatillo sauce. With potato gratin on the side, I almost didn’t have enough room to snitch bites of pancakes, waffles and crepes from my dining companions. Almost.
If you need more reasons to check out this splendid cafe, I can name a few. The extensive cocktail menu (including mimosas, bellinis and sangria; other drinks are made with Soju), a great selection of teas and espresso drinks, wonderful Mexican- and Asian-inspired dishes (such as huevos tomatillos and panang curry omelets) and an intriguing lunch and dinner menu. These other meals don’t have quite the impact made by 30 pages of breakfast — but based on how good the pancakes and egg dishes are, I’m betting the pastas, sandwiches, meats and salads are pretty tasty, too.
Not everyone is going to be impressed by sheer volume, of course. Swimming through so many options can be exhausting if you just want some bacon, eggs and hash browns. But the quality is there along with the quantity, with fresh, flavorful ingredients, thoughtful combinations and expert preparation. CiCi’s proves that sometimes, more is more — and then some.