The American lures of ease and comfort have bred some incredibly wonderful (and horrible) inventions; the convenience of having services and products at the ready has become an expectation, from 24 hour supermarkets to dry cleaning services that guarantee an 1 hour turn around. Just as fishing lures can entice fish to bite, some conveniences make promises that are not executed well or at all. Finding any place that delivers more than promised is a joy, and Nordstrom's Marketplace Café is one of those joys, found inside the Nordstrom's at the Santa Anita Westfield Mall.
A friend invited me to experience the gift of a meal courtesy of her Nordstrom's rewards, so we were treated to anything we desired on the menu except wine (but she used an additional gift certificate to include a nice bottle of a Layer Cake Pinot Noir with our meal). Nothing on their menu is more than $18, and most items are in the $12 range. Our server Shannon had worked at the Arcadia restaurant for 20 years and I highly recommend that you ask for her if you go to this location; she is an absolutely skilled professional and she has great taste. She suggested her favorites on the menu, and we enjoyed them all.
We started with the Korean flavored beef tacos as an appetizer. The beef was surprisingly tender and had enough of the taste of Kalbi that the crunchy pickled vegetables balanced out the sweetness nicely. The side salad of crunchy raw vegetables added a nice light counterpoint. This could easily have been a meal, but because this is the US, we took advantage of the American custom of taking extra food home in doggie bags. By the end of our meal, she had a shopping bag of food to take home for another meal with her husband.
Because we couldn't decide on which salad to get, Shannon served us half portions of two so that we could share and taste. The half portions were so large they could have been a meal for anyone who has a small appetite. The first salad we tried had apple chips, raw apples, chicken, goat cheese, spiced candied almonds, and organic greens in a champagne vinaigrette. We were both delighted with this salad, especially enjoying the apple chips that added a satisfying crunchy texture, contrasting to the softer components.
The colorful berry and fig salad was less to our liking, mainly because of the vanilla bean vinaigrette. I am not a fan of vanilla beans used in anything other than desserts, and although I understand why a fruit and fig salad could be complemented by this kind of flavor, it was my least favorite dish of everything we tried. It w as impressive that with this salad they also used organic greens.
We split an order of the spicy wild shrimp with angel hair pasta, but it was plenty after the tacos and the salads. I was impressed that they used wild shrimp, that the pasta was actually spicy, and that the pasta was not overcooked! All this for under $16 is a bargain (remember the picture is of a HALF portion).
We also split an order of one of the specials of a short rib noodle dish with vegetables with Asian inspired flavors. The meat was tender and the vegetables were lightly sauteed, retaining their crunch. If we had not already eaten half the menu, we would have finished out half portions, but I could barely eat one bite before surrendering my half portion to the doggie bag.
Since we literally had no room for dessert, we chose cookies, which Shannon heated to give us a "freshly baked" flavor. My friend had literally one bite of her gingerbread cookie before also putting the remainder into our ever expanding doggie bag.
I did not do any better, breaking off just a taste of my oatmeal raisin cookie before including it in her shopping bag sized doggie bag.
A very big "grazie" to my VIP Shopper friend for her invitation, to Shannon for her outstanding service, and to the US for inventing the doggie bag :)