The topic for today will involve my younger brother. Because I can’t help it. A few days ago, he messaged me in Facebook sending me a photo of a burger and a cola.
HIM: (a photo of a burger and a drink) Wahahaha Burger Box! Yipeeeee!
What a tease! That was such a foul move. I was the one who suggested Burger Box to him and I’m the one who wanted to try their burgers badly ever since my burger craving started (and never ended). It so happened that he lives near Carrefour in Exit 5 so he has easy access to the place and so he got first dibs. I was jealous and devastated… NOT. Because I sent him this:
ME: CPK, wahahaha! Yeyyyyy!
At the time he sent me his photo of Burger Box, I was on a restaurant he’s been waiting for months to open. Nyahahaha! He’s been eyeing the opening of California Pizza Kitchen in Tahlia Street since we ate at the opposite Big Smoke Burger in January of this year. He went as far as messaging CPK’s Facebook page to ask when they will open in Riyadh. He has been begging (yes, BEGGING) me to take him there when it opens. Hahaha! Of course, I also accompanied my message with this photo of CPK’s Original Chicken BBQ Pizza. Because I can’t just help it. Haha!
He replied: Bwiset! (Darn!)
HAHAHA. An eye for an eye? A restaurant for a restaurant bro! Haha!
Anyway, CPK finally opened in Tahlia Street a month ago. California Pizza Kitchen or CPK started in 1985 serving dishes with “a signature twist that’s globally inspired yet distinctly California.” It offers hearth-baked pizzas, pastas, soups, sandwiches, appetizers, and desserts in their 260 full-service restaurants all over the world. Wow, 260. One of them is located in Makati in the Philippines and there’s where I first had a taste of their Original Chicken BBQ pizza, the bestselling heart of their menu. Being in the Philippines with my meager allowance (that I probably squandered on other unnecessary stuff), I found the pizza too expensive. Especially during that time, I was already in love with the 5 peso (0.05 halalas if there’s such a thing) per slice pizza that are sold on the streets. So a fancy pizza is not something I enjoy if I’m the one paying. Fast forward to last Monday where I went to CPK with my friends in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
We were already in the restaurant around 6:00pm and we managed to secure a table after
fighting with the head waiter one hour and a half. No, I did not fight I just reiterated our right to be seated first than a couple who obviously came later than us. The waiter gave them a booth with a huge curved couch and then proceeded to sit us on a cramped booth. When I asked him why he sat the couple first, he told us that they came in first and just went out again and came back when we were already in the waiting area. I had to call on his BS because my friend was already in the restaurant just after the prayer time and we arrived after a few minutes. No one was with us in the waiting area. It was around 45 minutes after that the couple arrived. So does that mean they went out before the salah, probably went somewhere and came back after an hour or so? Seriously? If you’ve seen the parking space in that area, you wouldn’t want to leave if you got a space already. I think the waiter got rattled when the guy started complaining angrily. Anyway…
The waiter who attended to us was much more pleasant to talk to. He apologized for what just transpired. He knows the bestsellers and suggested what’s good to order. Here are the dishes on our table:
I didn’t know California had this kind of shrimps! Haha! It’s Asian-flavored if you ask me. Actually, most of their dishes have flavors borrowed from around the world so I’m not sure what’s distinctly California in them. Maybe what they’re telling is California has the best restaurants offering various cuisines from around the world? Okay, enough of my theory. The Dynamite Shrimp is lightly fried and covered in spicy, sweet chili sauce served on a bed, or glass, of crispy noodles. It was delicious! My annoyance from the wait dissipated immediately upon biting in the shrimps. They were swirled in the right amount of sauce. I wished they’re a bit spicier though.
My friend loved this Adobe Chicken Chowder Soup. I have no idea why it’s called “adobe” but this hearty soup is surprising. It’s not even in liquid form. Kidding, it is, but it’s chock full of chicken pieces, wild rice, sweet corn, green chilies, onion, bell peppers, and cilantro that it’s almost solid. It’s thick and rich and full of flavor.
One of the outstanding dishes we ordered was the Thai Crunch Salad. It certainly appealed to our Asian palate. They used a winning combination in the texture of this dish. It has the crispiness of the Chinese cabbage, cucumbers, carrots, wontons, peanuts and onions and the juiciness and softness of the grilled breast chicken rounded up nicely by the sweet and slightly sour Thai peanut and lime cilantro dressing. We finished this dish to the last strand of crispy rice sticks.
For our pasta, we were determined to counter the various flavors that are already set before us. We went for the Spicy Mexican Fettuccine just because it’s uhmn, Mexican. Again, I have no idea where the “California” is in this dish. Maybe Mexican food is popular in California? Haha. Anyway, this dish served us the kick we were looking for in the Dynamite Shrimp. They weren’t kidding when they said “Spicy!” in their menu. This is the least liked dish in our table.
We also ordered a main dish that we consider as a highlight to our meal… Grilled Meditteranean Prawns and Scallops. There were two skewers of jumbo prawns and teeny tiny pieces of scallops on a bed of beans and a side of potatoes. The flavor is smoky and garlicky. It’s an amazing dish! AMAZING! I can’t get an adjective better than that. More amazing? Haha! So good!
And finally, the piece de resistance… the Original Chicken BBQ Pizza that was invented in 1985 and made CPK famous. This classic invented in the first CPK branch in Beverly Hills is called “legendary” because of its BBQ sauce, smoked Gouda and mozarella cheeses, BBQ chicken, red onions, and cilantro. We ordered the one with additional pineapples, thus the term “Hawaiian Chicken BBQ Pizza.” I have tasted a lot of pizzas in my life and this one is good. When I first tasted this in the Philippines, I was left speechless… not because it was so great but because I cannot imagine how this, in the advent of pizzas in various flavors and styles and toppings, made CPK what it is today. I can imagine though how it was considered one of the greatest during its time.
Our drinks were all refreshing!
And the dessert… our all-time favorite kind, Chocolate Fondant. I love how soft and light this cake is. It’s not too dark and the chocolate filling is not at all cloying.
So let’s see… we had Thai, Mexican, Meditteranean, and Hawaiian in a California Pizza Kitchen? Awesome! All in all, our experience in CPK is good. We ordered the right kind of dishes. The flavors were spot-on. However, I will suggest that you might want to wait out til they open the other side of their restaurant and they can accommodate more diners so as to secure your table immediately. Right now, they’re in their soft opening with most of the staff hailed from Dubai to teach and train the ones who are going to work in the restaurant in Riyadh. But if you have the patience to wait in line, then go ahead and visit CPK now.
As for you brother dear… one day, I will treat you here. But bring me my burgers and anything I request from the restos in Exit 5 first. Hahaha!
California Pizza Kitchen
Tahlia Street (after Chili’s and Kampai)
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia