Despite being the most populous state in the US, California is known for its laid-back nature, thanks to its many beaches that are home to surfers and an accepting culture as evidenced by its diverse population.
This was also the birthplace of the hippie movement in the 60s, and iconic bands like the Beach Boys and The Doors called the city home.
Embracing and celebrating this rich culture and unique vibe is California Pizza Kitchen, the casual dining restaurant chain founded in 1985 by two lawyers that currently has branches in 17 countries. And after establishing its presence in Dubai, CPK recently opened in Al Ain.
While not seemingly obvious at first glance, Al Ain does actually share some similar characteristics with the Western state with its distinctly cosy ambiance, laidback nature and, much like the rest of the country, a multicultural population.
True to its California leanings, the restaurant features rustic wooden interiors combined with shades of yellow to supposedly reflect the state’s sunshine and warm weather.
Placed in one corner is a white surfboard, where guests can freely scribble their name or random thoughts and messages.
After soaking in all the visuals, it’s time to settle in and try the food – and there’s more than just pizza on offer.
The Thai crunch salad is a colourful concoction of greens including cabbage, cucumbers, broccoli and onions, mixed with chicken breast, peanuts and crispy rice sticks. Even more impressive is its taste, which wanders from sweet to savoury, soft and crunchy.
Equally vibrant in taste and appearance is the Kung-pao spaghetti, which is a well flavoured dish with garlic, green onions and peanuts, though it’s a bit too salty for my taste.
Highly recommended is the chicken fajita pizza, composed of cilantro pesto combined with three types of cheeses – mozzarella, cheddar and Monterey Jack – plus shredded chicken, vegetables and spicy sour cream.
If you’re bored with the usual pizza flavours, this one is a delectable alternative. Order it thin crust to properly enjoy the blend of flavours.
If you have a sweet tooth, cap off the visit with a chocolate fondant, a soufflé-style cake swimming in molten chocolate paired with vanilla ice cream – marvellous.
While Al Ain might sound like an unusual choice of destination, CPK, with its chilled ambiance and simple but tasty food, is blending perfectly fine in the Garden City.
Need to know:
Location: Al Ain Mall, Othman Bin Affan Street, Al Ain
We say: Great food choices in a casual setting
Cost: AED 193 for two
Opening times: Sat-Thu 10am-11pm, Fri 10am-midnight
Contact: 03 768 9935, facebook.com/
WORDS Ferdinand Godinez