Tucked away amongst quaint boutique shops and restaurants in Studio City, Aroma Cafe is a not-so-hidden neighborhood gem that quickly converts every visitor who sets foot into the place, into a regular.
The small strech of Tujunga Avenue on which Aroma Cafe sits is like a calming oasis in the culinary desert of the San Fernando Valley. Its leisurely-paced foot traffic, set against the backdrop of tree-lined suburban sprawl, and customers whose biggest concern seem to be where to kick back with a latte while on a two hour break from walking their dog - is a stark contrast to the tourist-jammed tween/teen mecca of lights, sound and fury that is Universal Studios just 5 minutes' drive away.
Be prepared for at least a 10 minute wait at weekday lunch, and 15 minutes on weekends, just to reach the counter to place your order - it's a whole other challenge, after getting your number placard from the cashier, to find a table (the server then has to locate you by said number placard in order to bring you your food).
As far as seating goes, there is something for everyone: for the office worker looking for a quick fix on a schedule, there are rows of elevated tables and barstools just opposite the counter, in the main front of store area.
It was tough for me to narrow down just one dish from the extensive menu - which alone would merit a week-long diatribe - but I will spare you the pain of a post that spans the length of the site - suffice it to say I felt like I was going to get whiplash, with my eyes excitedly hurtling back and forth between pages filled with words like "kobe bleu burger", "crab cake sandwich...applewood smoked bacon", "proscuitto and eggs panini melt" and "shrimp and lobster omelette". After what seemed like hours of painful indecision, I finally choose to go with the Lobster Club sandwich ($13.95) - heaven on a toasted brioche, with fresh maine lobster, romaine leaves, vine-ripened tomatoes, and applewood smoked bacon with an ancho aioli...AND fries (you are given a choice of style - I went for curly)!
Of course, being afterall a cafe, there is also an extended list of coffees, teas and other handcrafted drinks on the menu. I went against the grain and opted for a bottle of Orangina, so that I can blow my quota for sweets all on the Chocolate Chip Cheesecake ($4.95), which had me salivating on sight. This was no ordinary cheesecake - it is at once both fluffy and creamy, light yet filling - perfectly proportioned with a crunchy dark cookie crumb crust, filled with smooth, creamy cheese center, topped by perfectly airy whipped cream, and taking it over the edge with a dusting of miniature chocolate chips. I still have dreams about this cake, days after the first taste.
Though obviously their coffees and teas are excellent (love the macchiato) I've also tried the pineapple, mango, banana fruit smoothie with apple juice and loved it - it's not so thick that you feel like you should be eating it with a spoon, and the balanced sweetness tastes like it come from fruit rather than scoops of sugar - yum!
All-in-all, this is The Perfect spot for a laid back lunch / brunch with friends or your significant other - and has become one of my favorite spots to go on a sunny day in LA (well that was a redundant expression!). This one, I almost selfishly didn't want to write about, to prevent crowds from overrunning the place more than they already have - but Aroma Cafe definitely deserves to be the talk of the town on every level - and I will be back for many, many more bites - calories be damned!
On a 7 point scale:
Flavor - 5.5 bites
Presentation - 5.5 bites
Originality - 4 bites
Ambience - 7 stars
Service - 5.5 stars
Overall experience - 6 bites
Price - $$ (2 bite marks)
Probability of return visit - 100%
Aroma Coffee & Tea
4360 Tujunga Avenue
Studio City, CA 91604