Taste | Dolce Bistro & Bakery
By: Chef Alex Rivas
Recently, I needed to make my way down to the Montclair Plaza. As I was driving down Central Avenue, I spotted Dolce Bistro & Bakery. Curious to see what was offered and also being hungry, I felt it was time to stop by and get a taste. It’s located in the middle of a small shopping center off Central Avenue and East Arrow Highway.
The décor was very modern, classy and spacious, making it great for hosting business luncheons or enjoying time with a group of friends (as they had a pretty nice selection of local beers on tap too). As I looked over the menu, I started to get an idea of what kind of gastropub fare was coming out of the kitchen. I was able to speak with the owner, Alice Lee, to learn more about how the restaurant has changed over the years.
Dolce currently serves a more Asian/Latin fusion style with gastropub fare, and as I eyed the selection on the menu, I was ready to dive right in. First, I had to try the Ahi Ceviche Stack, which had a little twist compared other places, as the tuna is mixed with cilantro, jalapeno, watermelon, arugula and wanton ships. The mix of ingredients blended well with each other, as the watermelon gave it a nice fresh, sweet bite, and the jalapeno gave it a nice heat in some mouthfuls. Overall, it was a refreshing dish that you could enjoy any time of the year.
The appetizer I also had to try was the Smokey Jalapeno filled with smoked chorizo, cheese blend and cilantro, all served atop a smoked paprika crema. The filling had a great blend to it—you could taste the chorizo along with the cheese, and the smoked paprika crema proved to be a nice compliment to the bacon in the dish. My only wish was that there were more than three, and I didn't have to share. I can see why this is one of the bistro's most popular menu item.
After getting a taste from the appetizers, I was excited to try some entrees. I started with the Short Rib Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese, which may sound like a lot, but it really held a lot of great flavors. It was basically a grown-up version of what we could like of mac and cheese and grilled cheese combined, and to make that even more sophisticated, there was a nicely braised short rib with a killer sauce. It was a savory sandwich to start my day, with the sourdough grilled to absolute perfection.
For those intrigued by the macaroni and cheese, but looking for a more substantial burger, the Backyard BBQ Burger takes care of both. Starting with the brioche bun, this burger is then layered with mac and cheese, applewood bacon, onion straws, pepper jack cheese, chipotle barbeque sauce and house ranch. No matter what you order, you’re guaranteed to appreciate all the house made sauces that Dolce Bistro & Bakery takes time to make, and you can absolutely taste all these great flavors layered in the burger. I had to order a side of ranch to dip my french fries in, which had already been seasoned nicely with a house seasoning.
The hardest part about my job is trying to taste as much as I can without finishing each and every meal I’m offered in the one sitting. This was particularly hard to do with one of my favorite burgers of the day, Fancy Schmancy Bleu. Setup with a lot of bold ingredients, it’s stacked with bleu cheese, fig, date and onion compote, arugula, port reduction on the side—all on a peppercorn bun. The burger itself has an amazing kick. The sweetness of the compote compliments the boldness of the bleu cheese, and when you add the port reduction, the burger is elevated to another level.
I also really enjoyed the Not So Classic Burger. The name itself makes it interesting, but this very simple, but not classic, burger makes for a nice lunch. The burger is constructed of roasted tomato, red onion marmalade, fontina cheese, house aioli and bacon jam. Yes, bacon jam. If you haven’t heard of it before or are interested, I recommend trying it. The Not So Classic does a great job giving you a simple burger but with new and bold flavor, and the sweet potatoes went very well on the side.
Now that I had made a dent in the lunch menu, I was ready to move onto desserts. It was Dolce Cafe & Bakery, after all. With Dolce housing such a well-known, award-winning pastry chef, I knew I had to try out the bakery side of things. When it comes to presentation, the desserts were almost too beautiful to eat, but I did anyway. It's for research, right?
I started with the White Chocolate Cheesecake on top of a sugar cookie with chocolate triangles. Those who have been reading my articles may already know that I am not big on desserts, but the cheesecake was amazing! Along with the shortbread cookie, you can really tell from how the dessert breaks how fresh and delicious the dessert is. It’s not hard to see why the Pastry Chef Newton Shin was named 2014 Southern California Restaurant Writers' Pastry Chef of the Year. "We put heart and effort into everything that goes out," quotes Chef Newton, "Everything in showcase is made daily. No canned products, no shorteniing. We don't use products where I don't know it or understand it." And you can taste the difference!
Next, I tried the Mixed Berry Tart with custard filling, one classic dish that I personally enjoyed growing up. The tart was fresh and very flaky once you started to bite into it, and the cream was light and not too sweet. The fruit was all very fresh, with my favorite being the kiwi. The next dessert was the Chocolate Pyramid with Chocolate Mousse. This is another treat that was almost too beautiful to try, but cutting into it, you surely appreciate the hard work and beauty of the dessert. I enjoyed the Chocolate Pyramid as the chocolate was not very rich, and the mousse was fluffy and creamy. With a full belly, the last dish I set off to enjoy was a set of French Macarons. I had to try at least one, and I am glad because the amazing flavor of the one I picked has stuck in my mind. I grabbed the yellow Macaroon, which happened to be lemon flavored, and I enjoyed it so much that it blew my mind as I felt like I was biting into a perfectly sweetened lemon. This fresh, citrus taste was the perfect way to end my hearty meal.
I spoke with Alice, and she shared with us her journey of growing up in the restaurant business, her journey moving to corporate life and coming back to the food industry, as well as Alice's life as an entrepreneur. Dolce has gone through a previous iteration before landing on its gastropub persona in 2013. I think that at the moment she has found a nice blend in the kitchen of what will bring clients in over and over again. I know that I will be visiting again for a Fancy Schmancy Bleu Burger, and I will be sure to take it in with one of the great local beers that they carry on tap.
Dolce Bistro & Bakery has a great space for people to enjoy great food and share memorable moments with friends or colleagues. All the passion and skill of the bistro and bakery shines through in everything that they create. The staff has a very organic relationship, which makes it that much more pleasurable to stop by and either pick up a dessert or sit for a meal.
Dolce is located at 8821 Central Avenue in Montclair. Closed Mondays. For more information on hours call 909 399-3426, on the web at www.dolcebistroandbakery.com.
Full disclosure: Meals were provided by Dolce Bistro & Bakery but all opinions are 100% our own.