If you love French toast, then this Japanese brick-toast style French toast at Burntzilla in Irvine is your perfect match. Now available during weekend brunch, this is the latest game-changing concept brought forth by the Orange County food truck entrepreneurs who created Irvine’s brick and mortar Burntzilla.
“It’s French toast on crack,” Phi Nguyen, chef and co-owner of Burntzilla, explained to Irvine Weekly. “When we did brunch over here, I realized we need to have something sweet, because at Burnt Crumbs, our sister restaurant, we have the Soufflé pancakes.”
Japanese brick toast is a very extravagant dish, consisting of a hollowed out bread loaf and sweet toppings. Once removed, the center of the bread is usually cubed and added back into the hollowed-out loaf as a “stuffing,” then topped with ice cream and honey.
“I thought, let’s do a brick toast, but make it breakfast, by doing French toast, then just top it in the same manner,” Nguyen said. “The bread is in the shape of a rectangle log, from a local bakery in Santa Ana, called Bread Artisan Bakery, and I think their brioche is the best in the county. We soak it overnight with our french toast mix.”
From Nguyen’s perspective, the problem with most French toast is that he finds it difficult for the bread to soak up the egg mixture, which results in crispy exterior, but ultimately a French toast-less interior.
To fix this tasty dilemma, Nguyen explained that Burntzilla’s brick toast-style uses a special technique to ensure that all the French toast flavors are present within the dish.
“It doesn’t soak enough into the bread,” he added. “So we actually take the turkey brine needle, and we pump that into the inside of the bread. So, when we sear it, and bake it, the injection that we put inside turns into custard, so when you cut into it you actually get a swirl or a marble of the French toast cinnamon mix.”
In 2015, the Irvine-based Burntzilla became the culinary amalgamation of like-minded Orange County food truck operators Martin Tse, owner of Dogzilla, which once roamed Southern California serving up Asian-inspired hot dog concepts, and the owners behind The Burnt Truck – founder and chef Paul Cao, who recently won Chopped, and his two business partners Minh Pham and Chef Phi Nguyen.
Finding themselves working alongside each other at the same Orange County-based commissary kitchen, the group became good friends and decided to merge their culinary concepts, creating one signature location in Irvine.
Serving up Cheeseburger sliders and chicken sandwiches on King’s Hawaiian Bread rolls, Burntzilla has kept the same comfort-food-first mentality.
Debuted on Nov. 7, Burntzilla is currently serving its brick toast French toast three different ways – chocolate, strawberry and original, all made with Hans Ice Cream.
“So far the response has been great,” Nguyen explained. “At first, I was a little afraid they weren’t going to stand up to the hype of our Soufflé Pancakes – but it’s been 100 percent [approval] across the board so far.”
Martin Tse, co-owner of Burntzilla and Dogzilla said that he was part of the Orange County Food truck phase a few years back, but now, considering how the pandemic has taken a toll on the restaurant industry, he wonders if brick and mortar establishments will experience the same trends. But, Tse said they are hoping their new push for weekend brunch will pay dividends.
“We’re adjusting,” Tse explained. “We’re trying it out – we have brunch on the weekends from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and we’re also doing two King’s Hawaiian buns instead of one bun, on every item. So, it’s like double food for half the price.”
While COVID-19 is something all restaurants have learned to cope with, a seasonal change is also on the horizon.
“Winter time is always bad,” Tse said. “I thought it was only the food trucks, but there is an effect with the restaurants too. It makes more sense now, but basically, everybody’s dream is to get a restaurant,” he said.
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