Mr. French Crepe: A Hidden Taste of Europe
“If you think their recipe is better than mine, bring me some to try for myself. If not, don’t bother.”
My mom takes crepes seriously. She’s been a master of the art for as long as I can remember. Friends of mine who try it one time find themselves bringing it up in every conversation I have with them. Her methods are no secret, but she knows it’s just different when she does it.
I say this to communicate that I have high standards. I’ve tried versions from all sorts of restaurants, and they almost always look sad in comparison. I’ve personally thought the secret ingredient was love, and I still hold on to that hypothesis today.
All this led me to be intrigued when I saw a Yelp listing for a place by the name of Mr. French Crepe. They’ve earned a full five stars from over 80 reviewing customers on the rating service, which would’ve been enough to catch my attention.
However, there’s another aspect that made this all the more fascinating: It’s inside of a supermarket. No signage outside except for that from Wholesome Choice, and a modestly sized kiosk in a food court is their sole operating base.
What’s more, the place has only had two and half months (as of April 9th, the time of writing) to garner this glowing reputation. “How?” I thought. “How is that even possible?” I had to find out for myself.
Mrs. Najjar gave me her orders to bring back a worthy sample, and I headed off shortly after. Turning left after stepping through the door, I saw a man hard at work creating some fine looking crepes. I could already smell the powers at work here, and I was more than pleased.
He warmly introduced himself as Camille, and his pleasant energy continued to shine from there.
As I scanned the menu, which offers a variety of savory and sweet selections far beyond similarly sized places, I remembered the reviews. While patrons had no complaints about any of their selections, they all particularly fell in love with the fittingly named La Parisienne.
Being one of the more affordable selections at $8.99 (the most expensive is a salmon crepe at $11.99), it includes turkey, tomato, onion, parmesan cheese, and béchamel sauce.
The béchamel is standard in crepes, but the parmesan, along with the tomato and onion, stood out to me as peculiar additions. I remembered, however, that this was his specialty, so I went ahead and ordered it.
I am in eternal debt to that decision. Even before I tasted it, I knew something great was about to happen.
I could smell every flavor coming together one by one, and when it finally landed on my plate I hoped and prayed it would live up to my newly peaked expectations.
As you might’ve guessed, I ate the whole thing in a minute and a half, but I made sure to note every step of the journey my taste buds embarked upon.
While I’m usually hesitant toward tomatoes, they worked perfectly here. In fact, the flavors danced with each other like high school sweethearts at prom. Even the béchamel sauce was elevated to new heights as it brought every other ingredient together in union with the crepe.
Speaking of the crepe, it was light, fluffy and had the perfect amount of crisp, providing a variety of textures.
Perhaps as enjoyable as this masterpiece was the company of the genius who made it.
Camille is a kind and personable man, to say the least. He has a calming voice with a confidence-inspiring French accent, and he loves talking about his favorite French artists, playing songs from them throughout the day. He was curious about me, and his interest in the people he serves is genuine.
I first thought he was being nice because I let it slip that I was reviewing the place, but he treated every customer I saw, whether they wrote for the Irvine Weekly or not, with the same amount of warmth, respect and kindness.
He was nowhere near done impressing me, though. Now came the part I had been looking forward to all day: the dessert. Like the savory side of the menu, there are a lot of options for sweet delights, each seeming equally appetizing in their own special way.
However, I figured I should try another crepe I saw multiple references to in the reviews. Dubbed “Romeo and Juliette,” this beauty comes with freshly sliced bananas, strawberries, nutella, powdered sugar and whipped cream.
I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed, since it would take a serious effort to mess up a combination of those ingredients, but I wasn’t ready for what I was about to experience.
“Do you want blueberries on it? People like that addition,” he says, speaking over the tunes of Julio Iglesias.
“Sounds like a plan,” I say with a massive smile on my face, near-aggressive enthusiasm in my voice. Turns out that was the right plan.
The crepe seemed slightly thicker for this one, a very welcome alteration, and things just worked. The blueberries brought it to a whole other level, and I witnessed a classic being elevated to new heights.
As I mentioned before, making crepes is an art. Monet doesn’t hold a burned-out candle to this man. Bach cowers in fear. Even Kanye West blushes. Camille is a world-class artist, and he deserves placement amongst the elites.
What I’m trying to say is, I started to cut a piece for my mom. Camille notices this, and begins to make my sweet beloved mother her own crepe for free. Again, I can guess why he did this, so don’t go asking him for freebies, but this was proof of my hypothesis I discussed earlier.
Everything he does, from his greetings, to the turn of his wrist as he forms the crepe, to his placement of the ingredients (all fresh, an advantage of working out of a grocery store), it’s all done with love. He loves his customers, and he loves what he creates every day.
And I love him. I mean, as much as I can love the owner of a restaurant I ate at once.
Anyway, my mom really liked it! She admired his treatment of the crepe mix, and noted it shared some similarities with her own recipe.
Mr. French Crepe – 18040 Culver Dr., Irvine, CA 92612