The decor of Cafe Hiro in Cypress may suggest some kind of identity crisis--wall murals reminiscent of Tuscany, chopsticks on your table--but the food delivers exactly what the ambiance promises: a focused, unique fusion of Japanese, Italian and French cuisine.
Panna cotta, the smooth, creamy Italian pudding most often topped with fresh fruit, headlines the dessert list here. This "cooked cream" is light and fluffy while still holding a slight vanilla flavor. It's a simple recipe that typically requires only cream, milk, sugar and gelatin. The strawberries, blackberries and kiwi slices give the straightforward pudding a punch of flavor and add to the overall lightness of the dessert. You can scoop up the whole martini glass worth of panna cotta without a load of guilt.
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Cafe Hiro also routinely changes its special dessert. During our visit, it was banana mille feuille's turn. This French dessert is usually made and served like a slice of pie; Hiro's version is a vanilla custard with banana slices and puff pastry triangles, served in a bowl. The mille feuille is whipped into a nearly weightless custard that lacks a dominant flavor. The chocolate sauce lining the bottom of the bowl seems to contain as much chocolate as cream, leaving it lost in the mix. Although the various elements of the mille feuille fall flat, this dessert can be enjoyed on its own--just don't throw it into a duel with panna cotta, the house specialty.