Eatery - The Cheesecake Factory (CA)

The Cheesecake Factory - Bella Terra Center, 7871 Edinger Ave, Huntington Beach, CA 92647
Pricing - $$$ | Dining - Casual | Cuisine - American | Reservations - Unavailable 

I'm a little hesitant to do reviews for a large chain of restaurants merely because people generally know about the places and have been there. Also, it doesn't really change much by location because the dishes are standardized. Nevertheless, I might as well talk a little bit about Cheesecake Factory.

I enjoy going to these restaurants because they are casual enough to attend with friends but nice enough to be considered a slight indulgence. The past few times that I've gone to Cheesecake Factory, I've stuck to just getting their small plates or appetizers because the entrees are always enormous. I end up taking half or more home if I get the large dishes. However, when I went this time, I thought I should go back to getting a big plate to see how big it was (I had forgotten). I was pretty much done after a short while, hah. Anyhow, the real purpose of going to Cheesecake Factory this time around was because I had gotten an email that they had Peppermint Bark Cheesecake in season. How could I resist? I love peppermint bark!

The bread here is always great. I am a sucker for sourdough but have also been won over by the honey wheat they have as well. Their complimentary slices are warm and have great crustiness. The sourdough is not too sour either. If you're a lover of sweeter breads, try the honey wheat. Well actually, since they bring out however much you want, try both! The only problem is that you might get full eating the bread since it's so good - save yourself for all of the food that will come though!

To feel fancy, I decided that I'd have myself a cocktail. Now, I'm not a big fan of vodka only because it's pretty much in everything. I mean, I don't hate it - I just don't prefer it, especially if I'm going to pay handsomely for a drink. This cut down my choices on the menu considerably but I did eventually find something to quench my thirst: the Blackjack Martini. It even sounds cool! It was basically a Manhattan with blackberry and Jack Daniel's. I found it quite tasty and hardly noticeable in terms of alcohol taste. My only quibble with this drink was that it was much too expensive. Generally restaurants don't put the prices on the menu for drinks, but from what I've seen, they range from $6-$8 or so at casual-type restaurants. That was my guess. You can imagine my surprise when $11.50 appeared on the bill. I was disappointed in the price and now know not to have a cocktail at Cheesecake Factory again. My friend's Red Raspberry Martini was the same price for a smaller quantity I believe.

After much scrutiny of the menu (so many choices), I finally opted for the Bistro Shrimp Pasta dish, which has battered shrimp, mushrooms, tomato, and arugula mixed with spaghettini in a basil-garlic-lemon cream sauce. It came in at $16.95 for the dish, a bit hefty but in the general price range for the pasta dishes. If you ordered this and expected crispy shrimp, you'd be disappointed because the shrimp was a bit soft. I didn't' mind though and actually preferred it; it was more fitting for the dish. I loved the inclusion of the fresh vegetables, especially the arugula. The spaghettini was prepared to just the right texture for pasta - cooked thoroughly but with enough hardness left in it to give you something to chew on; I guess it's what you would call "al dente," or "to the teeth" in Italian. I'm a spaghettini and angel hair lover when it comes to noodle-y pastas, so this was a great choice for me. As for the sauce, it definitely made the whole entree worthwhile. I was wary of its advertisement as a cream sauce but the lemon made it light and delicious. I felt like the arugula was complemented well by the garlicky sauce. The portion was too much for me to have but I didn't mind taking it home for some more eating later.

My friend got the Chicken Bellagio; the ingredients were similar to my dish actually. I asked him to write about it so I'll post his thoughts below:

After perusing through the Cheesecake Factory menu for a good ten minutes, I finally settled on the chicken Bellagio. Pasta, chicken, prosciutto, basil, and arugula for $13? It felt like a good decision. When the waitress brought the dish to my table, I was glad to see the generous pile of green arugula on top of the pasta. I've never had arugula with pasta before, but I thought it nicely complemented the rich sauce and crispy chicken, which was very tender and well-seasoned. Overall, the dish had a good balance in taste and texture. I would've liked more than one slice of prosciutto, however, and the thin spaghetti broke apart into small one-inch pieces, although I'm sure I could've requested linguine pasta. Toward the end of the meal, the arugula made the sauce turn green, which made the dish look unappetizing but didn't affect the taste. Final thoughts: great dish, would order again if I had very little to eat earlier in the day. (Google says the dish is 1980 calories and 105% of the daily recommended amount of sodium.)"

Apologies for using flash when I took this picture, turning the whole thing very bright and white. Anyhow, here was the whole reason for going - the Peppermint Bark Cheesecake (a white chocolate cheesecake swirled with chunks of chocolate peppermint bark and topped with white chocolate mousse and finished with chopped peppermint). I have to say that though we were nearly popping our pants' buttons from the abundance of deliciousness we had, there was room to finish this off. Of course, my two friends and I shared this because we were afraid we wouldn't be able to handle individual slices. It was FANTASTIC. Unlike some of their cheesecakes there (I sure have tried a lot), this one was not too heavy. It's possible that that was an illusion caused by the inclusion of peppermint but either way, it did not make us stop after the first bite. The creaminess of the body was light enough to suggest that it had been whipped up a few times. The chocolate crust had been softened by the slice itself, and I could hardly taste it with all of the mint. I think the topping of the cheesecake with bits of peppermint was great, giving something to break with one's teeth and also to highlight the peppermint swirls in the cheese part itself. My only complaint is that they don't have this cheesecake year-round - I would surely buy it many times!