Crêpes A-Go-Go in Monterey makes simple, tasty, affordable meals.
Thursday, January 6, 2005
‘You get to eat warm crêpes,” my daughter Florence told my husband Laurent on the way to Crêpes A-Go-Go on Cannery Row. Laurent grew up in Brittany, the birthplace of the French crêpe, and is so busy cooking the crêpes when he makes them at home, that he never gets a hot one for himself.
The interior of the two-tiered creperie immediately evoked the trendy cafés of Les Halles, the district in Paris known for its burnt-orange walls and black tables and stairwell railings.
We ordered our crêpes in courses like you would in France. We started with savory crêpes featuring a single “salty” ingredient. Laurent ordered a cheddar crêpe ($4), and I ordered one with sautéed mushrooms ($4). We chose a table on the upstairs floor and could look down at manager and chef Mo Ibessaine as he spread batter around on the traditional “plaques en fonte”: large heated ovals made especially for cooking crêpes. He turned the final product into a triangular pocket and heated it on all sides.
The browned crêpes had a crispy bottom that gave some texture to the zesty cheddar in Laurent’s crêpe and the gently sautéed mushrooms in mine. These ingredients resemble what you would find in Brittany. The Bretons use more buckwheat flour and salt in their savory crêpes called “galettes” than those at Crêpes A-Go-Go, but Laurent and I still liked what we ordered.
In France, many chefs add regional specialties to crêpes, making them unique to that region. For example, a Provençal crêpe is typically filled with ratatouille. Crêpes A-Go-Go has followed in this same vein using ingredients like avocadoes, Monterey Jack cheese, and tofu—fillings that show off California products. Our delicious main dish crêpes appealed to our California tastes.
Florence joined us for this course and had a Monterey Jack and smoked turkey crêpe ($4.75). Laurent took the house special ($6) that came with eggs, sliced turkey, and Monterey Jack Cheese. I ordered a crêpe with roasted eggplant and zucchini, bell peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, and feta cheese ($6).
Florence loved the mildly flavored turkey and tangy Monterey Jack. The cheese was almost liquid and made each bite luscious. Laurent preferred the California version of the house special that came with turkey, to the French version of this dish that typically comes with ham. The over-easy eggs and melted cheese in this dish were a perfect match. My own crêpe, which resembled ratatouille with feta, got an extra flavor burst from the sun-dried tomatoes. I especially like the roasted red and yellow bell peppers in my crêpe. The triangular crêpe pocket kept all of our food hot as we ate.
The French traditionally drink apple cider with crêpes. We missed the cider on the menu and drank Torani Italian sodas instead. They were not too sweet and proved to be good substitutes.
We ordered two very popular French dessert crêpes to finish our meal. Florence asked for one with Nutella ($4), and Laurent and I shared a chestnut spread one ($4). Nutella, made by the Italian company Ferrero, is a smooth chocolate and hazelnut spread that is as ubiquitous in Europe as peanut butter is in the United States. The taste would be cloyingly sweet if it were not for the savory hazelnut flavor. Chef Ibessaine sprinkled the Nutella crêpe with powdered sugar and then made lines with melted Nutella across the crêpe. He put whipped cream dollops on either side of the crêpe and inserted strawberry halves into these. This creativity made the dessert look as good as it tasted.
Ibessaine also presented the chestnut spread crêpe with a helping of the whipped cream on the sides of the triangular crêpe. I do not care for chestnut cream when it is served at room temperature. However, when it is warmed in a crêpe, it becomes delightfully nutty and loses its glue-like texture.
While we were eating, we enjoyed French music by 80s artists Julien Clair and Jean Michel Jarre. Black and white images of Paris decorate the walls of the restaurant and gave us plenty to look at. Photographs include the Paris Metro, the Champs Elysées with bicyclists in front of the Arc de Triomphe, the Moulin Rouge, chimneys on 19th century apartment buildings, and the Eiffel Tower in stages of construction.
Ibessaine’s cousin Slim Djili owns Crêpes A-Go-Go in
Monterey and four others in San Francisco, Berkeley, San
Rafael, and Walnut Creek. Djili’s crêpes-making expertise came
from a ten-year stint in Paris, and his familiarity with the
region gives Crêpes A-Go-Go an authentic vibe, and most
601 Wave Street, Suite 200, Monterey
Mon-Thurs 8am-8pm | Fri-Sat 8am-10pm | Sun 8am to 8pm