Aroma Café in La Jolla: Here’s where you can dine, unwind and catch up with friends

Photos and story by Kelley Carlson

Craving sweets? Need a fancy cheese platter for an impromptu party? For Aroma Cafe, addressing such issues is a piece of cake.
WIth a full-service bakery facility in the back of the establishment — in addition to a kitchen — Aroma caters to everyone, from dine-in customers to wedding parties.

Chinese Chicken Salad consists of Romaine lettuce, Napa cabbage, sautéed chicken breast, bean sprouts, carrots, snap peas, scallions, bell peppers, cashews, crispy wontons and ginger-soy vinaigrette.

Many people come into the quiet restaurant to relax. Some of them kick back on the patio and soak up the sun, reveling in the salty ocean air. Others prefer the inside atmosphere with black-and-white pictures of mid-20th century entertainment icons such as Marilyn Monroe, Natalie Wood, The Beatles and Henry Fonda hanging from the caramel-colored walls. They select a chair at a table near a window and lose themselves in a novel.

But regardless of where they sit, nearly all of them ogle the pastries in the glass case, which are creative works of art by Didier Pellerud that are almost too pretty to eat. Pellerud, who co-owns the restaurant with Ben Tashakorian and Oved Haskal, has more than 35 years of experience in the kitchen and specializes in creating specialty cakes and cheese platters, often in whimsical designs. According to Tashakorian, other local bakers rave about Pellerud’s Napoleons — moist layers of puff pastry and cream.

Along with Napoleons, other items in the case include colorful tarts topped with berries and decadent chocolate mousse with delicate candy shavings.

The most unique item is the Almond Croissant, and Tashakorian pointed out that he has never found another one like it in San Diego.
To accompany the pastries, there is an espresso bar that offers an array of mochas, lattes and macchiatos.

An array of pastries.

Yet there’s much more at Aroma besides sweet fare. It has a 43-page menu that it shares with its neighbor, BarFly, and blends California cuisine with Italian, Middle Eastern and French influences. But at Aroma, the emphasis is on the pizzas and the cafe- and deli-style foods.

Unlike BarFly, it serves breakfast and features Benedicts and egg specialties that are a bit different from a typical breakfast joint. For example, the Southwestern egg dish includes avocado, tomatoes, cilantro, red onions, black beans and Pepper Jack cheese, and comes with tortillas and a side of homemade salsa. The Tuscan egg specialty incorporates sautéed mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, grilled chicken and melted brie.
Fresh fish and meats — including cold cuts from the Boar’s Head Company — arrive daily. Executive Chef Sean Sommer utilizes them in various dishes, such as the Exotic Ahi Tuna Salad with pineapple and seared ahi tuna strips covered with teriyaki glaze and sesame seeds, on a bed of romaine, peppers and parmesan, dressed lightly in an orange vinaigrette.

The proteins are also highlighted in entrees such as Schnitzel, a boneless, breaded and seasoned chicken breast served with fries, hummus, Mediterranean salad and pita bread.

The dining room at Aroma.

“Nothing is frozen,” Tashakorian emphasized. The pizza dough is also fresh and it’s used to create one-of-a-kinds, such as the Chicken Shawarma and the Prosciutto with artichokes, green onions and garlic.
Kids under age 10 eat free from the kids’ menu, as long as there’s one adult per child. There is free parking on the street, and also a secured parking garage next door on Fay Avenue that charges a $6 flat fee.

Aroma Bakery and Café
Address: 909 Prospect St., Suite 100, La Jolla

Phone: (858) 454-7272

The Vibe: Relaxed, casual, classic
Signature Dishes: Almond Croissant, Napoleon, Schnitzel, Exotic Ahi Tuna Salad
Open Since: 2010
Reservations: No
Patio Seating: Yes
Take Out: Yes
Happy Hour: No

Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily

The Exotic Ahi Tuna Salad features pineapple and seared ahi tuna strips covered with teriyaki glaze and sesame seeds, on a bed of romaine, peppers, parmesan and orange vinaigrette.

On The Menu Recipe

Each week you’ll find a recipe from the featured restaurant online at Just click Get The Recipe at the bottom of the story.

This week: Aroma Café’s Crème Brulee

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  4. Sammy’s serves up a lot more than pizza these days
  5. Garden goodness inspires Chef Knibb’s menu at Nine-Ten in La Jolla

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Posted by Staff on Mar 20, 2013. Filed under Food, Restaurants. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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