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June 1, 2010 > Restaurant Review: Paradise by the oven light at Pot Pie Paradise and Deli

Restaurant Review: Paradise by the oven light at Pot Pie Paradise and Deli

By Shavon Walker

Pot Pie Paradise and Deli is an unassuming restaurant on Commerce Avenue and Arden Road. It is so well hidden I walked right by it the first time I came to visit. However, once inside, I was in for a treat.

Operated by the mother and son team of Theresia and Jeff Gunawan, this restaurant, true to its name, serves pot pies in 5 and 10 inch sizes. Theresia was born and raised in Indonesia, moved to Germany, then to the United States in 1990. "It's always been my dream to open a pot pie place," she said. And she means that literally. "In my dream, I was selling pot pies. My family didn't really believe me at first, but I knew it would come true. I did my research and held a pot pie party for my family. They loved it."

After Jeff graduated from University of California, Irvine with a business degree, she brought him into the shop.

Trained as a medical doctor in Germany, Theresia is very concerned with health. "I like to keep things simple and local to keep the quality good. We don't use MSG or trans fats in our pies. "We use organic, seasonal ingredients from local farmers' markets. Our meats are natural and hormone free; the chicken and lamb are free range."

Pot pie paradise doesn't stop at pies. They also serve a variety of salads and desserts. "Everything is homemade," said Jeff, pulling open the door to a refrigerated case. "We even make our own dressings for the salads. In fact, we have customers that come here just for the salads." Looking in the case, I counted no less than six different salads waiting to be served. When I mentioned that I wasn't fond of broccoli salad - one of their specialties - Jeff nodded understandingly. "A lot of places make broccoli salad that you might not care for, but this one is really good."

He was absolutely right. The broccoli had a light coating of dressing and I could actually taste the vegetable rather than just the dressing. Just enough raisins countered the slight bitterness of the broccoli; a few slivers of carrot were a great finishing touch. I think that was the first time I have ever consumed an entire serving of broccoli salad.

The pasta primavera was yet another surprisingly good salad; bowtie pasta tossed with another homemade dressing, sliced olives and chunks of fresh red peppers. The dressing wasn't overly vinegary which might explain why the peppers stayed crunchy and delicious. This was another dish that I had no problem finishing off.

I tried a strawberry rhubarb pie for dessert on my way home, but when I pulled it out of the bag and took a bite, I realized that it was frozen. Believe it or not, the pie was STILL better than I imagined... even ice cold. And the crust was just as good - flaky, crispy, and golden brown. It was filled with strawberry filling and a few chunks of rhubarb. I could see myself eating this frozen pie on a hot summer day although I'm sure it's even better the way Theresia intended - piping hot with a scoop of ice cream on the side.

As for the savory pot pies, the venison bourguignon was incredible. The venison lacked a gamy taste which I normally expect in deer meat; this was a better and tenderer version of beef stew in a crust. Carrots and peas added to the flavor of the gravy. Theresia had mentioned that her pies were 'comfort food in a crust,' and I believe her. I've attempted to make pot pies before but this was a far cry from my meager efforts.

If the venison bourguignon was like a visit from your beloved grandmother, the green lamb curry was a quirky best friend stopping by. It was full of lemongrass and kaffir lime leaf taste without being too spicy; the chunks of lamb were spectacular. I've never had curry in pastry before so this was a totally new experience.

The Gunawans have done an excellent job creating Pot Pie Paradise. Theresia takes charge of the food and Jeff tends to the marketing. A rotating menu is available on Facebook. Jeff also created a website with online ordering capability.

Theresia said, "You have to cook with love."

That's what you'll taste in every bite from Pot Pie Paradise.

Reviewed May 24, 2010

Pot Pie Paradise and Deli
3522 Arden Road, Hayward
(510) 781-4994

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