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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Cafe Maji: Your Next Delicious Instagram Post

Giselle Dizon |
October 19, 2014 | 7:39 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

Hazelnut Affogato (Giselle Dizon/Neon Tommy)
Hazelnut Affogato (Giselle Dizon/Neon Tommy)
Cafe Maji, an Asian and Korean fusion cafe with highly 'Instagrammable' offerings, was difficult to find at first. This establishment does not have a storefront, but is located on the second floor of a small gym in Arcadia.

Despite its obscure location, the cafe was quite busy when I reached the second floor. There was clearly maximization of space in this gym; a dance studio was adjacent to the dining area, with no breaks or walls in between. I sat at one of several wooden tables and flipped through a small handmade menu while waiting for my friend to arrive.

The cafe has Wi-Fi for customers interested in using their devices while enjoying their meals. Even as I sat there, I noticed that several customers had brought their laptops, keeping to themselves while working away.

With so many items featured in the menu, it took a while to decide what to order. I finally decided on a hazelnut affogato and bulgogi quesadilla, while my friend had a bulgogi sandwich and passion fruit tea lemonade. For the unintiated, bulgogi is a type of Korean marinated meat. Though I had already had bulgogi at other restaurants, I was curious to try Cafe Maji’s quesadilla take on this classic Korean favorite.

Bulgogi Quesadilla (Giselle Dizon/Neon Tommy)
Bulgogi Quesadilla (Giselle Dizon/Neon Tommy)

I’m a firm believer in food presentation. In an age where taking pictures of one’s food is pratically part of dinner ettiquette, it is always a plus to find Instagram-worthy dishes. 

The spread was delicious to both the eye and the palate. The lemonade featured a vibrant layer of red syrup on top. The affogato, which is a scoop of vanilla ice cream with espresso poured over, was topped with a generous amount of whipped cream. The nutty hazelnut flavor complimented the richness of the vanilla ice cream, while still providing a good jolt of caffeine from the espresso. All of the cafe’s drinks come with a little cream-puff pastry.

The quesadilla came in four slices, with a generous amount of meat and cheese in each. The marinated Korean meat paired well with the few slices of jalapeño, which gave the quesadilla just enough heat. It was an interesting mix and fusion of cuisines, akin to Roy Choi's famous Kogi tacos, which bridge Mexican and Korean flavors. I also had a bite of my friend’s delicious bulgogi sandwich before he scarfed it down. The sweet and savory flavors of the meat balanced the creamy mayo and tangy pickles.

And because we couldn't resist having more, my friend and I split one of Cafe Maji's many delicious waffles. We ordered the red bean and green tea ice cream waffle, which came beautifully decorated with strawberries and whipped cream. The red bean, also known as azuki, is an interesting flavor and concept, as it is sweet in flavor. While the ice cream and red bean were very good, the waffle was equally notable because of its slightly crispy texture on the outside and softness on the inside. 

Red Bean & Green Tea Ice Cream Waffle feat. my friend partaking in the food photography (Giselle Dizon/Neon Tommy)
Red Bean & Green Tea Ice Cream Waffle feat. my friend partaking in the food photography (Giselle Dizon/Neon Tommy)

While Cafe Maji seems very popular with regulars and new customers alike, the establishment does not have a central website. Cafe Maji does have a Facebook page, but it draws its customers through its highly popular Yelp profile, which is how I heard about it. With more than 600 reviews and nearly 1,900 photos, the cafe has acquired a 4-star rating. On Instagram, almost 5,000 posts contain the hashtag #CafeMaji, an astonishing number for a hole-in-the-wall. Despite the cafe's limited online presence, Cafe Maji keeps people coming back for its creative and stunning menu options, making a name for itself one Instagram post at a time.

Contact Staff Reporter Giselle Dizon here.



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