Restaurant Review #235: Skiff's Cakes, Simi Valley


Skiff's is a small, family-owned bakery in Simi Valley that sells cupcakes and special-order cakes.

The cupcakes come in numerous flavors and are all filled in the middle with wedding cake fillings. Most have chocolate or vanilla buttercream icing. Cake and filling combinations include red velvet with cream cheese, white cake with strawberry mousse, vanilla cake with vanilla bavarian cream, chocolate cake with chocolate bavarian cream, carrot cake with cream cheese, lemon poppyseed with lemon chiffon, and more. Ordering the cupcakes was a bit of a challenge--since it's such a small bakery, there are no display cases and, while there is a list of all the cake flavors and fillings available for special-order cakes, there is no list of which flavors have been combined into the cupcakes. I was presented with a tray of perhaps fifteen flavors of cupcakes that were available and a girl behind the counter pointed and recited all the flavors to me. It was difficult to keep track of the flavors I wanted to order and the girl didn't seem particularly patient.

When I got the cupcakes home, I was disappointed in them for two reasons. First, the amount of filling inside each cupcake was miniscule--barely enough to get a taste of it. Second, the flavors I had didn't match up with what I thought I had ordered. I'm not sure if I pointed at the wrong cupcakes on the tray, if the person who made the cupcakes didn't put the correct fillings in them, or if the girl behind the counter didn't recite all the flavors correctly. It didn't really matter what the reason was--the important thing was that I didn't get everything I wanted, and for $3 a cupcake, that was annoying. Also, I found the cake to be dry and the vanilla buttercream icing to be overly sugary (but I think most icing is too sugary). The chocolate buttercream icing tastes like fudge and is quite good.

Based on the reviews I've read online and the word-of-mouth recommendations I've received, Skiff's seems to be popular and well-liked for its custom cakes. The owner, Steve, is a very laid back, straightforward, down-to-earth guy who will make you feel confident that he and his wife, the cake baker and decorator, will do a fantastic job with your order. Custom cake prices are reasonable and middle-of-the-road as far as area bakeries go, and their website has numerous beautiful photos of their creations and plenty of information about their cake flavors and policies. But my experience with the cupcakes gave me doubts about how good the actual cakes would be. I don't doubt that for many people, Skiff's is a great choice, but I will gladly drive the extra miles to go to Bread Basket in Camarillo.

Skiff's Cakes
2355 Tapo Street, Ste 14
Simi Valley, CA 93063
Skiff's Menu
Skiff's Website


Restaurant Review #234: Olivios Bistro, Simi Valley - CLOSED

Lobster ravioli - $17.95

Update: This restaurant has closed. 

Olivios Bistro is a new Simi Valley restaurant located in the Albertsons shopping center on Madera. We decided to try it because they were offering a gift certificate on Restaurant.com for $25 off $50.

Bruschetta - free!

The restaurant was nearly empty on a Saturday night, which is often a bad sign. However, with the place being new and trying to lure customers by offering discounts, I hoped it was just that no one knew about it yet. We were instantly impressed by how clean and crisp the restaurant is--all the tables are dressed in white linens, and the summer evening sun gives the dining room a pleasing natural glow.  

Bread - free!

The next pleasant surprise was the free bread our server brought us. Free bread is always a plus, but when it's a hunk of boring French bread, you don't feel like you're getting anything special. Olivios served us garlic herb rolls, sundried tomato foccacia, crispy, garlicky bruschetta, and olive tapenade. They even offered us seconds.

Crab cake appetizer - $11.95

The portion size of the crab cake appetizer was generous--it would make a good light lunch on its own. I appreciated that it came with salad, because I didn't want to pay for two appetizers. The menu didn't seem to have an option for an inexpensive side salad with an entree. They do have two salads for $5.95, but I'd like it if a small salad came with my meal or cost only a couple dollars extra. But this is only a minor complaint.

Corn chowder - $3.95

The corn chowder (the soup of the day) was also generously portioned, delicious, and a meal in its own right for a light eater.

Pappadelle - $12.95

The pasta at Olivios is obviously homemade. You can tell right away from the texture--it's lighter and has a different bite than dried, mass-produced pasta. If you like puttanesca sauce, you'll like this dish. It doesn't have olives, capers, or anchovies, but it is a salty, hearty, non-boring tomato sauce with ground lamb, eggplant, spinach, and tomato.

As much as I loved this dish, it would be difficult to return to Olivios and not order the lobster ravioli (lead photo), which was probably even tastier.

Cheese tortellini in pesto cream sauce - $11.95

The only snafu of the evening involved the cheese tortellini. The server must have misheard the order and brought out the wrong dish. I think a good server can avoid this problem by always reading back diners' orders before placing them with the kitchen. Our waiter brought the correct dish to the table within minutes, but in the restaurant's haste to make up for the error, the pasta was a bit undercooked, and I thought the sauce was too salty (but then, I don't really care for pesto in any case). Still, we were willing to forgive them since everything else was top notch.

Warm chocolate cake - $5.95

I have to admit that from the menu description, I thought this dessert would be pretty dull. Also, I'm not really a chocolate lover--I tend toward the fruity and vanilla-flavored desserts. But this cake was a very dark chocolate and had the consistency of a flourless cake. It was difficult to not eat more than my fair share of it.

Creme brulee - $5.95

All creme brulee tastes the same to me, but that doesn't mean I don't like it. Olivios is also offering a free dessert promotion on their website when you sign up for their email list.

Dining room

Overall, I think Olivios is one of the best restaurants in Simi Valley. The service is fantastic, the food is high quality yet affordable, the dishes are beautifully presented, and it's one of the few places in town that is a bit upscale (though it's still comfortable). I can't wait to go back.

Olivios Bistro
1230 Madera Road
Simi Valley, CA 93065
Tuesday through Sunday 5:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.
Friday & Saturday 5:00 p.m. -10:00 p.m.
Though not mentioned on the website, a sign outside the restaurant indicates that they are now serving Sunday brunch--if you're interested, you may want to call first.
Olivios Bistro website
Olivios Bistro Menu