The Best Things We Tasted This Week

oc dining
Sweetbreads, LSXO, photography by Sam Nicholls.

The Get Down

The moment you walk in you’re trying to remember the name of that movie with Leonardo DiCaprio. You’re in a restaurant inside another restaurant. Looking up at the ceiling you see butterflies, and then you feel them in your stomach, thinking this really could be a dream. The food is reflective of what dreams IRL are made of — hard work, dedication and passion. Most of your dinner conversation will be spent debating which dish truly is the star of the evening. Could it be the Vietnamese crepe, crispy and delicate in every way? The crepe is a shining example of beauty that occurs when two cultures collide. Ultimately, the sweetbreads were the get down of the meal for us, or for you non hip hip lovers — extended euphoria. Crispy textures mixed with unctuous flavor, this dish kept us in the pocket for the entirety of the meal. Oh, and we can’t forget about the bone marrow oxtail soup! See, a debate will ensue, dinebluegold.com/lsxo.


Art You Can Eat

El Mercado’s aguachile looks like the Fabergé egg made with a beautiful dome of citrus-cured shrimp encased in perfectly placed microplane-thin slices of cucumber. An electric green sauce made from chilis and lime juice complete the jeweled look. It looks too pretty to eat, but then you dig in and it’s too good to share. As an appetizer, be prepared to double dip and make good use of your spoon. And if you’re like us and want to drink the juice because it just tastes so good, instead, get your fix with the Cholo Soy cocktail made with pisco viejo tonel acholado, mint, aguachile juice, lime, serrano and pink peppercorn, mercadomodern.com.


The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

Toast Kitchen + Bakery celebrates a collective voice with creative menu items that fuze an amalgam of culture through unique renditions of classic dishes. Thai chile chilaquiles blends flavors from Mexico and Thailand, culminating into the perfect bite for your palate. Succulent pulled pork dances with the hibiscus pickled onions, complemented by the crispy chips slathered in salsa verde. If you’re looking to cool things down, finish with the acai bowl. Made with hemp seed granola, fuji apples, banana, berries, cashew butter and agave, this dish could just as easily be eaten for dessert (although the made-to-order malasadas are a good choice too). You’ve had many acai bowls in O.C., but this one is definitely gram-worthy. The textural components of the bowl have you coming back for just one more bite, spoonful after spoonful, toastkitchenbakery.com.


Break Time!

When was the last time you were convinced that eating tongue was delicious? If you weren’t standing next to a food truck or taqueria in 2018, it’s probably been a minute. The Recess Room isn’t here to convince you of this truth, but merely to act as a vessel for our culinary delight. Thanks to new executive chef Nikko Marquez, the lengua loco moco dish took us to Hawaii (sans requesting time off for vacation) where deep flavors collided to produce an insatiable craving for tongue that lasted the rest of the week. Consider this dish a tease to the rest of the incredible menu this restaurant has to offer. Editor’s picks: pork cheek roti and cereal milk crème brûlée, therecessroom.com.


Cozy in the Cottage

Winter, or as close to winter as Orange County can get, has officially come. What’s the best way to stay warm and embrace the holidays? The cottage pie at the wonderfully cozy Dublin 4 Gastropub in Mission Viejo. A real neighborhood gem and one of the best-kept secrets of the area, the menu is the greatest hits of elevated Irish classics. Arriving piping hot in its crock to your table, a layer of buttery potatoes hides a molten core of meaty deliciousness beneath its surface and is one of the very best dishes for this time of year. Pair it with a perfectly poured Guinness and settle in for a great night, dublin4gastropub.com.


Jammin’ Out

Move aside deviled eggs, because there is a new kid on the block. Chef Greg Daniels’ team takes respect for local ingredients to a whole new level at Harley in Laguna Beach, and these simple, yet passionately prepared eggs are a perfect representation. Silky, delicate and carrying deep layers of flavor and freshness, the jammy eggs introduce you to the restaurant’s unapologetic celebration of ingredients. Before you head into the new year, order the jammy eggs, made with Gonestraw farms eggs, garlic herb marinade, snipped herbs, terrace hill olive oil and cracked pepper, harleylagunabeach.com.


Drop the Beet

One of the best things we ate this week was the crepas de elote at Puesto’s Los Olivos location in Irvine, made with masa crepa, creamy avocado salsa and chef Katy’s hot sauce. There are three options for the dish, but you heard it here: the smoked heirloom beets for the win (They are also Chef’s favorite too so that should tell you something). Delicate but meaty, the beets work in tandem with the masa crepa, making what is supposed to be a dish to be shared a wonderfully delicious, selfish indulgence, eatpuesto.com.


Pan Jus

The pan jus served with hanger steak and fingerling potatoes on the Power Lunch menu at Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse in Irvine tastes like the mother of all mother sauces. It’s flecked with brown bits of seared steak, rich with butter, and perfectly aromatic with fresh thyme. The hanger steak with pan jus is the highlight of a rotating, three-course prix fixe menu at Davio’s; a perfectly portioned lunch bookended by a crisp watercress salad and a refreshing blood orange mousse. Insider tip: Go ahead and welcome the bread basket. The pan jus begs for a piece of crusty bread to squeegee the plate clean, davios.com.


It’s All About the Crunch

A trip to Bamboo Bistro in Corona Del Mar is not complete without an order of Brodard Grilled Pork Spring Rolls aka Nem Nuong. This traditional dish was made famous by proprietor Chau Haller’s mother, Diane Dang, of the celebrated Brodard’s restaurant in Westminster. The praise could come from the grilled pork patty or Mom’s special sauce, but likely it’s the satisfying crunch from the crispy, fried rice paper in the center of each spring roll. Fragrant mint and finely julienned carrots create a light, refreshing flavor that keeps you coming back for more. Pair it with a cup of shrimp coconut soup, and it’ll be hard to approach the outer skirts of CDM without stopping in, vietbamboobistro.com.

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