Showing posts with label south coast plaza. Show all posts
Showing posts with label south coast plaza. Show all posts

Friday, September 16, 2011

AnQi's Red Hour, Garlic Noodles

The An family has probably created the first high-end Vietnamese restaurant empire starting with Crustacean and now AnQi in Costa Mesa and Tiato Cafe in Santa Monica.

Where Crustacean focuses on more traditional Vietnamese, AnQi and its chef Ryan Carson leans more towards Asian fusion. AnQi is divided into three sections: there's the main dining room, there's the bar with a separate bar menu, and then there's the noodle bar (also serving dumplings). On Mondays, you can say there's four. There's the private dining room where you can partake in the molecular gastronomy menu (which I still need to review, soon).

During the Red Hour (M-F, 4-7 pm) all the cocktails are 50% off and some of the small bites from the bar menu are discounted. They recently invited some bloggers for a hosted Red Hour. We shared some fusion bar bites from an Australian crudo served with yuzu kosho granita, yuzu nuoc nam, and kaffir lime ponzu (three separate sauces) to Ahi Tuna Poke and spicy beef tongue crispy tacos.


In keeping with the molecular side of the restaurant, there's a cocktail with cotton candy similar to that of Bazaar's. The Lotus is made with pink grapefruit and orange with vodka and tequila over pink cotton candy.

I personally liked the Viet-No-Jito which is vodka with hand-muddled fresh lime and Kinh Gioi leaves, green tea infused with agave nectar and molecular lemon foam. The Kinh Gioi are often called Vietnamese Balm or Vietnamese Mint and added a really nice aroma to the drink (it would be better if it was rum-based, though - and same goes with most of their cocktails).

Friday, August 27, 2010

Seasons 52 in Costa Mesa Opens Monday. A Preview Lunch.

The fresh, seasonal, healthy dining is not a new concept in California. Interestingly enough, the Senior Culinary Director of Seasons 52 had his roots in Berkeley during the heydays of Chez Panisse, but the chain started in Orlando in 2003 and has now finally found a California home in its twelfth location in Costa Mesa.
At this 300-seat restaurant they're taking the healthy up a notch, though. Everything on the menu is under 475 calories. They don't use oil or butter and nothing is fried. Remember the scene in Food Revolution where Jamie Oliver made this family bury their deep fryer? Yeah, that.

There's a piano man behind the bar providing nightly live entertainment.
There's a Chef's Table that holds 12 (but you can reserve with a minimum of 8 people) where you can partake in a tasting menu similar to what I'm about to show you below.
The restaurant opens August 30, but I attended a media preview lunch last weekend.

The wine list, which offers 100 wines and 60 by the glass, at all the locations and all the pairings we had today are prepared by their beverage director George Miliotes, a Master Sommelier.

We started with some champagne (Chartogne-Taillet Cuvee Sainte Anne) and some passed flatbreads on the patio (which overlooks the South Coast Plaza parking lot, but the weather's beautiful all the same).
Chipotle shrimp with roasted poblanos, grilled pineapple and feta cheese.
All the flatbreads are made with their brick oven.

Black Mission Fig with chevre, Nueke's bacon, mint, arugula.
The sweet figs and the goat cheese were great on top of the crispy crust.

Our lunch started with an amuse bouche:
Lump Crab and Haas avocado with pico de gallo
This was paired with a Lioco Indica Rose, Mendocino 2009 which had a surprisingly dark and deep color for a rose.

Wild Pacific salmon and sea scallop roasted on a cedar plank.
(Paired with Mer Soleil Chardonnay, Central Coast 2008)
The scallop was skewered with a stalk of lemongrass. Instead of oil or butter, they use vegetable glaze to get the moisture and the mouthfeel. Both the salmon and the scallop are very moist, though a couple of the other bloggers said their salmon was a little overcooked.
The chardonnay was clean and crisp with a little acidity and proved to be a good pairing with the seafood.

Earthbound Farm organic greens with Oak-grilled mushrooms and truffle dressing
(Paired with Sinskey Pinot Noir, Carneros 2007)
Chef Pleau shared his recipe for the truffle dressing:

2 oz miso, 2 oz lemon juice (from Meyer lemon), 2 oz olive oil (or garlic oil), 2 oz tamari/soy, 2 oz truffle oil.

The dressing had a great aroma and a nutty flavor due to the miso. Nonfat sour cream is drizzled around the side for more body.

This Costa Mesa location will have a list of biodynamic California wines that their other stores do not have, thanks to its proximity to the wine country (biodynamic wines don't travel as well).

Sonoma goat cheese ravioli with roasted garlic, basil, and light tomato broth.
(Paired with Retromarcia, Chianti Classico 2008)
This was another good pairing as the wine cuts the salt and richness that came from the goat cheese.

Mesquite-grilled lamb rack and Manchester Farms quail breast, mashed sweet potato, San Miguel farm bok choy.
(Paired with Markham Petite Sirah, Napa 2004 for the quail and De Toren Fusion V, Stellenbosch 2007 for the lamb)
Both the lamb and quail were tender and flavorful. The bok choy came from a small farm in the south part of Oxnard and was more tender than its grocery store counterparts. The South African Stellenbosch was full bodied, more subtle fruit, and was a good palate cleanser in between the two proteins.

The desserts, alas, aren't really "low calorie" but they are still under 475 calories. How? Well, smaller portions! You can eat your cheesecake and your pecan pies and rocky road cake, but the size of the shot glasses keeps your calorie intake in check.
For the dessert wine they served Selbach-Oster Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Auslese, Mosel 2006. Interestingly enough, the next Monday I had a 2007 Mosel Kabinett Riesling at Melisse.

One of my favorites: Pecan "Pie"

The take-home message? Seasonal fare using local, small farms. No oil, no butter, no gas, no frying and yes, even if you don't worry about whether or not they're under 475 calories, the food tastes good. You won't miss the oil, that I promise.

Seasons 52
3333 Bristol Avenue
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 437-5252
Seasons 52 on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Lunch with Chef Michael Chiarello. Chatting About Top Chef, Good Television, Flavors, and More.

It isn't often that I get the chance to meet and greet a celeb chef, especially when he's not based in Los Angeles, so when an invitation came to meet Top Chef Master finalist Michael Chiarello, I took it despite the fact that I had to drive all the way to OC on a weekday afternoon.

The meet and greet took place at his Napa Style store in South Coast Plaza. When I arrived, he hadn't come out yet, but I was happy to see fellow LA blogger Mattatouille there already partaking in some of Chiarello's fine wines.

I've had his five wines during the blogger event a couple of months ago and really enjoyed all of them, so I was quite happy to partake again. This time they are serving the Eileen (Cabernet, named after his wife) and Roux (old vine Petit Syrah, named after one of his daughters - these vines are 97 years old and are the oldest vines in Napa).

While waiting for Chiarello to come out and lunch to be served, I made my way around the impressive spread of bread, dips, and cured meats which are available for purchase at the store.
Soon after the store manager started bringing in lunch, which was made from Chiarello's recipes and prepared at another South Coast Plaza restaurant for this event. Our simple but delicious lunch consisted of vegetable pizza and cauliflower alla parmigiana.
Since the lunch was at the Napa Style store where samples of various products are available, we had the brilliant idea of sprinkling some of their Truffle Salt on our cauliflowers. So. Good.
To finish off were two trays of chocolates, all of them are (of course) sold at Napa Style including Valerie's salt and pepper truffles.
There were also Rabitos chocolate fig bonbons that I really like.

Chef Chiarello came wearing casual clothing and a big smile, and many of the media people in attendance immediately went over to chat with him. I couldn't hustle through his older fans, so I just waited until later.

Chiarello was quite charismatic and an entertaining speaker, throwing various jokes and anecdotes (one of his quotes of the day: "I'm not particularly artistic but I am crafty.")

As expected, most of the questions revolved around his experience in the Top Chef Master competition - including how the editing process to create "good television" gave a very different impression than what actually happened.
The rest of the conversation traversed through his experience going out to see rabbits with daughter Giana who grew up seeing an ecosystem come to life, to juggling the demands of organic wine growing vs what is financially feasible. According to Chiarello, advocates for organic movement demand certain things but do not realize that means an extra $1 million investment for wine growers like Chiarello. Still committed to organic practices, Chiarello is working on an electric tractor for his vineyard.

His decision to open the Napa Style stores celebrates the increasing return of American consumers to the home kitchen (thanks to the recessions). The products available at Napa Style gave home cooks access to the same high quality and distinct artisan products Chiarello uses in his kitchen such as his various natural and flavored salts and olive oils. As for his selection of these products, Chiarello emphasizes what he calls "flavor" rather than taste, "flavors" that came about from the individuals involved in the creation process itself.

He also spoke of his experiences as a chef up until now, starting from Florida to his return to California with Tra Vigne in Napa and his latest restaurant, Bottega. To celebrate Bottega's anniversary last week, they held an all-week truffle menu! If only it was closer to Los Angeles ...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

South Coast Plaza Food Extravaganza III: Pinot Provence & Pasta Demo at Pizzeria Ortica

After a night of food-ing around the South Coast Plaza mall, we spent Saturday morning and afternoon exploring the other side of SCP across the street.
We spent the night in a hotel room, courtesy of Westin South Coast Plaza, so breakfast was a simple trip down the elevator to Pinot Provence, a Patina Group restaurant, headed by Chef Lulu deRouen.

Pinot Provence is a lovely restaurant with this rustic old-world charm to it. I felt like I was at a French countryside mansion.
Us bloggers were then escorted into their private dining room area, where a white tablecloth setting was already prepared for us.
A continental breakfast was spread out for us to start our morning, including toasted bagels, lox and cream cheese, yogurt and granola, fruits, muffins, and croissants.
I served myself a plate of croissant and some lox, yogurt, granola, and fruits.

The warm croissant was nicely buttery and flakey. It's been a while since I had a good croissant. Since we only had continental breakfast, I can't say much else about the food at Pinot Provence. We did, however, have a nice and long conversation with the chef, Lulu deRouen, a pupil of Florent Marneau from Marche Moderne.

She's a very animated and outgoing person and we had a lot of fun listening to her stories about her time at the Culinary Olympics (in Germany, was it?), her take on the ethnic restaurants around Costa Mesa, and more. Having gotten to know her, it sure would be fun to try her cuisine next time.

Pinot Provence
686 Anton Blvd
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 444-5900

With food and coffee in our system, we were ready to learn about pasta from Pizzeria Ortica's executive chef Steve Samson and his sous chef Zack.
Among some of the things we learned about dough making and kneading: 1)you need more yolk when using US eggs because they're just not as good as the ones in Italy, 2) after kneading the dough you should let it sit for 20-30 minutes, and 3) if you're making spinach pasta, you can use more whole eggs instead of yolk and you can get by with less eggs in general!

And here's a step-by-step-in-photos on how to make ravioli:
We learned to make all kinds of pasta shapes including ravioli, garganelli, tortillo, agnolotti, pappardelle, tagliatelle, tortellini, etc. Can you tell which one is which?
Apparently our visit did not end there and soon we had a tasting of their pastas in front of us. Small bites, though, luckily :)

First up was the Pear & Pecorino tortilla with butter & sage.
This recipe was one of Zack's creation and was the favorite of every one else on my table. It's lightly sweet and buttery. The light sweetness is actually rather weird for me. It did grow on me, but unlike everyone else, my favorite turned out to be the Spinach Tagliatelle with Bolognese.
A simple classic that's well executed. The al dente pasta had a nice depth of flavor from the spinach and the bolognese is light and not overwhelming - a perfect complement.

The other pasta we had was the burrata ravioli with tomato & basil sauce.
A good ravioli, though compared to the other two pasta this one did not stand out.

We also had a margherita pizza.
The crust here is quite nice although very thin. The thinness reminded me of the pizza that Riva used to have - it makes it hard to hold up the pizza and eat it with your hands though, which I thought was part of the pizza-eating experience. Still, good chewy crust with good sauce and cheese here.

As we were leaving, we got a goodie bag containing a Pizzeria Ortica t-shirt, a small bottle of wine, and a bag of long white beans.

Pizzeria Ortica
650 Anton Blvd
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 445-4900
Pizzeria Ortica on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 5, 2009

South Coast Plaza Food Extravaganza II: Charlie Palmer & Marche Moderne + Giveaway!

The South Coast Plaza Food Blogger event was well on its way with a great meal at Hamamori and a salt/olive oil/wine tasting at Michael Chiarello's NapaStyle. Now we continue on to Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdale's for dinner (of course there's another meal that night, don't be silly).
We were first taken to their wine room downstairs, where they showed us their eWineList, supposedly the world's first electronic wine list where the sorting option easily makes all of their $17-$8100 bottles browsable.

Twice a month Charlie Palmer also holds "50 for 50" where 50 wines by the bottle go on sale for 50% off at their Next Vintage wine shop!

They brought down a selection of cocktails from their menu and I opted for the Blood Orange Mojito, which was refreshing and pretty light.
I tried Pleasure Palate's tamarind drink also, but it was too strong for our tastes. After the cocktails, we went to the dining room and had our dinner.

We start with brandade croquettes, followed by three-cheese risotto cake with chorizo aioli (pictured below).
The brandade croquettes were unmemorable, but the risotto cake was quite an interesting dish, the creamy, cheesy risotto is encased in a crispy shell.

Mussels with saffron aioli
Plump and fresh mussels soaked in creamy cheese was a hit at the table.
Next we had Kobe Beef Sliders with a tray of fries.
That's a pretty thick piece of meat there, but open your mouth wide enough and it would still fit. The meat was flavorful and moist, though the burger as a whole was a bit on the dry side. The fries that came with this was quite good though.

Burrata cheese with oven roasted tomatoes and arugula pesto.
This might've been my favorite dish from this meal, even if it seems so simple. But we all know how great a simple dish can be with quality ingredients, and this is the case here.

Seared oven roasted marrow with golden raisins and red onion marmalade.
Decidedly a lot of people's favorite and definitely a heavy duty dish. Even with the golden raisins cutting the fattiness, even a spoonful felt like my arteries are clogging. It's worth it though.

"Ham & Eggs" - tuna ham with truffled eggs.
Tuna ham? Yep, with the looks and smell of prosciutto, this tuna ham from Spain could easily deceive you. On top of truffled eggs this was excellent. I can have this for breakfast any weekend

Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdale's
3333 Bristol St
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 352-2525

At the end of the night we went away with goodie bags. But lucky you, I'm sharing :) Yep, there's a giveaway in this post! Just go to the end of the post to find out more.

Naturally, the night does not end there. We haven't even had dessert! For dessert we were then escorted to Marché Moderne, a restaurant headed by chefs Florent and Amelia Marneau that I knew was a favorite among many OC bloggers. These are what we had for dessert:

1. Pecan & banana mousse tart with caramel - a lovely mousse with a thin crumbly shell. Be careful when picking this up though, the shell can barely hold the heavy mousse filling.
2. Raspberry with meringue
3. Warm beignet with orange creme anglaise - my favorite, for sure. The warm beignet is moist and fluffy, and the creme anglaise has a great fragrance to it.
4. Green tea & apricot macarons- airy and lightly sweet. These macarons aren't as chewy as others I'm used to, but they are delectable nonetheless. Perfect with my cup of mint tea.
I was pretty happy with my dessert experience here, and can't wait to go back for a full meal one of these days.

Marché Moderne
3333 Bristol St
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 434-7900
Marche Moderne on Urbanspoon

Read E*starLA's report here.

Disclosure: In case it wasn't clear, our meal was indeed comped by South Coast Plaza. And I'm getting these posts out like mad cos even though SCP isn't paying me to blog, they are 'rewarding' those who finish posting fast enough (w/in 72 hours) with a $100 gift certificate.
Oh, and I got a goodie bag from SCP containing a cookie, an access card to the VIP Hospitality suite, tomato sauce, smthg from Kiehl's, etc. I also got a goodie bag from Charlie Palmer w/ a bottle of wine, a wine opener, and a $25 gift certificate.

You're probably hating me right about now, I got to eat all these for free just because I have a stupid blog?
Don't fret, I'm sharing some with you! Yes, you. Well, only one of you, actually.

I will be sending off a $25 gift certificate to Charlie Palmer to one lucky winner!
To win this gc, just comment below with your name, a way to contact you, and tell me 1)if you've eaten at South Coast Plaza and if you have, 2) your favorite South Coast Plaza eatery. Comment before next Sunday 10/11 (midnight). I'll pseudo-randomly pick a winner on Monday. Good luck!

South Coast Plaza Food Extravaganza Part I: Hamamori & NapaStyle

These days what i had considered "mall food" has been taken to the next level, with the likes of Breadbar in Century City Mall and others. Among these, South Coast Plaza probably has unparalleled food options in Southern California, housing some of the most highly regarded restaurants in Orange County. Being LA-based, I haven't explored OC much, so when an invite to a blogger event at South Coast Plaza came along, I took this opportunity to get to know the South Coast Plaza restaurants.

Their PR person had apparently organized quite a night for all of us bloggers and writers.

The first day of our visit started out at Hamamori, a chic sushi restaurant on the 3rd floor of the West Wing.
We were greeted by James Hamamori behind the sushi bar, the owner/chef who also own Wasa in Irvine and Newport Beach.

We started with seared albacore with crispy fried onions, vinegar soy sauce

Next is a duo of vegetable appetizers: Shiitake Fries with creme fraiche, and Asparagus Tempura with Japanese rice crackers.

A series of special nigiris followed suit. The first two became the favorite of most of us. They are Hokkaido scallop with Himalayan pink salt, shiso, lemon, and Osetra Caviar, and Hamachi with Himalayan pink salt, lemon, and Japanese chili paste.

They were both very fresh and the seasoning and garnish was not overpowering but quite enhanced the flavor of the fish.

The last of the nigiri was Freshwater Eel with Foie Gras, finished with orange zest.

May I remind you guys at this point that I've been out of town for a while and have not had foie gras for ... oh, I don't know, a loong time. Anyway, I'm justifying why this dish excited me so much and I mindlessly ate my piece without taking a photo! Luckily Pleasure Palate let me snap a photo of hers. The foie gras just melted in my mouth and added this delicious creaminess on top of the sweet eel. So good.

The next dish was a fun hands-on experience of cooking Oregon Kobe shortrib on a hot lava rock from Mt Fuji!

The lava rock was super hot and cooked the thin short rib slices within seconds.
The tender meat slices were served with three types of sauces: steak sauce, apple sesame, and sea salt with chili pepper.

3333 Bear St, Level 3
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 850-0880
Hamamori on Urbanspoon
Hamamori in Los Angeles

After our starter meal, we continued on with an interesting tasting at Michael Chiarello's store, Napa Style.

Here we were divided into two groups that started with different tastings. My group started with the salt tasting.
These are salts that chef Chiarello himself likes to use in his cooking like the popular Gray Salt, Truffle Salt, and even Jurassic Salt - possibly the oldest salt there is, found covered under volcanic ash in Utah.

Next we move on to the olive oil tasting. We had a couple of very interesting olive oil here.
One was an olive oil that somehow had the fragrance of banana ... somehow. A bit strange.
We also tried some Blood Orange Olive Oil - had a nice zesty fragrance and would probably be very good tossed with some salad. We got a goodie bag after and I received the Meyer Lemon olive oil - still yet to try it.

Our last tasting was the wines from Chiarello's vineyard.
Chef Chiarello named his five wines after his children and his wife. These are the wines we tried:

1. Giana ($39), a 2005 Zinfandel named after his youngest daughter. This had a spicy nose and taste, though the aftertaste is surprisingly short considering how strong the wine tasted. Quite a nice wine and pairs nicely with food.
2. Felicia ($49), 2007 Old Vine Zinfandel named after his 2nd daughter. These vines are from 98-year old root stocks that are all farmed dry. One of my favorites out of the tasting, full boodied with a nice fruity taste.
3. Roux ($45), 2006 Old Vine Petite Syrah. This is a smoother and more balanced wine that the previous. It had a subtler nose and a smoother fruity taste.
4. Bambino ($49), 2007 Cabernet named after his little boy (Aidan). A sweet wine that has a bit of spicyness to it. I liked this one quite a bit too.
5. Eileen ($69 but a $55 special is currently running), a 2006 Cabernet named after his wife. This wine has a sweet nose and is smooth and full bodied.
3333 Bear St, Level 2

Disclosure: In the spirit of the FTC guidelines, although SCP is not paying us bloggers to blog about this event, they are incentivizing us for blogging early by offering a $100 SCP gift card to those who blog within 72 hours. Will I make it? I have 2 more posts to go and 24 hours, so we'll see ..

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