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).

As with most fusion restaurants, there are sushi rolls, including, for the non-meat eaters, a vegetable roll with mushroom, jicama, garlic lime. But there are more interesting items on the menu here.
Veggie Roll

One of our favorites: Chicken Oyster Curry. Chicken oysters are these small, round pieces near the thighs - they're possibly the best part of the chicken. A whole bowl of curry made with these pieces? Yes, please.
Chicken Oysters

If you want more traditional food like noodles and dumplings, head over to the Noodle Bar where you can get some of these edamame shumai. Made with chicken, it tastes cleaner and less greasy than most of its SGV counterparts (though not as cheap either).
The Noodle Bar seems like a nice place to just go sit and have a casual, relatively inexpensive lunch - considering the average price of the South Coast restaurants.

I also (finally) got to try their famous garlic noodles - the one with recipe so secret that no one but Helene An knows, not even the AnQi chef, Ryan Carson. The noodles are made elsewhere and delivered to AnQi where Chef Carson then finishes it off with the garnishes. What sort of garlicky goodness goes in the noodles themselves, we'll never know.
Garlic Noodles
They served the noodles to us in the cute Chinese take out boxes, so I'm not sure how big their regular ($10) portion is. It's pretty expensive for just garlicky noodles, though I'm glad I got to try it once.

3333 S. Bristol St.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(888) 351-1376

Disclosure: this visit was hosted.


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