RVOC July 2015 : Page 73

DIN TAI FUNG We still ponder how you get soup into a dumpling, but the dim-sum dynamo has mastered it with the xiaolongbao ($9.50 to $22.50). The pork is our fave: Cubes of gelatinized aspic are set atop ground meat and spices, nestled in hand-pleated dough and steamed. Slurp them with a glass of Lucky Buddha ($6.50), brewed at China’s Thousand Island Lake. POWER MOVE This uberpopular spot’s wait time is three hours and up. But those in the know will tell you that DTF is now offering food to go. Place your picks in person (no phone orders)—or go Mondays and Tuesdays at opening or midafternoon, when the lines disappear. South Coast Plaza, 3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, 714.549.3388, dintaifungusa.com A&O KITCHEN + BAR Executive Chef Rachel Haggstrom likes to play with her food: She dreamed up a When Pigs Fly hot dog flight ($15) with pheasant and herb sausages. Her fare is truly tongue-in-cheek—the 18-ounce bone-in prime rib-eye ($52) is marinated in moonshine, but try it with the 2011 Conn Creek Cabernet Sauvignon ($63)—yet the space is polished, with nautical decor and a harborfront patio. Anchors away! POWER MOVE Come at golden hour for a primo view of the setting sun from the patio—the lounges around the three fire pits are the place to be. 1221 W. Coast Highway, Newport Beach, 949.630.4285, balboabayresort.com 10 EAT UP The salade nicoise at Eats Kitchen & Bar MOST EXCITING NEW RESTAURANTS DRIFTWOOD KITCHEN Rainer Schwarz’s Texas redfish ($27 per person, serves three or four) earned a nod as Laguna’s best dish from Riviera dining critic Jamie Gwen. The whole scored fried fish took a long time to get right—but the result, says Schwarz, is perfect. Enjoy it with the 2012 EnRoute Chardonnay Brumaire ($115), according to Director of Operations John Nye. POWER MOVE Keep an eye out for Sip & Shuck tickets (VIP tickets $95) to go on sale. Set for November, the afternoon benefits charities like Pacific Marine Mammal Center and last year sold out in a few days. 619 Sleepy Hollow Lane, Laguna Beach, 949.715.7700, driftwoodkitchen.com BABETTE’S It’s as coastal-chic as its Newport digs. The sips are a highlight (from Employees Only’s Dushan Zaric)—as is the vegetable tagine ($24). It’s chock-full of curried carrot couscous, marcona almonds, harissa and preserved Meyer lemon yogurt, enticing flavors that play on the palate when paired with an Army Navy ($16) libation. POWER MOVE Ask any of the craft bartenders to design a drink with the ingredients of your choice. On request, they once mixed up a cocktail with carrot juice—Babette’s presses its own juices, natch. 7962 E. Coast Highway, Newport Coast, 949.715.9915, babettesoc.com frequented by O.C.’s French and Francophiles alike—expanded into the spot next door. It offers a slice of Parisian life. Take the entrecôte frites dinner ($25) on Thursdays. It’s a classic meal of rib-eye, mixed greens and unlimited frites that owner Laurent Vrignaud will insist you savor with the medium-bodied 2009 Chateau Moulin Riche Saint Julien ($99). POWER MOVE Ask about the secret cache of rare nectars from French producers, like the 2011 Chateau Canon la Gaffelière, Grand Cru Classe ($139). 1000 N. Bristol St., Newport Beach, 949.474.0920, moulinbistro.com seriously good food and drink. Executive Chef Jeffrey Boullt reads a cookbook nearly every day, and his Southern cuisine is elevated by bevvies from Bar Director Mike West, who crafts his liquids with in-house bitters and syrups. The evidence? The dry-aged Mary’s duck with stone fruit ($34) and the Bella Naso sip ($14). POWER MOVE The tonight’s offerings board serves up off-menu items ($15-$45) Boullt is testing out (think bluefin tuna). If you like it enough, he may add it to the menu. (Oh, ask about the secret daily dish too.) 512 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, 949.642.2425, socialcostamesa.com EATS KITCHEN & BAR PHOTO COURTESY OF HOTEL IRVINE. OPPOSITE PAGE: TWENTY EIGHT PHOTO BY JOHN DOLE EATS KITCHEN & BAR Jason Montelibano is giving Irvine a jolt with his global eats. We’re partial to his pan-seared trout ($19)—it’s infused with citrus from the lush cara cara orange beurre monte—but when paired with the Red Trolley ale ($6.50 to $8.75), the new barbecue spare ribs ($21) are the stuff of cookout dreams. (Brown-sugar crust and cola-infused sauce? Please!) POWER MOVE Get in on the foie frenzy with the off-menu burger ($30). The meat is a blend of chuck, short rib and brisket; the gastrique boasts flavors of strawberry and tarragon; and the toppings are 3 ounces of foie gras, yuzu-cured burrata and mizuna greens. Hotel Irvine, 17900 Jamboree Road, Irvine, 949.225.6780, eatskitchen. com THE NORTH LEFT Au courant epicureans know restaurateur Ryan Adams and his team—Executive Chef Aron Habiger and Pastry Chef Ashley Guzman—are shining stars in O.C. Try the shrimp larb ($11). It’s a textural mix of cilantro, garlic, Fresno chiles, snap peas and puffed rice; the 2012 Loimer Grüner Veltliner ($46) will tame the dish’s heat. And Guzman’s seasonal strawberry sorbet is a trip ($6). POWER MOVE Order the off-menu Swanson Special ($20) with the steak ($75) for two shots of fine scotch. Good patrons should also offer a Cheers to the Chefs ($10); it’s a bucket of brew to toast with the team. 400 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, 714.543.3543, thenorthleft.com BISTRO PAPILLOTE Michelin-starred French chef and sommelier Laurent Brazier’s new cafe at SoCo is a haven for designer crepes— courtesy of the exhibition-style bar. Also on the menu? French escargot ($11), prepared simply with garlic butter, shallot and baguette. Brazier suggests uncorking a bottle of the 2011 Domaine Seguinot-Bordet Chablis ($26) with them. Oui, oui ! POWER MOVE The bistro offers private dining (price upon request). Buy out the space, and Brazier will create a menu for you and 50 friends—he’ll DJ your party too. (Yes, DJ Ibiza used to spin back in France and at Brussels Bistro in Laguna.) 3313 Hyland Ave., Costa Mesa, 949.375.0749, lacuisineculinaryarts.com MOULIN There’s a reason why the bistro— SOCIAL COSTA MESA It’s laid-back with a locals-only vibe and 73 RIVIER A JULY 2015 TWENTY EIGHT Music mogul Randy Jackson once trekked to Irvine for Shirley Chung’s (of Top Chef: New Orleans ) modern Chinese fare—but lucky for us, her establishment is in our backyard. Ask what to order, and she’ll smile and point you toward her seared hamachi salad ($18) with the 2013 Cakebread Sauvignon Blanc ($56)—or her pork-belly buns ($8), conceived to sate her own cravings. They're so popular her cooks fold hundreds every shift. POWER MOVE Sit at the bar, and you may earn a secret menu rite: The bartender will hand you a culinary lineup on edible paper with an exclusive cocktail. You’ll have to destroy the evidence and keep your knowledge to yourself. 19530 Jamboree Road, Irvine, 949.852.2828, twentyeightoc.com

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