Haven Gastropub – 4/8/10

Haven Gastropub
190 S Glassell St
Orange, CA 92866

I’ve been meaning to try this place for a little while now, since my friend (who is a regular) has been talking about it for some time. Located just off the Chapman University campus, Haven Gastropub draws a lot of students, as well as locals in the area. As a “gastropub,” Haven offered a very extensive wine and beer list, as well as gourmet foods to pair with the alcohol. We decided to share a number of dishes to sample the menu.

Pommes Frites with truffle oil – house-cut french fries, fresh herbs, housemade ketchup
truffle fries 500x335 Haven Gastropub   4/8/10

I had high expectations for these. I had the Wustkuche truffle fries the prior night, and I love those. These are thinner, and I thought they would have just the right ratio of crispiness:fluffy potato texture.  However, I was wrong.  The fries weren’t too crispy at all, and actually rather soggy. How disappointing! The truffle essence was perfectly subtle, and delicious.

Roasted Spaghetti – spaghetti squash, marinara, cheese
spaghetti 500x335 Haven Gastropub   4/8/10

This was kind of a unique dish. Spaghetti squash is peeled to yield spaghetti-like strands, and prepared to mimic a spaghetti pasta. This was quite good, and really was kind of like a pasta with a crunch. A guilt-free pasta. The marinara and cheese went well with the squash and was not overpowering.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken – jumbo drummettes, orange-habanero BBQ sauce
fried chicken 500x335 Haven Gastropub   4/8/10

I’ve been on a fried chicken kick lately, so we had to try these. The “jumbo” drumemttes (they weren’t that jumbo) were cooked well, but rather bland. They needed more seasoning here, especially when it’s only white meat. The orange-habanero BBQ sauce was not spicy at all, but lended some of the missing flavor.

Pulled Pork Sliders – chipotle aioli, warm apple-cabbage slaw
sliders 500x335 Haven Gastropub   4/8/10

These were delicious. The pork was moist and flavorful, and the slaw lended a bit of texture to the sliders.

Arrogant Mussels – black mussels, tomatoes, fresh herbs, Arrogant Bastard broth with a splash of cream
arrogant mussels 500x335 Haven Gastropub   4/8/10

The mussels, named for the Arrogant Bastard ale that they are cooked in, were a disappointment. A little bitter, a little sandy, and rather small, these were just a letdown. In addition, there were at least 5 in the bowl that were still closed. Not good.

Roasted Neck of Lamb – braised kale, gremolata
lamb neck 500x335 Haven Gastropub   4/8/10

I really enjoyed the presentation of this dish, with the greens brightening up the dish. The gremolata was somewhat deconstructed, with whole leaves of parsley and minced garlic on top of the lamb. Unfortunately, the lamb meat was a bit bland and a little dry. This was quite a surprise, since I’m pretty sure this was braised, and I expected a rich, flavorful sauce. The parsley and garlic were a nice accoutrement, and added some fresh, vibrant flavor.

I had mixed feelings with Haven. Some of the dishes were clear successes (sliders and spaghetti) while some others fell flat (lamb and mussels). The beer and wine list are both great, so I could see why this place is popular. I think you just have to know what to order, as it can be fairly hit-or-miss.

Fukada – 3/27/10

Fukada
8683 Irvine Center Dr
Irvine, CA 92618

Fukada is probably one of the more popular Japanese noodle houses (non-ramen) in Orange County.   I had come a couple of years ago and remembered it being pretty good. Being a huge noodle fan, I had to come back.

exterior2 500x335 Fukada   3/27/10

As it was the first stop of a four-restaurant tour of food in OC, we couldn’t explore the full menu, but stuck to some of the specialties. Below, the hot sansai udon (with mountain vegetables). The broth was light and flavorful, and the vegetables had a nice crunch, adding some nice texture. However, I felt the noodles were a little thinner than I’m accustomed to, and were a bit mushy. I would have preferred them to have a little bit of a chew.

udon 500x335 Fukada   3/27/10

One of the sides we tried was the shrimp tempura and asparagus roll. The tempura was a little soggy, a big no-no. The rice was still a little warm, which I liked, but the tempura was its downfall.

shrimp asparagus roll 500x335 Fukada   3/27/10

Next was the eel don. A nice big piece of grilled eel over brown nice. The eel was cooked well in a nice soy-based sauce.

eel 500x335 Fukada   3/27/10

Overall, Fukada was rather underwhelming. The biggest letdown was the udon and the soft noodles. I will probably try this again at some point down the road, as people seem to love it, but I won’t be craving it anytime soon.

Old Vine Cafe – 3/6/10

Old Vine Cafe
2937 Bristol Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

On a rainy day in Southern California, I found myself at Old Vine Cafe in Costa Mesa, the first leg in a day of eating in Orange County, which would include Old Vine, A & J, 85 Degrees Celsius Bakery, Andrei’s and Pizzeria Ortica. Located in a unique shopping center called the Camp, it serves seasonal American food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The restaurant fits in with the rest of the theme of the Camp with a woody cabin-like exterior.

exterior Old Vine Cafe   3/6/10

We decided to order a small sampling of the dishes across the breakfast and lunch menus, starting with:

Caprese of Mozzarella Buratta – Imported Buratta, flash fried Arugula, Grape Tomatoes & Citrus Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil

caprese Old Vine Cafe   3/6/10

A beautiful dish here with the burrata and tomato base, a large handful of fried arugula and on top, and a drizzling of olive oil. The interplay of the colors was just fantastic. I thought the burrata could’ve been a little creamier, but it was good. The tomatoes were excellent, as well. However, I thought there was kind of a lot of arugula, and the fried flavor of it overpowered the dish if you took too much in one forkful.

We tried something from the breakfast menu, which was quite simple and well executed.

Gourmet Sausage & Eggs – Eggs Cooked Any Style with choice of Natural Sausage: Spicy Santa Fe or Chicken Apple

bkfst Old Vine Cafe   3/6/10

As I mentioned, this was a really well-executed dish. The eggs were perfect, and the sausage was delicious. We had the Santa Fe sausage, which had a little bit of spice and a lot of flavor. The Spanish style potatoes were good as well, well seasoned, but maybe could’ve been a little crisper. Really a very good breakfast dish.

From the lunch menu,

Beef & Truffles Panini – Thinly Sliced All Natural Rib Roast & Italian White Truffle Cheese with Garlic Aioli

panini Old Vine Cafe   3/6/10

This dish was a bit disappointing. The meat was cut pretty thin and small, so there wasn’t a lot of meat chew to this – no texture. The truffle was included as part of the cheese, and was pretty mild here. The homemade potato chips were good, but not spectacular.

Old Vine Cafe today was a bit hit-or-miss. I like the homey feel to the restaurant, with a lot of simple, seasonal cooking. I’d definitely come back for breakfast if I was in the area, or maybe to try it for dinner, as I’ve heard good things about their dinner as well.

Pizzeria Ortica – 3/6/10

Pizzeria Ortica
650 Anton Blvd
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

I had high expectations for Pizzeria Ortica, which, to me, resembles an Orange County rendition of Pizzeria Mozza. The restaurant serves a number of Italian specialties, focusing on pizzas and pastas. As always, I love an open kitchen and being able to the kitchen at work.

interior1 Pizzeria Ortica   3/6/10

We tried just a few dishes, as we had dinner at Andrei’s just prior. To begin with:

Pappardelle al sugo d’agnello – Pappardelle pasta, braised lamb ragu, sheep’s milk ricottapasta Pizzeria Ortica   3/6/10

Disappointing. The pasta, made fresh in house, was good and prepared al dente. The lamb shank was a little gamey, but just mildly so. However, I was really missing the ragu here. I was expecting a rich  sauce to bring everything together, but instead it seemed like just chunks of lamb on top of pasta on top of ricotta. As a result it was a little bit on the dry side.

Salsiccia – House-made sausage, caramelized fennel, mascapone, red onion, buffalo granapizza1 Pizzeria Ortica   3/6/10

Sausage is probably my single favorite topping on a pizza. The sausage was good here, but the pizza disappointed. The crust was rather chewy instead of crispy, and the cheese did not really stand up to the rest of the toppings

Milanesa – Fontina, asparagus, Parmigiano Reggiano, fried eggpizza2 Pizzeria Ortica   3/6/10

The Milanesa was a little more unique, topped with asparagus and a fried egg. The toppings were pretty good, but I found the pizza a bit salty, and it struggled from the same crust problems as the above.

Pizzeria Ortica was rather disappointing in general. What really shocked me most is the pizza and the crust. Perhaps it was an off-night for the dough/kitchen? Whatever it was, it didn’t live up to the pizza at Mozza or Bottega Louie of the week prior.