Leatherby’s Cafe Rouge – 12/19/10

Leatherby’s Cafe Rouge
Orange County Performing Arts Center
615 Town Center Dr
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

I tend to think of Leatherby’s Cafe Rouge as a sort of “Patina of Orange County.” The Patina Restaurant Group runs the gamut between fast casual and fine dining, and both Leatherby’s and Patina represent the latter. Plus, they both occupy a corner of large concert halls (in this case, the OC Performing Arts Center). Leatherby’s occupies the bottom left in the picture below of the stunning concert hall.

I’ve been to Leatherby’s once over a year ago and was unimpressed. With a new manager and new chef (Ross Pangilinan), this promised to be a new restaurant; thus, I obliged when I was invited to come try the new menu.

Two tasting menus were prepared – one for me and one for vegetarian Angie.

Heirloom Tomatoes burrata and a tomato foam

Japanese Hamachi seared with seven flavor chili pepper, avocado sorbet, green apple, jicama, ice plant, ponzu, Filipino pink salt

I thought the hamachi dish was one of the highlights. The textures of the jicama and green apple meshed well with the tender fish, and the avocado sorbet was very nice. The sorbet was not overpowering at all, and had a clean, fresh flavor. I thought it really went well with the hamachi.

Butternut Squash Soup macchiato essence

Next up was this seasonal soup. The butternut squash flavor was mildly sweet, countered by a slight bitterness from the macchiato foam. I thought that the butternut squash and subtle coffee flavors worked pretty well together. Perfect for a rainy evening.

House Made Fettuccine white wine Parmesan sauce, roasted mushrooms, shaved black truffles

Next we had this fresh pasta dish. The pasta was a perfect al dente texture, and the alfredo-like sauce had a good buttery, cheesy flavor. To top it all off, the earthiness of the mushrooms and black truffles added more complexity and depth of flavor.

Vegetarian Risotto market vegetables

Beef Short Rib, Viking Village Sea Scallop raclette potatoes, mushroom red wine sauce

Next was a bit of a surf-and-turf combination. First of all, the scallop was huge! It was a little undercooked for my liking, but I thought it had a nice sear. Really meaty, which I liked. The short rib was very tender and had great flavor, and its richness contrasted the light, clean flavors of the scallop.

Cheese Plate selection of imported and domestic cheeses, dried fruit and nut bread, honeycomb, chutney, candied nuts

Any regular readers would know I’m really not a fan of the cheese course. Of these, I probably liked the triple cream camembert most (second from left). Kind of brie-like with a soft, creamy texture. Also, the fresh fig was very good!

Chocolate Symphony opera cake, flourless chocolate cake, crunch bar

This was a trio of chocolate desserts (three is better than one, right?); from left to right: opera cake, molten chocolate cake, crunch bar. All three of these were quite good. I actually liked the smooth, moist opera cake most.

Panna Cotta vanilla bean, pistachio

Lastly we had a couple of panna cottas. These were a little more dense than I preferred, but the flavors were spot on. Fresh berries were a nice touch, and I especially liked the nutty brittle accompaniment, which added good nutty flavor and texture.

The wine pairings, from right to left.

I was pretty pleased with this meal – it was easily one of the strongest I’ve had in Orange County.  I think more people need to give the restaurant a chance (at the time of writing, there have only been 42 Yelp reviews). Its yet to really draw in customers outside its primary target of concert patrons, but with more attention, I think this could easily be one of the top fine dining establishments in the area.

Note: This was a sponsored dinner.


  1. I’d put Leatherby’s somewhere between the “Patina of Orange County” and “Cafe Pinot of Orange County.” That being said, I probably should get back here sometime, given the new chef. Interesting presentation on the risotto, you didn’t try it?

  2. Ah ha! I didn’t know they have a restaurant inside the OC performing art center. Now I’ve got to try it (since I go there almost once a quarter)! Do you think they have a tasting menu of some sort (hopefully nothing too heavy, since no one wants to be stuffed right before watching a show)

    Thanks for the post!

    1. Hey Sam – they don’t have a tasting menu per se, but I’m sure they can put one together for you if you ask for one. If you go there so often, I’d definitely recommend stopping by.

  3. That heirloom tomato dish looks divine. I could probably have 2 plates of those in one sitting.
    Also, what an interesting presentation of the panna cotta. Maybe they made it more firm than usual so they can present it that way?

    1. Thanks Yulree – I’m not sure if that’s why the panna cotta was firmer, but that is an interesting thought…though I think it still could have been presented that way with a silkier texture.

    1. Hah yeah, I’d have to agree. I wanted to draw parallel to the whole concert hall thing…but Patina really is the unrivaled flagship of the group.

Leave a Reply!