Edible Mall Food

I see Tu Tu Tango in your future

Photo by Joy BastTu Tu Tango's spaghetti-squash-colored walls are splashed floor to ceiling with the most fabulous garage-sale art depicting baseball players and pretty blossoms. Despite its cavernous size—dinner for 400? Right this way!—the fusion/appetizer joint at the Block at Orange feels less like a mall than it does crazy Aunt Patty's. That's a very good thing, especially when you consider the sterile chain décor at other mall joints. No matter how hard they try to imbue their feederies with rock & roll chic or fashion glamour or Hollywood glitz or motorcycle danger or sports buffoonery—or prison thrills, as per Alcatraz Brewing Company just a few doors down —you always remember you're in another mall theme park. Tu Tu Tango does the best job I've seen yet of adding true personality to its bustling hive.

But despite its ambiance—very like the Gypsy Den—you don't want to sit inside at Tu Tu Tango; you must demand the heated patio so you can mentally matchmake for all the singles walking by. The girl with the close-cropped bleached head? She'd be perfect with the Ryan Phillippe look-alike skate punk who saunters by a few moments later. The beefy young man in the size 108 pajama pants? He must remain alone forever.

A comfortably large woman holding a teacup introduced herself as part of the "spontaneous fun" on a recent Thursday night, when I took a friend out for her birthday. Psychic? Please, have a seat. While we munched on Mediterranean flatbread (a bit too heavy on the chopped kalamata olives, but lush with tomatoes and tartly balsamicized) and sent back an order of spinach dip (we weren't going to send it back; we just weren't going to eat it. But then our waitress asked us if we liked it, so we had to tell her the slick coating of tiny shreds of Parmesan gave it the texture of fur, and the dipping chips seemed almost frozen, leaving a congealing grease in our mouths; eeeeewwww! They very kindly took it off our bill), the psychic pronounced us both loyal, focused and career-driven. Then she said my friend would marry once, and it would be for forever, and she said I have no expectations of having my needs met in my relationships, and she said it as though this were a good, "independent" thing. She didn't say anything about me marrying once and forever. This made me sad, and I began furiously spooning the "Crazy Bananas"—banana-walnut ice cream with chocolate chips (it tastes very much like Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey, which is a pretty darn good way to taste, but they might want to think about dousing it with some booze) surrounded with more walnuts and more bananas and topped with a dollop of whipped cream—into my loyal, focused, career-driven, adult-acned mouth.

Tu Tu Tango is a bit on the expensive side; most items range between $4 and $8, but they're all appetizer-sized, so one needs to order two or three or four of them. This is perfect for chicks and noshers and those who've already eaten once and just want to sit and watch couples in matching Mickey Mouse sweatshirts meander through the wide lanes of the mall (this actually happened!). But it certainly isn't overpriced when you contrast it with most faddish yuppie-mall-chow destinations. There are four kitchens, so everything you order comes in less than five minutes—including the sun-dried-tomato pizza, which is stuffed full of mozzarella and other creamy concoctions. It's the goat-cheesiest! Unfortunately, since my friend's a vegetarian, I didn't get to try the duck salad. Go, and let me know how it is.

Café Tu Tu Tango, located in the Block at Orange, 20 The City Dr., Orange, is open Sun.-Thurs., 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m.-12:45 a.m. (714) 769-2222. Dinner for two, $30, food only. Beer, wine and mixed drinks. AmEx, MC and Visa accepted.
 
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