By Kristine Hoang
By Ryan Ritchie
By Edwin Goei
By Edwin Goei
By Edwin Goei
By Edwin Goei
By Cleo Tobbi
By Dominique Boubion
Photo by Joy WeberAh, virgins. Four in one evening. Three of them sisters.
The dream that runs in full color in every perv's head arose for me one recent Friday evening. I had just rescued a trio of stunning sisters from their tyrannical familial situation—think a Latino version of The Virgin Suicides—in a getaway that involved wild-eyed parents, screeching Goodyears and a cute kitten. Poor kitten.
Once safely on the 5 South—and accompanied now by their equally virtuous/repressed friend—the four talked and cried and begged for help. They wanted to live, they sobbed; they wanted to know the world. Each was between 21 and 25, yet their parents still enforced midnight curfews with hourly cell-phone calls that turned to half-hour rings after 9 p.m. The quartet confessed they considered me their savior, the world-weary man of 25 who could introduce them to life. With their vulnerable predicament in mind, I knew what to do: I sped toward Le Diplomat in Mission Viejo.
I had scoped out Le Diplomat a couple of weeks earlier. Entering its elegant, mural-splattered environs, a scheme for seducing the ladies emerged in my mind. I hadn't counted on help from the parents.
The new bistro occupies a space on the lower level of the Shops at Mission Viejo. With Le Diplomat and the rightly heralded Oceans 33 locked in as tenants, the Shops seems poised to establish itself as a permanent nexus of excellent South County dining.
Le Diplomat prepares a pan-Mediterranean menu during the day, with tasty stops in Italy, Greece, France and Lebanon. On weekend nights, however, the owners close the Doric restaurant, tidy up a tent in the parking lot, and convert dreary Mission Viejo into a scene reminiscent of Rick's in Casablanca. Ululating Arabic techno thumps from speakers. Belly dancers snake through the tables and invite men and women alike to join their zaftig trembles. Those few who remain seated suck on aromatic hookahs and fight over who gets the final skewer of kebabs that waiters bring to tables every five minutes or so.
Le Diplomat offered the succor I needed to transform the maidens into the fullness of human existence—see, none of their lips had ever so much as brushed against the restorative products of Middle Eastern cuisine. So the girls giggled nervously when it came time to order and asked if I could guide them. I didn't want to scare them—this was their first time, after all—so I left such delicacies as shankleesh (overripe sheep cheese) and marinated basturma beef for a time when they were more experienced. Instead, I suggested the Le Diplomat Feast, a Kama Sutra of Middle Eastern cuisine comprising 12 different entrées, each aimed at sparking a different sense. When I explained the girl's virginal status to our handsome male waiter, he fired at me a look that I interpreted as meaning "You lucky fuck."
The Feast came quickly, and the hermanas shivered like never before—maybe because the malfunctioning heat lamps did nothing to ameliorate the January chills. The fatoush was fabulous; the sour cucumber-and-toasted-pita salad contained more chile powder sprinkles than there are sand grains in the Rub-al-Khali. I showed the girls how to scoop up the hummus, baba ghanoush and labneh dips with rust-colored falafels just once before they joyously did it solo. They politely passed on the kebe, though—the fried teardrop-shaped lamb-and-pine-nuts balls were too intense for them.
It was the damsel with a significant other, though, who provided the night's most welcome revelation. A serving of grape leaves had arrived late, and the dark, turgid cylindrical aperitifs glistened in the middle of the table untouched. The sisters waited for my signal to proceed. Impatiently, the Boyfriended One grabbed a grape leaf with both hands. She wrapped her lips around the cylinder and bit. And bit. And bit. With a satiated smile—the kind that stretches only when enjoying something new—she reassured her fellow women that it was okay and invited them to join in. They did. I think I'll invite the Boyfriended One for a private session in the future.Le Diplomat European Bistro, 555 Shops at Mission Viejo, Ste. 294B, Mission Viejo, (949) 347-1230. Open Mon.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m.-9 p.m. & 10 p.m.-2 a.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Dinner for two, $30-$50, food only. All major credit cards accepted.