25. Grilled Watermelon Salad At XA Sweet & Savory Cafe
Anne Marie Panoringan
We're now halfway through the Long March known as 100 Favorite Dishes (INSERT YEAR). YEAH!!!
Hey, don't ding us for listicles: Weekly DataLab studies show ustedes love this gimmick, launched in honor of our coming Best Of issue. Besides, it is rather fun to do this for us Forkers--an opportunity to highlight dishes from restaurants we'll never fully review, or secrets from old standbys. Anyhoo, let the march begin...
Some of the best flavors are unexpected. Often, they are relatively simple combinations of ingredients that otherwise wouldn't go together. It takes a beautiful mind to master these profiles and apply them to everyday meals. This is how we came to visit XA Sweet & Savory Cafe.
See, XA was a lunch recommendation for after our doctor visit. Situated within walking distance of CHOC in a stuffy plaza, we could've easily overlooked this homegrown spot. Once inside, you can see the difference: individually wrapped cookies, rows of refrigerated, in-house iced teas, and our choice of main course. Sounds relatively simple, until we realize our options include tastes of strawberry chipotle and basil peach harissa. We leave the decision making to the kitchen and have a seat.
What appears in front of us is questionable at first. It's chicken breast over a salad of spicy greens and grilled watermelon. The grill marks on our melon cause us to pause, but after that initial bite we realize those manage to enhance its flavor. Our chili vinaigrette includes garlic and lime juice, which nip at our palate. And the protein remains moist throughout. We'd be in disbelief if not for the fact that it's Shawn Xa in the kitchen. Everything worked well, but he already knew we would be satisfied with the end product. It cooled us better than any dessert, and we left feeling satiated. Doesn't get much better than that.
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