Hey look, something vegetarian!
Hey look, something vegetarian!
Anne Marie Panoringan

69. Takuwan Sushi from AnQi by Crustacean

Behold the beginning of our annual 100 Favorite Dishes countdown! Every day until the publication of our fantabulous Best Of Issue, we'll list our favorite meals this year in descending order. Enjoy, pass it on, and tune in daily!

I may be Catholic-lite, but one season I abide by is Lent. And while going without meat for a few Fridays may seem like no big deal to many of you, when I'm starved for a meal, nuts and fish don't quite cut it.

Every time I dine out, I'm looking for alternatives, entrees and sides my carnivore tendencies won't mind every now and then. That moment I forget I'm having something vegetarian (or vegan!) is when I know to take note.

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AnQi by Crustacean is best known for their sleek interior and garlic noodles, but one of their Asian tapas particularly impressed me. We counted no less than seven components in our takuwan maki. Served at lunch, dinner and both happy hours, it seems like a lot of work for eight bites. Wasabi and soy sauce were an afterthought, replaced by one unexpected condiment: curry.

The other players in my sushi gave strong supporting roles. Tempura offered crunch, while avocado and carrot made my roll eye-catching. Mirin coaxes a hint of sweetness when it cooks down eggplant. Roasted beets, earthy asparagus and gobo root are packed in there. The pickled daikon, to which my appetizer owes its name to, almost gets lost in the shuffle. My favorite part, though, is the chef's choice to incorporate a non-traditional ingredient. A golden pool of spices is accented with a hint of furikake. Yet it manages to not overpower the rest of the dish. The flavors pair so well together, I had that Lenten moment: Mental note made.

The List:

70. Ube Ensaymadas from The Ensaymada Project 71. Pork Bánh Mì at the OC Poultry and Rotisserie Market 72. Tacos Gobernador from Mariscos Los Corales 73. Dutch Baby at the Original Pancake House 74. Doughnuts from Sidecar 75. Lengua Tacos at La Chonita 76. Oysters from Carlsbad Aquafarm at the Orange Homegrown Farmers Market 77. Lemon Miso Crab Melt at Umami Burger in Laguna Beach 78. Pani Puri from Adya 79. The Pocket at the Pocket Burger 80. Gyro Sandwich from Paul's Place 81. Slice of Heaven at Pie-Not 82. Taquitos at El Toro Bravo 83. Peanut Butter and Jelly Donut at the Donuttery 84. Dan Dan Mian at Wei-Shian Noodle 85. Beef Burger at Rider's Club Café 86. Smoked Trout at Provenance 87. Small Plates at A&J Restaurant 88. Corn Cheese at Zoomak Asian Bistro 89. Pumpkin Curry at Bhan Baitong 90. Poke at Costco Tustin II 91. Pambazo at Tacos Radioactivos 92. Beef Pho at Pho Crystal Noodle House 93. Breakfast Burrito from Cafe Calacas 94. Koobideh Plate from Grill Cafe 95. Tacos de Cecina from Alebrije's 96. Jajangmyeong from Ching Chinese Express 97. Breakfast Sausage from Da-Le Ranch 98. Any Special Dinner by Old Vine Cafe's Mark McDonald 99. Tres Amigos Burrito from Piaggio on Wheels 100. Bacon-Wrapped Dates from Lola Gaspar

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