Two cool concepts landed in OC recently. While both are polished ideas, they bring different things to their respective areas. Juice Served Here launches their second local spot with a twist; Puesto's migration north expands our notion of Mexican cuisine.
San Diego-based restaurant Puesto opened in Irvine's Los Olivos plaza earlier this month. And while we were originally skeptical of a Mexican brand in Orange County, having honors such as LA Weekly's 2016 Tacolandia People's Choice Award got us open-minded enough to give them a chance. So we took a gander at their menu to see what it was all about.
For starters, we checked out their house guac. While the restaurant's take of a classic includes avocado, cilantro, onion, fresh lime and orange juices and chile habanero, we agreed to try a Puesto Perfect version. This included (wait for it) . . . .Parmigiano Reggiano. Yeah, it was tough to process at first. We liked the chunky, salty contrast to our basic dip enough to dip again. Honorable mentions to the duo of mariscos we tried afterwards: the Coctel Campechana and Striped Bass Tiradito.
They've got a knack for cheesiness when it comes to unique combinations. Many of Puesto's tacos utilize a bonus layer of flavor in the form of crispy melty cheese. A mound of shredded dairy is griddled until ready to fold over one of their many proteins. Our favorites were a flavorful zucchini and cactus variety, plus crispy, plump tamarindo shrimp.
Offering quite a few meatless dishes, highlights include roasted spaghetti squash fideo (noodles), plus a creamy, Mexican white sweet potato (camote) in a huitlacoche sauce. In the dessert arena, we here tickled by an herbaceous nopales and lime gelato; a must if you're craving something different. When in doubt, order the tres leches de cafe. Although our real guilty pleasure comes in the form of a rum-based Horchata Loca, a slushy, boozy counterpart to the sweet drink. We had no complaints about this market menu, but were pleased to have an alternative to the parking woe that is Irvine Spectrum. 8577 Irvine Center Drive, (949) 608-9990; www.eatpuesto.com.
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Before you wonder why on Earth we're discussing Juice Served Here, the second Newport destination of this juicy brand is the first to serve actual (not in a bottle) food! That alone makes it worth a field trip. JSH's placement in Lido Marina Village is on par with the other higher-end storefronts surrounding it. Pop coins in a meter and head inside for their quaint menu of hot and warm nourishment. And yes, they've got all the juice, too.
Common Room Roasters is their bean brand of choice, including espresso, drip and latte options. While lunch offerings are a handful of salad, grain and sandwich listings, we kept it simple. Open from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day, be sure to inquire about their soup of the week— good for take-away; we coveted our cup of butternut squash with a spicy finish. A trio of "Smash" toasts included creamy ricotta topped with tomato, jalapeno and cucumber on toasted levain. Eggy meals offer a poached harissa version on baguette, plus an egg white fritatta with aioli and salad. Price points are on the higher end, but fans of the bottled juices wouldn't be surprised. Drink and/or eat up! JSH Marina Cafe is at 3418 Via Lido, (949) 612-8228; www.jshmarinacafe.com.