"It's been a long year. A lot of restaurants close the first year. And I'm proud to say that, so far, no checks have bounced."
For a chef of few words, it was swell to see Chef Ross Pangilinan take the lead on a bubbly toast during Friday night's dinner. We joined a festive group of friends, family and supporters of Mix Mix Kitchen Bar for a night of celebrating. The special five-course spread was being served in the dining room, while a packed bar/lounge down the hall kept the back of the house busy all night. For those of you still unfamiliar with the former Leatherby's chef's menu, we're here to remind you why Mix Mix was in our Top 5 last year.
In addition to a welcome cocktail, our HDs (hors d'oeuvres) began with a trio of tastes. Starting from the top, bites of duck and French toast, Filipino ceviche and goat cheese toast. We recall the duck from his brunch menu, and ceviche from an earlier lineup. Sweet, savory and a bite of mild heat, this woke our taste buds for the rest of our meal.
Hamachi Crudo, with calamansi dressing, avocado, shishito, tostadas, radish and micro cilantro is trademark Ross. Color, texture, balance in flavor and perfect presentation. Take that, poke bowl!
Up next, barramundi alongside purple potato and glazed vegetables over a ponzu butter emulsion. A lesson in restraint, chef's classical training and subsequent work for Patina Restaurant Group is what you see. Diners don't need a large serving of food to taste all the flavors offered, as this course teaches.
For his next trick, we witnessed chef break down an entire pig. But before that, we spotted a guest in the kitchen. Break of Dawn's Dee Nguyen made a surprise appearance to help Ross and Mix Mix on their busy night. Assisting through the hamachi crudo course, he headed home to his family shortly after. And the lechon and garlic rice? We're having the best damn leftovers with our eggs in the morning.
We don't expect people to believe us when we say this plate had us encountering a food coma. Butternut squash ravioli made from scratch earlier in the day next to foie-topped prime tenderloin was a combo of savory that reminded us how quality ingredients can make all the difference.
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To finish, a duo of Mix Mix treats. Get your chocolate fix with a rich tart. Then switch it up with the Tropical Verrine, his ode to halo halo. You mix. We Mix. We celebrate with Mix Mix. Now excuse us while we take another nap.
Mix Mix Kitchen Bar is located at 300 N Main St in Santa Ana, (714) 836-5158; www.mixmixkitchenbar.com.