No. 87, Small Plates at A&J Restaurant

All the plates.
All the plates.
Photo by Courtney Hamilton

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!

A&J restaurant is the kind of place where you constantly entangle chopsticks with your fellow diner in quest of what's on their plate. The flagship Irvine location is no frills, with the only décor being Maneki-nekos and framed calligraphy on pink walls. It doesn't matter: the food is cheap, hearty and shareable.

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The menu offers a number of noodle soups and entrees, but for variety's sake, go for A&J's small plates and order: the pan-fried beef bun, the cucumber salad in hot garlic sauce, the boiled peanuts with special seasoning, and pan-fried pork dumplings to split. With juices and oil spilling out, the pan-fried beef bun is crispy, doughy and garlicky. The pork dumplings are similar, but softer and chewier due to their wonton skin exterior. Dip the fried items in soy sauce, and it's salty, fried comfort food heaven.

The cucumber salad is essential to break the monotony of fried dough; cut into lengths with slivers of garlic and chili, it's lightly pickled, slightly sweet, and burns the throat in a good way.

The most surprising of the bunch is the boiled peanuts: their pungent saltiness and bean-like texture is a palate shocker, but you'll find yourself going back for more of that nutty savor.

The List:

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 97. Breakfast Sausage from Da-Le Ranch 99. Tres Amigos Burrito from Piaggio on Wheels 100. Bacon-Wrapped Dates from Lola Gaspar

Email: garellano@ocweekly.com. Twitter: @gustavoarellano.

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A & J Restaurant

14805 Jeffrey Rd.
Irvine, CA 92618

949-786-3585

aj-restaurant.com


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