Most of you are probably waiting anxiously for Black Friday deals; but me, I'm looking forward to this Saturday, which is the day American Express will credit $25 back to me if I patronize a small business and spend $25 or more with my American Express Card. To get the details, click here. You do have to preregister your card to qualify, and registration is limited. They call it Small Business Saturday. I'm calling it free money.
Practically every restaurant you can think of that isn't Olive Garden or Stuart Andersons is considered a small business by the company. Even Marche Moderne and Hamamori qualifies.
But to maximize the deal, here are some recommendations (from previous reviews) of where you can conceivably feed two with $25.
If there's one dish to try here, it is the stir-fried lily buds with lycium berries. The main ingredient looks like white cups, its appearance similar to separated layers of an onion. But where you expect a sting, sweetness comes. Its calming presence on the plate pulls together a dish that's bright and invigorating, with snow peas carefully snipped of their stems, sliced asparagus and the slightly tart red flecks of the lycium berry.
Da Luau Hawaiian Grill in Irvine
The breakfasts are great, and for lunch, the island chicken, which might be better known to the kama'aina as mochiko chicken, are fried nuggets of hen deeply seeped of shoyu and sugar and coated in a barely there batter of rice flour. It has similarities to Japanese chicken karaage, but it's much sweeter, much more playful, something you eat out of a lunchwagon with rice before you go off to swim and frolic in the sand.
One of the best dishes is a rice specialty called addas polo. Dig into the mountain to unearth the poultry hunks, and then tear away at them, so that every spoonful of starch gets a swatch of meat. The rice is hard to upstage; cooked with flavoring agents, plus dates, raisins, saffron and the chicken itself.
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In its Rueben, sauerkraut and a slathering of Russian dressing fatten up what is already a teetering stack of pastrami, layered tall in neat folds of crimson rimmed with onyx black. No matter how you decide to handle it, some will slip out and escape the grip of the bread. The sauce and kraut are flavor agents, as well as lubricants. It offers the Lite for about $6, but almost no one orders that. Then there are the Original and the Jumbo, for $2 and $4 more, respectively. Both are huge.
Go during lunch, when there are a few specials that include a soup and salad. Or opt for the uni spaghetti, as Cafe Hiro is the best place to slurp the dish in OC, with a crowning dollop of wasabi and a few wispy shreds of nori. Bread is also supplied, and you will need it to wipe down the bowl once you are done.