If you originally thought a restaurant by the name of Puck's Tavern was a play on words, that's understandable. I didn't expect to see a celebrity chef, much less Wolfgang "I cater for the Oscars" Puck launching a culinary experience inside a sporting/concert venue--ever. Yet he did, late last year. Open only during days when Honda Center is holding an event, a pair of hockey tickets was an excuse to finally check it out.
While we didn't make a huge a dent on the menu, enough damage was done to provide a few highlights. Being open a few months now, one would imagine they've worked out the kinks, but . . . you'll just have to read on.
Where they scored:
Having been to Wolfgang's most notable venue in Beverly Hills, I knew the significance of their pizza selection. Specifically, the house-smoked salmon variety originally found at Spago ($24). His signature dish melds beach casual eats with high end couture by way of salty caviar and rich creme fraiche. I'm typically pepperoni, mushroom and sausage. Yet this is always an exception.
Of the salads, it was an heirloom apple ($12) that made me stop and stare. Maybe because I don't eat enough greens with aged gouda or sherry vinaigrette. Or it was likely the smoked almonds. Either way, every bite was as satisfying as the last. Their rolls slathered in a spread of white cheddar, pimento, cream cheese and goat cheese was like the leftover cake batter in a bowl. I wanted to dab it behind my ears and advertise it as a new fragrance.
The MVP had to be their sizzling mussels ($22), though. Headlining a short list of "Too Big For One" sharable plates, we were blown away by flavors. Mind you, I do NOT like mussels. Had them enough times to know I'm not a fan (I'm more of a clam gal). My hockey pal had to convince me to try just one. I was in such disbelief, I kept grazing on them. I was temporarily converted with their fragrant herbs, shallots and white wine.
Where they could use improvement:
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I could lament about an impressive looking (but not tasting) lamb shank bathed in cous cous, or a too heavy shortrib "goulash". But to sum it up in a word: Poutine. It was the Canadian bowl 'o gluttony we were both looking forward to. A mound of fried potatoes showered in gravy and squeaky cheese curds. This was a pile of meh. How come? Blame the fries. They did not stand up to the weight of its other components. We knew better than to let them sit for long, reaching for them after a quick snapshot. It was like having nachos with inferior tortilla chips-- underwhelming.
He had a St. Archer blonde ale, while I consumed a mixed beverage. While we weren't expecting a craft cocktail experience, I hoped for a broader variety of brews. We were in Anaheim, for hops' sakes! Man up your selection. People are paying good coin to dine here. Fortunately, we started our night at Noble Ale Works. I felt bad for everyone else.
Part of us wants to come back and chomp on more mussels, knowing they surpass most of the offerings up at the Jack Daniel's Club and VIP/corporate suites. Although to ease the sticker shock, we're keeping with pre-game beers down the street.