This Week in Puckering Platters
I should've written this column in the summer, when jolting doses of sour meals counter the oppressive heat. But puckering dishes comfort fall palates too: a plate like ceviche or a lemon tart will liven you from the autumn chill that won't leave us until our balmy winters.
DINNER FOR TWO:
¢ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Less than $10!
$ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $10-$20
$$ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $20-$40
$$$ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ¡Eres muy rico!
Ignore Costa Brava's cheesy nautical theme, and order the onion-heavy ceviche ($2). It's served in a beer stein instead of a tostada, which might explain the groggy stupor you'll be in afterward. 727 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 650-8272. $
MARISCOS LA SIRENA
This little palace serves caldo de caguama (turtle soup) but also represents its own endangered genus—the restaurant whose métier is stunning Sinaloan-type Mexican food with a side of stereotypes—blistering aguachile with wooden parrots, nuclear ceviche served under drooping nets and deer steaks that are almost as tender as each waitress's top is low. 515 S. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 541-0350. $$
The various entrées at Nory's speak of a Peruvian experience so wildly colorful and so diverse it's understandable the country itself is in perpetual chaos. The Incan proclivity for potatoes is present, along with Spanish-influenced soups and other foods not of this planet. But the best is the Asian-influenced ceviche, large enough to qualify as a marine biology study and sour with splendor. 6959-63 Cerritos Ave., Stanton, (714) 761-3332; also at 933 1/2 S. Euclid, Anaheim, (714) 774-9115. $
In a kind of culinary clairvoyance, Ostioneria Bahia's chefs build a ceviche (fish marinated in lime juice) that follows each puckering bite of lemon or lime with a chunk of chile serrano: suddenly the insuperable sourness is relieved as the chile triggers the release of endorphins in your brain. 4429 E. Chapman Ave., Orange, (714) 538-8271. $
No red meat at this lonchera: Los Primos Mariscosmakes seafood with a Nayarit twist. This means the freshness and sourness for which the coastal Mexican state's cuisine is famous reverberate from every plate. Most impressive is Los Primos Mariscos' ceviche: so many chunks of shrimp or fish are packed on the large tostada it's only a matter of time before the Santa Ana PD cites Los Primos Mariscos for overcrowding. On the corner of First and Hesperian streets, Santa Ana, (714) 543-5560. ¢
At Romeo Cucina in Laguna Beach, the carpaccio appetizer—a large platter caked with carpaccio—is preposterously delightful and, at $11.95, a steal of a meal. Both shaved and chunky, the soft morsels are complemented with zingy lemon and capers, fresh-shaved Parmesan, artichoke hearts, and salad bits.Other Italian platters are excellent, but the carpaccio is like a beef-flavored Listerine strip for the gut.249 Broadway, Laguna Beach, (949) 497-6627. $$
Bakery standards at Sweet Jill's—peanut-butter brownies, cookies, lemon bars and a cornucopia of fruit-flavored muffins—taste like a church fund-raiser held outside the Pearly Gates. The cinnamon rolls are the biggest sellers, as is the great peach coffee cake, a snowdrift of cream smartly balanced by unsweetened peaches in the cake's center. But beware of the German chocolate cake coated with a tan coconut frosting that Pharis could successfully export to the Fatherland; the stuff's denser than uranium. 123 1/2 Main St., Seal Beach, (562) 598-3445; also at 5224 E. Second St., Long Beach, (562) 438-4945. $
VAN HANH VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT
Vietnamese cuisine includes a proud tofu tradition, and Van Hanh's menu represents its full, finest flowering. No limp kung pao and imitation orange chicken here. Instead, you'll find biting papaya concoctions drenched in chile powder and lime juice, noodle selections studded with tasty tofu and veggies, and more rice plates than in Uncle Ben's wildest dreams. 9455 Bolsa Ave., Ste. D, Westminster, (714) 531-4661. ¢
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