This week, Shawn Xa, owner and chef at XA Sweet & Savory Cafe in Orange, rendered the review I wrote on his restaurant outdated, but in a way I've always been anticipating. Xa has always promised that he would continually improve and change things up as his restaurant gains momentum. From rearranging the seating (originally it was too constrictive with a long benches taking up one side of the room), to getting rid of the soda fountain (it was expensive to maintain and unpopular with the healthcare workers who lunched there from nearby hospitals), he has always been keen in starting over from scratch if necessary.
He has saved his most meaningful change until this week. The chalkboard menu, which was a dizzying array of scribbles before, has been simplified; and now instead of the dry spices he used to cover and flavor his proteins with, he's offering sauces.
The sauces are just as exotic and adventurous as his spices were, all of them containing some sort of hot pepper. The tamarind-based sauce has chunks of tart tamarind in it. The chile and lime sauce tastes exactly like what Thai restaurants use for their salads. And the maple and spice, my favorite thus far, tastes as if an Indian mother was in the kitchen.
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Xa and his crew have been offering taste test thimbles of all the sauces, so that you can make an informed choice before you order. He did the same thing before with his spice options.
What hasn't changed is the way he cooks his chicken breast. I ate it again and remembered why I was so enamored with it in the first place. It's still juice-bursting, tender, and perfectly cooked, which is an amazing feat considering it's a boneless, skinless piece of breast meat--a protein not apt to being all of the above. Xa's chicken is the poultry equivalent of the best steakhouse steak, already perfect the way it was; but with these sauces, it proves that even perfection can be perfected.