Two restaurants with very different cuisines happen to have something in common: They both opened in Arcadia before migrating to Orange County. HaiDiLao Fusion Shabu soft opened this month inside Brea Mall. Meizhou Dongpo Restaurant is in a busy Irvine plaza. Now if you tried searching their respective websites, you’ll find next to no information on either spot. That’s where we come in. While LA county is familiar with both concepts, we’re just getting to know them. We hopped in the car to check both out.
HaiDiLao in Brea isn’t the same concept as their HaiDiLao Hotpot brand. Found on the first floor in the Macy*s Men’s Store wing, the ‘Fusion Shabu’ in this branch’s name comes from their flavorful broth options with multiple Asian influences, as shabu shabu typically involves cooking in water. The immaculate dining space was simply decorated with cute phrases posted like”I’m tofu-ll; don’t have mush-room” and “Have a rice day”. A very long counter allowed easy seating for single parties.
Some of HDL’s signature foods include a Kung Fu Noodle option, which wasn’t available at the time of our visit. So we’re including a link to a video the manager showed us when we inquired. Instead, we ordered their wagyu beef to start, plus some sashimi grade Scottish salmon. Since this method of cooking really comes down to the quality of ingredients and how the person cooking (you) manages those ingredients, our opinion is about the quality and overall experience.
A few details we were impressed by included the individual pots at every table. Gone are the days of having to agree with your tablemates on what cooking liquid to select, although we felt much further away from our dining companion than usual. Also, unlimited plates of veggies were a nice touch. If you could see under all that green, you’d spot some tofu cubes as well.
The biggest deal on the menu (besides those Mexican wild caught jumbo shrimp) were premium dipping sauces created by Joachim Splichal, Michelin Star Chef and the man we associate with all things Patina Restaurant Group. Of their four options, we preferred a spicy roasted red onion sauce. Go for the curry pineapple version if you enjoy sweetness. House ponzu and sesame sauces are no additional cost.
HaiDiLao’s official grand opening is scheduled for this Saturday. In the meantime, drop-ins are welcome. Their outdoor patio is a designated waiting area. Beer and wine are forthcoming, but chill with jasmine iced green tea and contemplate saving room for some sweet potato or pumpkin desserts that were worth the wait. Hai Di Lao Fusion Shabu 1065 Brea Mall, #1031A, (714) 784-6868. (Note: A separate HaiDiLao Fusion Shabu website is forthcoming).
A former Marie Callendar’s, Meizhou Dongpo is simplified to Dongpo Restaurant. Soft opening began last Thursday in Irvine’s Culver Plaza (cross street Irvine Center Drive). Occupying 6,000 square feet, this dining room had one serious makeover. Private parties and large groups can take advantage of three banquet rooms in this upscale space.
Our family-style Sichuan lunch included dishes such as savory Avocado with Roasted Chili ($9.90), Wok-Fried Bamboo Shoots ($17) and a memorable Spicy Chicken (a.k.a. la zi ji/$20) dish that included French fried potatoes in a shower of chiles. Note to self: Don’t eat the chiles.
The signature Meizhou Roast Duck can be ordered whole ($77) or as a half order. Carving is done tableside, before you gingerly assemble into a handheld bite. A bubbling Royal Hot Pot ($23) is also a sight to see, brimming with more ingredients than we could count (although the inclusion of Spam threw us off guard). Similar to the Spicy Chicken, we were advised not to consume the broth. However, if you’re glutton for heartburn, go right ahead!
Word on the street is that they are still hiring bilingual staff in preparation for an April 1 grand opening. Interested individuals can email firstname.lastname@example.org with a resume. Dongpo Restaurant 15363 Culver Dr, (949) 433-5686; www.meizhourestaurants.com.