Trends come and go, but two things that remain constant are beef and seafood. With the proximity of the beach, residents are always down for sushi, Catch of the Day or Cajun-Asian shellfish spots. We’ll never see a shortage of burger joints and steakhouses, either. Here’s a rundown of the county’s newest eateries to conquer.
Raw Bar by Slapfish
When it comes to Orange County seafood, it took an East Coast guy to make it a significant (and sustainable) brand out West. In addition to Andrew Gruel’s growing list of Slapfish locations, he purchased the property next door to his original Huntington Beach branch to focus on another idea: the raw bar. Oysters and over a dozen craft brews on tap are the draw, yet he extends his menu to include crab claws, pressed sandwiches, salads and a token cheeseburger. It’s the yin to next door’s yang. Be sure to check out the bathroom decor. 19694 Beach Blvd., Huntington Beach, (714) 963-3900.
Leatherby’s Cafe Rouge
In an update that surprised even us, the dining room known as Leatherby’s retooled everything but the name. Now a modern steakhouse, the once sparse space now has more character. Serving an a la carte menu, there was no shortage of options. Their soup, “Usually Vegetables, sometimes chilled” hints at humor, while their take on New York Steak (Snake River Farms Wagyu Style 14-ounce) is seriously delicious. Be sure to experiment with their handful of sauces, including a Cognac Green Peppercorn. 615 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa, (714) 429-7640; www.patinagroup.com.
The final phase of Monarch Beach Resort’s makeover was the change from Stonehill Tavern to Bourbon Steak. After checking in with Chef Michael Mina last week (our first interview being three years ago), we understood why. Per Mina,
When they remodeled the whole hotel, we knew we wanted to wait until it got done before we said, “Okay, what are we going to do?” Honestly, what I did was I listened to my customers. Frankly, I had a good advantage in picking what I wanted to do because 1) I had been here so long. and 2) The clientele. We know them, and so we got to communicate with them. And the one thing that so many people said was, “You should do Bourbon Steak.” And I think it’s because people that know Bourbon Steak know it’s a lot more than a steakhouse. It’s really based on technique; based on product. It’s not like you’re losing the great things you had at Stonehill. It was a nice way to refresh the room.
The thing I would say that enticed me the most about doing it is I’ve always had this vision of doing a Bourbon Steak in a smaller, more residential feeling restaurant. We could really expand the tableside [service]. To me, that’s the next layer to Bourbon Steak– to really take that tableside to the next level. If you want to eat simple, you can have something that’s high quality with great technique. Also, the real trick to it is the fact that if you really want to indulge, you can do that as well.
An example of Bourbon Steak’s tableside service is their wood-fired, roasted shellfish (pictured). It’s served on hot smoked rock salt, then finished with herbal tea at the table. Executive Chef Bryan Brown most recently ran the kitchen at DTLA’s Bottega Louie. 1 Monarch Beach Resort, Dana Point, (949) 234-3900; www.monarchbeachresort.com.
TRADE food hall’s Pig Pen Delicacy is changing concepts from being all things pork to beef. Offering popular burger combinations and fried sides, we were pleased to see they included a plant-based, Beyond Burger option. The first 100 diners to visit Ground House during their grand opening this Saturday will receive a $20 gift card. Also check out the Chef’s Burger of the Month: The Pinoy. A blend of beef and longaniza meat, it includes caramelized onions and Banana Island aioli. 2222 Michelson Dr., Irvine, (949) 449-1288; www.tradefoodhall.com.