This Week in Soup

Santa Anas what? Last month, Orange County registered the most rain for October ever. And with the storm clouds continuing to barrel into the county like USC linebacker Matt Grootegoed into UCLA running back Maurice Drew's torso, you should brace yourself from the cold with soup. The county features enough types of potage to last you through Kwanzaa—the following are but some of the tastier.

DINNER FOR TWO: ¢…….………………..…..Less than $10! $……………….…….…………..$10-$20 $$…………….……….…………$20-$40 $$$………………………¡Eres muy rico!


The soy-sauce-fueled sizzle of meat slapped upon a grill is a constant at Aloha Chicken—that and the Saimin-noodle soup. It spills out of a clay hot pot and consists of little more than zigzagged chow mein noodles, a choice of meat (try the char siu, soft Chinese barbecue pork), a slice of a fluorescent pink root that wants to be ginger but is too polite, and more salt than Lot's wife.10488 Valley View Ave., Buena Park, (714) 826-6672. $


The conclusion of the bò bay mon (seven-course beef dinner) at Ánh Hong in Garden Grove is a small bowl filled with a milky, slightly thick broth. Really doesn't look impressive. But just one sip and the world changes: ground-beef bits hiding in a rice lagoon that's spiked with enough ginger and pepper to cure any malady that may afflict you.10195 Westminster Ave., Garden Grove, (714) 537-5230; $


Café Hiro is a three-year-old Cypress eatery that has everything going for it except the design scheme, a setup that would only happen elsewhere if Goodwill decorated Denny's. But Hiro's exquisite entrées—a fantastic fusion of Japanese, Italian, French and American—ensures a steady stream of suitors; ridiculously cheap prices guarantee many rendezvous. And the creamy asparagus soup bobbing with crushed tortilla strips launches a thousand romances. 10509 Valley View St., Cypress, (714) 527-6090. $$


Christakis' beautiful setting separates the eatery from its local Greek brothers-in-grub. But the platters of its late eponymous founder, Joanne Christakis Wallace, truly catapult the place into Orange County's high-class dining strata. On another pleasure level is the avgolemono (egg-lemon) soup. This potage is the finest starter that's ever passed over my tongue, a chilled, milky-yellow broth thick with plump rice grains and chicken chunks, bracingly sour because of the lemon juice, hearty with whipped egg whites.13011 Newport Ave., Tustin, (714) 731-1179. $$


Gotta love a place like the Chicken Box that sells boysenberry punch—a supertart, purple elixir probably mixed nowadays only in one other concern, Knott's Berry Farm, and then probably only as a tourist curio. But the Chicken Box is the only reason to visit La Habra outside of Gordo Maloney's and maybe that strip club the City Council been trying to ban for about a decade. Consider the incarnations of its star, the humble chicken: broasted until it drips grease or accompanied by soft grains of rice in a soup. 330 E. Whittier Blvd., La Habra, (562) 691-1701. $


This place, formerly a Salvadoran joint, caters to the soup-eating set, serving up menudo, pozole and other Mexican favorites. 23532 El Toro Rd., Ste. 11, Lake Forest, (949) 586-1477. $


E-San specializes in 78 dishes of Isaan cooking, the sour-and-spicy cuisine of northeast Thailand that's exotic even inside the Southeast Asian kingdom. The duck noodle soup reminds of the Marx brothers film—they're both instant classics. Prepared in the northeastern Thai tradition, it's a fiery cauldron laden with bamboo shoots, slippery noodles and roasted-duck chunks so savory they would make Harpo speak. 1719 W. La Palma Ave., Anaheim, (714) 999-0563. $


Jang Mo Restaurant specializes in soup, offering six aromatic choices. Add generous amounts of granulated salt, scallions, white rice and pungent hot mustard to unlock the potential of the peppery yook gejang (advertised as vegetable soup but laden with beef shreds) and the three types of gomtang (as delicious as its much-celebrated cousin pho, it's slowly simmered in beef bones) that make this joint a must-slurp. 4546 Beach Blvd., Buena Park, (714) 228-0767. $


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' top is low.515 S. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 541-0350. $$


One of the reasons why Mariscos Licenciado #2 is the county's best hole in the wall is because of the mariscoco: a chilled soup of abalone, squid, octopus, shrimp and coconut chunks that's native to the Mexican coastal state of Sinaloa and a glorious rarity everywhere else. They used to serve the mariscoco at número dos inside a hollowed-out coconut but stopped after customers apparently found it too difficult to manage because the coconut was so tightly packed. You still receive the extracted coconut water in a plastic cup as a chaser, though. 1052 N. State College Blvd., Anaheim, (714) 776-3415. $$


A guy named Shark once sent a Weeklywriter a lengthy hand-written testimonial recounting the glories of this tiny noodle shop, and after a few chopsticks of the ramen, it's easy to see why this is Shark's favorite place for a feeding frenzy. 750 Saint Clair, Costa Mesa, (714) 545-3331. $


This is the only Soviet-centric business for the local Russian community, and the three stout women who run the store ensure their creations don't disappoint. The borscht is blinding redness and belied by the blandness you'd expect of a beet-and-tomato soup. But it's surprisingly invigorating once you mix in a scoop of sour cream. It reminds me of a soup Mexican mothers force down the sore throats of their children, insisting on its recuperative powers. I'm not sure there's a babushkaabuelita exchange, but my larynx doesn't lie: after slurping up this borscht, I'm blessed with the pipes of angels. 3015 Harbor Blvd., Costa Mesa, (714) 546-3354. $

Pho 79

Pho 79 is old-school, one of the first Vietnamese chain restaurants in the United States. They have a vast selection of foods from different regions of Vietnam, but the name doesn't lie. Slurp up the pho, trucked out in boiling canteens, your choice of meat standing on top of a mini-boulder of rice noodles. Add in jungles of bean sprouts and mints, and you have the flu shot you need for the winter.9941 Hazard Ave., Garden Grove, (714) 531-2490; 9200 Bolsa Ave., Ste. 117, Westminster, (714) 893-1883; 881 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach, (310) 599-5305. $

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