I was wandering through South Coast one day and stumbled upon this cute restaurant located upstairs, near the Nordstrom Department store. I took a peek at the menu out of interest and the tasting menu caught my eye. $20 for 3 delicious sounding courses. So, when I arrived home, I performed an internet search to see what reviews existed about the restaurant. Generally, really great reviews and people felt that it was a well-valued meal.
I was meeting a friend who was pregnant to look for some maternity clothes (fun!) and decided to meet there for lunch. After much debate, we decided to pass on the tasting menu since it didn't sound as appealing that day (the tasting menu changes daily) and not to mention, its hard to justify in my mind to spend that much for just lunch. We decided on sharing the "Cured & Homemade Teriyaki Confit Pork Belly with Chinese long beans, demi-glace a l'orange, and star anise jus" off the "Unusual" category of the menu and the "Merguez Sausage and Shrimp Tart with Fennel and Caramelized onion jam, Mint, and Fennel greens with an Emulsion of Cumin-Harissa" under the "wood-burning oven tart" category.
The pork belly was...okay. It reminded me of something my mom cooks on occasion, except, not as tender and delicious. The pork belly was a little bit dry/firm around much of the edges with a few small areas of really tender meat. It was flavorful but nothing special, nothing amazing. I'd prefer mom's pork belly any day because its not as pricey! haha. Moving on...
The tart -- well lets call it what it was...it was a small pizza cooked in a wood-burning oven. The pizza had bold Mediterranean flavors. The sausage was likely lamb based so you'll have to like lamb with mediterranean spices. The shrimp in my mind, was a bit weird for a pizza topping, although it was well seasoned and tender and a good size. I know shrimp exists as a pizza topping and some people love it, but it just confirmed in my mind that its not my cup of tea....Although I was only sharing half of the small pizza with my friend, I could only eat about 2/3 of my piece before my palate was just overwhelmed and I could not swallow another bite. We both agreed that the dish was definitely not something we could finish off by ourselves because of the heavy flavors and were glad that we shared it.
To finish it off, I ordered 1 rose-flavored macaroon. I was still on my macaroon kick and it looked so cute in the jar from afar. i knew ahead of time that there was no way I could fall in love with this macaroon because flower-flavored food does not fit my idea of yummy, but, I felt like, why not give it a try despite my mild aversion. Why an aversion? Flower-flavored foods remind me of eating perfume/soaps...hehe. Anyways, thankfully it was lightly scented rose, so it was ok. The filling was nice. But I wouldn't order it again...(completely personal preference).
Bottom line-Would I eat there again? Maybe...I would try some other dishes (tasting menu). I'm willing to give it a second chance because its not that the food was bad...it just wasn't amazing for the price...but I am open to the fact that maybe we chose the wrong dishes.
Warning: Pork belly and Tart appear larger than actual size.