July 22, 2024

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Simply The Best Food

Winter Openings and Mistaken Food IdentitiesVoice of OC

8 min read

Anne Marie Panoringan

Voice of OC’s food columnist — reporting on industry news, current events and trends. Panoringan’s prior work includes writing about food for 8 years at the OC Weekly in which she interviewed more than 330 chefs, restauranteurs and industry professionals for her weekly On the Line column. She has been recognized by the Orange County Press Club and she also is a recurring guest on AM 830’s SoCal Restaurant Show.

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Winter in Orange County looks very similar to the rest of the year, except for a flurry of rain days and occasional sweater weather. While the struggle to remain open continues for most independently-owned restaurants, a select number of kitchens quietly debuted in recent months. From a ghost kitchen within a beach city hotel to kosher fare, here are a quartet of eateries seeking your takeout business.

Remember that delivery services cut into the profits of small businesses, so if you can, order directly from them and go the extra step to pick up meals whenever possible. Your thoughtfulness will be appreciated.

New Kids on the Block

LAKE FOREST: Over at the intersection of Bake and Trabuco is Umma’s. Korean for ‘Mom,’ owners Melody Chin and June Choe are both sisters and mothers, hence the name. Their take on KBBQ comes by way of Oahu, where the dish that drew me in, meat jun, is a specialty. Thinly sliced, marinated beef takes a dip in egg wash before being introduced to the grill. While jun appears omelette-like, it is a tender, ono take on island plate lunches.

Proteins are grilled to order, and meals include your choice of four banchan (side dishes). Epitomizing comfort cuisine, Chin learned banchan recipes while residing in Seoul before joining Choe in Hawaii to open multiple restaurants. Be sure to load up on their “Hawaiianized” versions of mac salad and spicy cucumbers.

LAGUNA BEACH: The term “ghost kitchen” refers to a menu served without a dedicated dining room or storefront. In the case of La Casa del Camino’s boutique hotel kitchen, The Rooftop Lounge, it now has a variety of Asian-themed take-out menus representing sister properties in L.A. One addition to the dedicated takeaway service, the Super Rich menu is a nod to savory onigiri (rice balls) normally found in Echo Park. I was partial to the yuzu salmon with opal basil. (The Super Rich menu is not on the website, but can be found on delivery service sites like Seamless. If you call La Casa directly, it’s worth asking about this menu.) The new Surf Panda menu plates familiar Chinese entrees including chicken with mushrooms and hearty beef broccoli over duck fat fried rice.

Yamashiro Beverage Company crafts bottled cocktails originating from its Hollywood Hills hotspot. Choose from Silk Whisperer (green tea vodka), Double Happiness (tequila/mezcal), and Brand New World Rickey (lime leaf infused gin). Food service is available for takeout and delivery, plus La Casa’s website reminds visitors that it is open and steps from the beach. When the weather cooperates, grab a blanket and finish your meal al fresco.

TUSTIN: While not the sole Kosher option in Orange County, the newest can be found off El Camino in Old Town. Nosh House is an offshoot of longstanding OC Kosher Market a couple of doors over. Cooking up an eclectic menu that includes ahi tuna salad, schnitzel and kebabs, my initial visit was for its pastrami and corned beef panini. Chef Odee Magana recommends the fried chicken sando; featuring meat cooked in Riesling, try the optional pretzel hoagie over the standard burger bun as your vessel of choice.

Nosh’s menu is under the watchful eye of the Rabbinical Council of Orange County plus Glatt Kosher, and is closed on Saturdays for Shabbat.

IRVINE: Hailing from Northern California, Marufuku Ramen’s entrance into Orange County a few weeks ago brings the city’s ramen count up to nine (10 if you count J San Ramen’s second location) – not that anyone’s complaining. Bay Area transplants know the primary reason to frequent this particular soup specialist is for chicken paitan: simmered chicken in a poultry-based broth. I checked it out over the weekend, and was pleased with the alternative to pork-laden tonkotsu flavors.

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