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All About Food: Best 10 dishes from Fountain Valley to Laguna

December 29, 2010|By Elle Harrow and Terry Markowitz
  • The marinated octopus salad with sweet tomatoes, green and black olives, garlic chips, capers and a sherry vinaigrette at Leatherby's Café Rouge at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.
The marinated octopus salad with sweet tomatoes, green… (Scott Smeltzer,…)

The top 10 dishes of 2010 (in no particular order and not a list of the 10 best restaurants):

Café Grill (Fountain Valley): Sweet Potato Ravioli is a winner! Looking more like cannelloni, the toothsome pasta is wrapped around an exquisite sweet potato puree, whipped into a state of sublime creaminess with an astonishing depth of flavor. The nut-brown butter sauce with sage accents adds a whole other dimension of mouth-watering delight. The final fillip is the crispy, deep-fried sage leaves on top. Unbelievably, only $5!

Charlie Palmer (Costa Mesa): Truffle Fried Egg, Potato, Mojama and Salsa Tartufara is luscious. We'd never encountered mojama before. It's like prosciutto for pescetarians: thinly sliced, salted, dried tuna loin. Salsa tartufara is a mushroom truffle sauce. Transforming an American standard, this is bacon and eggs with hash browns gone to heaven. Stacked on top of the deeply flavored chopped mushrooms with truffle oil are slices of creamy fingerling potatoes, topped with a fried egg that oozes a golden glaze over everything. The salty tuna functions as the bacon. All the elements together make a compelling combination.

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Alessa (Laguna Beach): From the very refined to the very homey, Mamma Mia consists of three big meatballs covered with melted burrata cheese and a wonderful, slightly spicy tomato sauce. The meatballs are some of the best; well seasoned, with a really meaty texture.

Leatherby's (Costa Mesa): The Octopus Salad is served on a chilled slab of heavy glass — quite dramatic. The very tender rounds of octopus are tossed with thin slivers of radish, cucumber pearls, black and green olives, yellow and red baby tomatoes, capers and fried slivers of garlic. Gently dressed with very nice sherry vinaigrette, it's finished with a sprinkle of micro-greens. Olives and capers provide saltiness. The tomatoes are especially sweet, the radishes peppery and the fried garlic crunchy and delicately flavored. Each ingredient is top of the line, and they make beautiful music together.

Phans55 (Newport Beach): Vietnamese Spring Rolls are fabulous, with their clean bright flavors. Sushi grade tender ahi, mixed with a variety of herbs, mint, cilantro and perilla leaves, gently pickled daikon and carrot along with crunchy cucumber, green papaya and soft, sweet mango, create an explosion of flavor and texture in the mouth. An extra kick is provided by the unusual sauce – wasabi mayo, floating in soy vinaigrette.

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