Orange County Tongue...This is a blog of rants and raves about our culinary and dining experiences. This is the OC food blog that focuses on a variety of cuisines...everything from French to Thai...stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Rendezvous, San Juan Capistrano - 11.30.05

We heard about a new restaurant in San Juan Capistrano. Actually, Jay heard about it through a chance encounter with someone in one of the local hangouts. Anyway, it was recommended; we looked at the impressive website and decided to go to a rare mid-week dinner.

We were both immediately pleased with the decor and atmosphere. It has a bar with a baby grand piano and the overall effect of Rendezvous is classy and established. We met the proprietor, who turned out to have owned a couple of restaurants in the East Coast. It made sense that he is manning this one because it has a very Northeastern feel to it.

enjoyed it. We had just gone to a place called Vine in San Clemente a few weeks before this trip. We could not help but compare this ravioli dish with the one at Vine. The raWe chose a ravioli dish as an appetizer and by looking at the photo, it is clear that we bothvioli appetizer at Vine had truffle oil and was a tad more delicate than the one at Rendezvous. Nevertheless, it was heartily enjoyed.

Jay ordered the Prime Flat Iron Steak prepared with Cilantro Chimichurri & Tzaziki Sauce, Rendezvous Bistro Fries, Summer Tomato Salad. It was delicious, meaty, juicy and hit all the right spots. The fries were packed with flavor and it made the experience promising.

Anna Lisa chose the Pan Seared Alaskan Halibut with Hazelnut Romesco Sauce, Homemade Gnocchi, Asparagus, Baby Artichokes, Wild Mushrooms, Crispy Prosciutto. I had to pick out the bacon but enjoyed the fish and all else that came with it. It was presented beautifully - - with colorful red, yellow and green sauces.

Rendezvous was well worth the mid-week dinner. The service was a bit sloppy - - we waited longer than expected for our entrees - - too long for a Wednesday night. Still, we knew on the way out that we would be back.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Ramos House Cafe, San Juan Capistrano - 11.27.05

We were both starving one Sunday morning. We decided to drive to San Juan Capistrano but most of the local restaurants which offered brunch had long waiting lists. We had been to Ramos House before but this time was different. We opted for the Sunday Brunch - - a four- course meal for $30.

Ramos House is located by the train depot and across railroad tracks. It looks like a small house because it is a small house. After a short wait, we were seated at one of the handful of tables in this quaint outdoor restaurant.

The Brunch includes a choice of beverage, a starter, a main entree and a dessert. For starters, Jay picked the Sweet Corn Hush Puppies w/ Sweet Pepper Jam and Anna Lisa selected a bowl of pumpkin soup. Really, we tried a bit of each and enjoyed both as well. The starters made us look forward to the main course.

Jay's main course was the
Smoked Bacon, Baby Spinach & Caramelized Onion Scramble - - yum. He throoughly devoured this dish and Anna Lisa had a little bit of it as well. She opted for the Large Plate of Basil Cured Salmon w/ Herb Sauce & Toast Points. As expected, it was a little salty but really delicious and perfect for a Sunday morning.

Ramos House is one of those unique places worth returning to and spreading the word about to all we know. You will likely find a wait on a weekend morning. You will likely be glad that you stuck around because you will enjoy the experience.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Indigo, Dana Point - or - Mikey's Place

Our inaugural posting of OC Tongue - We - a food loving couple - eat out way too much and enjoy it way too much to not help our common diner. By the way, pics in future columns will be expected as my woman is a photo junkie.

Indigo opened roughly nine months ago to little fanfare due to it being in a location that has doomed many a restaurant in spite of its excellent location. Rib Trader and others have failed in this locale while others around it have succeeded. The effort is there, the direction is not.

Caveat (he hates this word) - This review is based on our first visit, when it was a mere two months old. Since then, we have returned on multiple occasions...and we'll report on this later.

DECOR/AMBIANCE - Oh my gosh, after ten minutes of starting and stopping his review, I finally had to take over the keyboard...OK, here it goes. Decor is generally not a factor that attracts or detracts us from a joint but we thought it's a good element to talk about. Some interiors can really take your breath away...Now back to Indigo. There is a blue-purple discreet neon light that spells the name of the restaurant. It's not tacky at all, just enough to intrigue a commuter driving down PCH and Violet Lantern. During our first visit, I noticed that each table had a touch of blue on it...a tribute to its name, perhaps? Back then, the joint was still in its beginning stages and it was clear that it had not yet decided on a theme. We saw big screen TVs that played no sports but instead, hypnotic visuals of identical colorful aquariums. I liked them. Well, enough about that. Rating 6.9 out of 10.

FOOD - Now to the important stuff, and yes I am back to what I know about. First, the wine list - On our initial escapade, we were met by the wine steward (well, not really, just the guy who walked up with a sheet of paper that listed wines on it). He was friendly enough, but more about service later...J gives the wine list a B or B-. It had a lot of Central Coast wines in the boutique mold, kind of like the ones you think you've heard of before but aren't quite sure...We like the buttery chardonnay - if you order it that way, you are likely to get the one we're talking about. This was two months ago and we never bothered to remember the name on the label...we just order the "buttery chardonnay." Wine by the glass needs improvement, as the choices were a half dozen, nothing stood out and a selection that forces you to the bottle...no, seriously. Wine List Rating 7.2.

We started with the scallop appetizer, which came in a Chinese style with bokchoy and varies between 3-5 scallops, depending on size. We found it the highlight of the night. Very tasty and good texture. Brown on the outside, moist and tender on the inside. Dressed to impress. Rating 8.1.

The paella was recommended, but it required a 35-minute prep-time and we were both hungry. ALB ordered the salmon, which was grilled with a good seasoning but it really was not spectacular for the roughly $18 price(y) tag. JDL ordered the pork chop, which while very well cooked, had a good amount of fat on it. While the fat added to the flavor, it cut down on the size of the pork chop!!! Salmon Rating - 5.8 Pork Chop Rating - 7.5

Keep in mind, this review is based on a visit from two months ago so future blogs will have greater detail.

SERVICE - The pork chop initially was a bit undercooked and it took the waitress (whom we later found out was in training that night, so we eased up on her) ten minutes to correct the problem. Outside of that, service is probably the highlight of Indigo. The GM, Mike, is unbelievably personable and you can tell that he treats it as if it were his own place. The "wine steward" allowed us to taste two different varietals. Unfortunately, he is no longer there, but the service remains. Another welcoming character is Lucky, a sixty-ish year old friendly young man who seems to have just come out of a lucky charm box. He is friendly and warm and we like that.

If you find that the bar has extra seats, take them and take them now! Consider eating at the bar. Why? Mikey (yup, that's what he wants to be called), the cornerstone of this restaurant, will entertain you and leave you coming back again and again. He is the epitome of good service, especially for one who tends bar. How often do you go into a restaurant bar, only to be greeted by "what'll it be"? No chance here...as Mikey will greet you by name, know your drink and maybe make you regret that you sat in one of the booths. Seriously, one of the reasons we have been back about two dozen times is the homey atmosphere that we get there...It's like Cheers all over again...and they scream "Norm!" when you walk into the door. Well, they scream JDL and ALB.

Live music has been attempted. It has succeeded and failed at different times. ALB really liked the solo blues guitarist-vocalist (who is no longer there). JDL disagreed.

Service Rating - 8.6

Overall, Indigo is a good neighborhood restaurant. We really wanted it to succeed, we understand the growing pains of new establishments...which is why we will give it another try. Read our review of Indigo Volume II when we get to it.

Overall Rating - 7.1 out of 10.

Next up...Gemmell's, Dana Point.