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101 Must-Try Tastes

From little places that serve up big bites to small-plate offerings done right by the big boys, here’s the dish on the plates we dream about.

The Miso-Marinated Chilean Sea Bass at TAPS Fish House & Brewery

[ 1 ]
Bone Marrow
Riviera dining critic Jamie Gwen had it right when she said, “You’ll be emailing and tweeting and Instagramming your friends about [this dish].” Roasted fat from a veal marrow bone is spread upon grilled bread. It’s topped by bitter greens and a sprinkling of raisins. So, where will you find it? Little Sparrow.
[ 2 ]
Banana Bread Pudding
It’s no surprise why Maro Wood Grill’s Executive Chef Debra Sims’ sweet concoction nabbed the Most Delicious Dessert honor at the Golden Foodie Awards. It’s uberdelicious, with artisan brioche, organic eggs, sugar, Argentinean dulce de leche and vanilla bourbon cream sauce.
[ 3 ]
Salt and Pepper Calamari
Even those who don’t like calamari gobble this up. Tender calamari is tossed in a savory batter with salt, pepper and chef Helene An’s secret seasonings, then deep fried and served with a Thai basil aioli. It’s on AnQi’s tapas menu and meant for sharing, but we order one each—it’s that good.
[ 4 ]
Pork Osso Bucco

Splashes’ fare capitalizes on our coastal bounty, but this is a delish surprise for seafood lovers and landlubbers alike. Pork shank (that’s right, pork—not veal) is braised until it’s melt-in-your-mouth good, then served in a Parmesan broth with white beans and wilted spinach. It’s a clever take on a Milanese favorite.
[ 5 ]
Butcher’s Board

This alone is worth a stop at Irvine Spectrum Center—although there are plenty of reasons to love Paul Martin’s American Grill. The plate boasts everything from La Quercia prosciutto and coppa to Creminelli salami tartufo to Bellwether Carmody cow’s milk cheese and Shaft bleu. Fromage, please!
[ 6 ]
Miso-Marinated Chilean Sea Bass

The pepper jam pushes this entree created by TAPS Fish House & Brewery into the divine category. It’s made of red, green and yellow peppers, and it complements the delicate flavors of the sea bass, which is stacked atop a generous helping of sticky rice and sauteed spinach.
[ 7 ]
Nutella and Banana Waffle Sammie

The alfresco waffle-sandwich concept’s first spot in Old Towne Orange is always packed with hip kids and foodies alike—and we do mean always. But that stands to reason: Bruxie (which now has shops throughout Orange County) uses authentic Belgian waffles as the base for sweet and savory fillings like our favorite, with Nutella, bananas and sweet cream, all packed between "The Bold Fold."
[ 8 ]
Seafood Skins

For a quick but indulgent bite, we belly up to Captain Jack’s bar and order these. Baked potato halves are hollowed out and stuffed with seasoned crab and shrimp, topped with cheese and baked again, then finished with green onion, and served with salsa and ranch dressing. They’re messy and marvelous. 562.592.2514
[ 9 ]
Sichuan Fried Chicken Taco

At Taco Asylum, chef Greg Daniels elevates the street food to gourmet status. Take this ensemble: The chicken is fried in a delectably spicy buttermilk batter, then placed in a housemade tortilla. A creamy five-spice yogurt blankets the meat, and it’s completed with a black bean and black garlic puree. Now that’s thinking out of the shell!
[ 10 ]
Avocado Mash

Sometimes simple is best—and SideDoor’s mainstay mash is a fine example. Garlic, lime juice, zest, oil and salt are combined with the fruit, then the chunky blend is sprinkled with Maldon sea salt and lemon to bring out the flavors. It’s served with pita chips for scooping up the stuff. If you’re like us, you’ll need a second—or third—helping.

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