Saturday, October 27, 2007

Taco Rosa

Taco Rosa is a favorite of fellow food blogger ChristianZ of Orange County Mexican Restaurants which has led him to do many reviews of both the Newport Beach and Tustin Marketplace locations.

Taco Rosa is located in the Irvine side of the Marketplace in the parking lot adjacent to the food court housing Pat & Oscar's, Corner Bakery, Pasta Bravo, and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. This location opened in March 2007, so it is fairly new.

The dining room is very elegantly furnished, so it is a nice place to take a date. The lamps are ornately decorated, each table has a fresh rose, and the very high-backed booths keep the noise level contained.

In the above photo, you can see their chocolate fountain on the left, which we will return to at the end of the post.

Everyday there are two different flavors of aguas frescas to choose from. Today's choices were horchata and mango. The mango aguas frescas I chose was very refreshing and delicately sweetened by the natural fruit sugars.

While you may go to a Mexican restaurant and expect complimentary chips and salsa, at Taco Rosa you receive an amuse bouche of two different items whenever you visit. Today's amuse bouche was a bean tostada and a chicken flauta, both topped with cotija cheese. Served alongside the amuse bouche was escabeche, a mixture of pickled carrots, onions, and jalepenos.

The bean tostada was quite refreshing with its heaping mound of lettuce and tomatoes, peppery pinto beans, and crisp corn tortilla.

On the two occasions that we have visited Taco Rosa, Devin has ordered the Morenita Quesadilla. The whole wheat tortilla is filled with cheese, chicken, avocado, onions, and tomatoes, served with rice, beans, sour cream, guacamole, and escabeche.

Taco Rosa has an wide variety of tacos to choose from, all for $3.50 each. Although their website says that the Lobster Tacos are market price, my Lobster Tacos on this visit cost $3.50. The tacos came with more escabeche, tortilla chips, and salsa and I also had the option of accompanying the tacos with rice and beans, but I thought the three tacos would suffice.

In the above photo, clockwise from the top are the Portobello Mushroom, Salmon Taco, and Lobster Tacos. You will notice that although I only ordered one Lobster Taco, a serving comes with two Lobster Tacos because they are actually smaller in size than the other tacos.

The Lobster Tacos are topped with mango habanero cream sauce and mango relish. These were my favorite of the three tacos. The lobster was plump and juicy and served in a fried flour tortilla, making for a deliciously light and crisp taco.

In addition to the charbroiled portobello mushroom, the Portobello Taco has red peppers, onions, and cheese. Because mushrooms absorb liquids very easily, the contents of this taco were very slippery. It was not a pretty sight to see as I took a bite and the taco filling fell out the back end and oil dripped down my hands. Alas, I cannot deny a mushroom and really enjoyed the robust flavor of the portobello paired with the sweet red peppers and onions.

I was surprised by the size of the grilled salmon filet in the Salmon Taco. Topped with papaya butter sauce and papaya relish, I could barely fold the corn tortilla due to the size of the salmon. The subtle flavor of papaya complimented the strong flavor of the grilled salmon very well.

I was quite satisfied after the amuse bouche and the four tacos, but I made a sacrifice in the name of food blogging and ordered dessert.

Although not a big fan of flan, I was intrigued by the Flan De Queso served at Taco Rosa. The Flan De Queso is a baked cream cheese flan served with a pool of framboise vanilla sauce, drizzled with chocolate from their chocolate fountain, and dotted with fresh raspberries. The flan not only has the dense consistency of cheesecake, but the first flavor that hits your tongue is cheesecake and finishes smoothly with the custard flavor of flan. Paired with the creamy framboise vanilla sauce and specks of chocolate, this made for an amazing end to our meal.

Taco Rosa
13792 Jamboree Road
Irvine, CA 92602

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Waikiki Hawaiian Grill

I first went to Waikiki Hawaiian Grill based on Elmomonster's post and have now been back several times.

Waikiki Hawaiian Grill is located in an unassuming shopping center called Tustin Plaza. I visit this shopping center for the Office Depot, Souplantation, and Wahoo's Fish Taco, but I never even noticed Waikiki Hawaiian Grill until I read Elmomonster's post.

The interior of Waikiki Hawaiian Grill is small, with only about six tables inside, but it is spotlessly clean. Really, the interior shines, probably due to the highly lacquered tables. As you can see in the above photo, pictures accompany many of the menu items, so if it's your first time trying Hawaiian food like it was for me the first time I visited Waikiki, then you'll be comforted by seeing exactly what you're ordering before it's brought out to you.

I was reprimanded for taking pictures after the above photo, so the next pictures may be blurry, as I took them in the most stealth manner that I could.

All the Plate Lunches and Mini Meals come with a scoop of white rice and a scoop of macaroni salad. The macaroni salad here is amazingly creamy, with a few shreds of carrot, and tuna! I was surprised to find little bits of tuna in the macaroni salad and it really makes for a delicious macaroni salad.

On this visit, I ordered the Crispy Shrimp Mini Meal. Although it's called a "Mini Meal", this portion of four crisp and golden shrimp was the perfect size. With the addition of the Crab Rangoon that I also ordered, I had to save half of my meal for dinner that night!

I'm definitely a "Dipper", using ketchup with my french fries, ranch or honey mustard dressing with my pizza, and olive oil and balsamic vinegar with bread, and whenever I visit Waikiki, it's no different. Because pairing fried shrimp and white rice is a little dry for my palate, I dipped my Crispy Shrimp into the Katsu sauce that came with Devin's order of Chicken Katsu .

Crab Rangoon are wonton shells filled with a mixture of cream cheese, green onions, and crab and then deep fried to a gooey consistency on the inside while staying crispy on the outside. On a previous occasion, the Crab Rangoon that I ordered from Waikiki were room temperature and the wonton skins were chewy with staleness. The Crab Rangoon on this visit were piping hot and deliciously creamy.

Devin always orders the Chicken Katsu from Waikiki and has begun to order two scoops of macaroni salad in place of the white rice, because the macaroni salad really is that amazing! Although I can't tell you my personal experience with the Chicken Katsu, Devin describes it as perfectly fried to a crisp without being greasy. He really enjoys the accompanying katsu sauce, so we usually ask for two containers of the sauce. The Chicken Katsu is only available as a Plate Lunch, so the portion lasts him at least two meals. There are just layers upon layers of Chicken Katsu in this Plate Lunch.

Since we dined in for this review, I chose a Hawaiian Sun Green Tea with Lychee and Ginseng. I really love lychee-flavored anything (remember those little jello's with the piece of lychee floating in the middle?), but I think this drink was a little too sweet for my taste. The sweetness of the lychee was the only thing I could really taste.

Dining-in, we received our meal in styrofoam containers with plastic utensils. So while Waikiki does have a clean dining room with music piped in through speakers, it's really the kind of place to order your food and go.

When I'm feeling especially hungry, I order the Mahi-Mahi, which is available only as a Plate Lunch portion. The Mahi-Mahi comes with tartar sauce, but I usually end up stealing a container of Devin's katsu sauce to dip the fish into. The four squares of mahi mahi that come in the Plate Lunch are large and, just like the Chicken Katsu and Crispy Shrimp, fried to a golden perfection without being greasy. It's really an amazing cooking process because you're not left feeling the heavy, greasy guilt after eating a plate of fried food. The Crispy Shrimp, Chicken Katsu, and Mahi-Mahi are all breaded in panko crumbs, which may account for the light, greaseless frying process.

Waikiki Hawaiian Grill
13771 Newport Ave.
Suite 10
Tustin, CA 92780