There are elevated dining experiences, and then there are dining experiences at a higher elevation, where one can safely cut through huge hunks of beef and yell from the peak, “Fear me, for I am the king of eating!” The people at the bottom of the hill may look up for a brief second, perhaps keep going about their daily lives, leaving the curious to wander up the hill one day for a turn of their own.
Outdoor firepits and water features aside, what hits the glassware and plates inside Orange Hill can be equally as stunning as the view, where a pre-dinner cocktail in the O Bar is a perfect way to start a date. Led by the talented Allan Camarena, the bar program is easily one of OC’s hidden gems, with a menu derived from interesting flavor combinations and a cocktail theory mixed with a healthy dose of tried-and-true recipes.
I was craving something tropical, zesty and sweet, so I went with the Prickly Pear cocktail, which has Elyx, elderflower, ginger and lemon. The drink may be foofoo pink and vodka-based, but it’s one of those sippers that has a nice floral earthiness balanced by the lemon-and-mint garnish.
It’s all about the small plates at this time, and the barbecue duck taco hits with a smokey-and-sweet blackberry-chipotle sauce and satisfying taco crunch. “It’s like smoking quack,” I say to myself in my best Donald Duck voice. Pair it with the Smoke & Honey cocktail, which has a kick of Islay Scotch peat smoke to achieve a higher level of duck-smoke consciousness. If you’re down to try more apps or salads, grab the Frog’s Hollow peaches and burrata while it lasts, as it’s basically glazed cuts of nectarous summer fruits paired with the addictive cheese.
Orange Hill is a modern steakhouse at heart, and a small herd of new steaks just joined the menu, most notably a few cuts from Tasmanian beef producer Cape Grim and a zabuton from Snake River Farms. Zabuton is Japanese for “little pillow” and is basically organic Lunesta.
The zabuton cut is considerably mild despite its thunderstorm of white marbling. If you’re more a fan of that Sam Elliot-narrated cut of beef, go for the 1855 New York strip that is about as classic as steak gets. Although both are cooked to perfection, the 1855’s thickness and outer sear nearly bursts juice like a scene from Kill Bill: Vol. 2 when rare. If it’s a special night, definitely go with the Ghost Block cabernet from Oakville, which is a touch on the pricy side but cuts through each bite like a well-placed laser beam.
Orange Hill, 6410 E. Chapman Ave., Orange, (714) 997-2910; theorangehillrestaurant.com .