While many On the Line subjects are modest in their responses, I quickly realized part one was turning into 'Leonard's guide to dining in Orange County'. For a slender guy, the man can eat! So for those that are still with us, a few more words from Leonard. The first half is a summary of his existing and upcoming concepts around here. Then we wrap things up with many of his favorite restaurant recommendations.
Are you still there? It's a lot of ground to cover, especially if you consider yesterday's segment.
We're almost done, we promise!
You've got a lot of concepts. Tell us what is up and running; then what's in the works in Orange County. GO!
Yowzas. It's hard to believe the time that has zipped by already. I started, with the help of my old friend Wayne Atchley (the original California Shabu Shabu owner) and my friend and business partner Ash Chan at California Shabu Shabu in Costa Mesa six years ago. From there, I popped up The Iron Press at SoCo, and shortly after that, opened the doors to Shuck Oyster Bar along with Chef Noah Blom at The OC Mix in 2012.
At the end of May 2014, the Packing House in Anaheim had its grand opening. We launched three spots there: our second location for The Iron Press, Rolling Boil Asian hot pot and sake bar, and The Blind Rabbit – our Prohibition-style concept bar.
We are rounding the corner to open three restaurants in the Union Market at The District in Tustin. Our second location of Rolling Boil, with the addition of Yakitori (Asian barbecue skewers) with Chef Roger Lee, Hatch (our sliders concept with a modern take on the Tiki bar and 41 taps!) with Chef Andrew Singh, and Taco Bandito (traditional and mash-up tacos with a Tequila and craft Mexican beer bar) with Chef Steve Pace.
We are in the design and engineering phase of two exciting projects– one at ARTIC and a collective at JIA in Chinatown DTLA we are calling The Apiary.
At ARTIC, we put ourselves up to the challenge of squeezing in four concepts into a relatively small space. We will be launching our experimental cocktail bar, Medicine. At The Blind Rabbit, we wanted to focus on classic craft cocktails, really putting our own fingerprints on them, which dynamic duo Robert and Ying Adamson have done an amazing job on.
For Medicine, we really want to roll our sleeves up and get wacky with our drinks. We want our apothecaries there to treat the bar like a childhood chemistry set, and our goal is to have that show through as our libations come trickling out of the glass. SILO will be our first venture into a full-blown, health-conscious concept. We will be offering up healthy bowls and wraps in a relatively clean and simple layout. You pick your base grain, such as couscous, brown rice, white rice; then you select from a mix of different vegetable choices, and finish off with a protein. The usual suspects are chicken, tofu, seafood, beef and pork prepared in different savory sauces. We have been toying with the idea of using more, I hate using the word, but “exotic” meats which are leaner and just as tasty. Think ostrich, buffalo, guys of that nature. Oh, I almost forgot my favorite part of SILO! We will be featuring a few deliciously light poke bowls from Chef Mina Sacramento.
We have run into some obstacles at ARTIC with weight loads, but we are still very hopeful to get a nano brewery in the space under our Black Sheep Brewing concept. We are in the process of securing a space in Anaheim for a full production brewery, but this will be our Research and Design (R.A.D.) arm of the brewery that Sean O'Shea will be heading up with us. Attached to this little sucker will be our public house, serving up oodles of juicy and yummy burgers, a generous selection of nachos and some surprises we have up our sleeves to put our twist on classic brewpubs.
Completely unrelated to food, we are helping Shelby Baskins, an Anaheim native, open up his first men's grooming spot simply called The Shop. At The Shop, can get a full cut, trim, straight shaves, shoes shined . . .the whole shebang. Shelby has already found, and is in the process of restoring two beautiful vintage barber chairs. One of which we had on display for two events celebrating the opening of ARTIC.
Favorite places to eat (besides your own).
Wow, this is such a loaded question. Thank goodness you didn't limit me to one, or my head would've popped off my neck.
Torimatsu in Gardena for yakitori. Hands down the best authentic skewers outside of Japan that I have ever had. For the brave, this is the only place I have had chicken sashimi in the states.
Hamamori in Costa Mesa for sushi. This is such a tough decision, but the way Chef James Hamamori blends together such delicate ingredients is out of this world. If you're lucky, ask him to make a lightly seared scallop, topped with toro, then a slice of uni and finished with a little shaved truffle. He's done it once with a dab of crab, too. Heaven.
Seafood Cove 2 in Westminster for dim sum. Down home, authentic dim sum that we have been going to since I was a kid. This place is not just about the dim sum. Chef Eddie Lai has created some wonderful non-traditional dishes throughout his travels and studies in Asia. If you love butter, go for the lobster with noodles. Rich as heck, and you'll be wiping your lips for 30 minutes afterwards, but well worth it. I was recently there, and they had (swimming in one of their tanks) an eight pound, alien-like king crab that had the span of a full-sized table for 10.
Mastro's Steakhouse for, well, steak. I have never had a bad meal or service at any of their locations. It's classic, fun (we usually eat in the bar area, where live acts fill the room), delicious, and great for special occasions. Most people skip this dish, but do yourself a favor and try the green beans with sliced almonds.
Yu's Garden in Irvine for quick, healthy Chinese food in a pinch. It's super affordable, fast and the selection may be bigger than Cheesecake Factory's. Plus they are open late, so I can jam over after a long day and still nab some good grub. I usually go on a tofu and vegetable binge when I am here.
Chong Qing Mei Wei in Irvine for SPICY Chinese. It's tough enough to find good restaurants that serve spicy food, so I was super happy when this spot opened in Irvine. Heaps and heaps of red chili on almost every dish. The boiled fish filet, spicy tofu cubes and melt-your-face-off peppers stir fried with chili dishes are must haves.
Berth 55 in Long Beach for fresh seafood. Owner Lawrence Maehara never ceases to make me happy with fresh local and Maine lobster, loads of Dungeness crab (call in advance, just in case), grilled and seasoned whole fish, clam chowder, great chips and salsa, seafood skewers and cheap beer. What more can you ask for?
Trieu Chau in Santa Ana and Pho 86 in Westminster for noodle soup. These places have been staples of my youth. Funny thing is, the prices have stayed about the same, too. They can both get crowded at times, but are well worth the wait, as these places never disappoint.
Formosa Chinese Restaurant in Lake Forest for traditional Taiwanese breakfast. This place is tucked away and attached to a Quality Inn. I have brought up this place many times, and not one person has ever known where or what it is. It's a shame because their food is delicious, but the real gem is their traditional Taiwanese breakfast menu only served on the weekends. There is a rice cake and woodear mushroom dish that is super tasty, juicy soup dumplings, green onion pancakes, etc. The hot and sour soup is one of the best around, and they make all of their soybean milk in-house.
I am going to stop now. There are so many I haven't listed. Some out-of-towners, too. I am going to leave it as a list for places I frequent.
A contributing writer for OC Weekly, Anne Marie freelances for multiple online and print publications, and guest judges for culinary competitions. A Bay Area transplant, she graduated with a degree in Hospitality Management from Cal Poly Pomona. Find her on Instagram as brekkiefan.