Costa Mesa: Tasting Menu at Leatherby’s
A few times a year, I head down to Orange County for theatre shows. Last month, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre was in town. Alvin Ailey is my favorite modern dance troupe so I made the 40 mile trip down to Costa Mesa. I always have trouble deciding where to eat before a show there. This time, I was invited to try the tasting menu at Leatherby’s Cafe Rouge. They are attached to the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall (at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts). When it first opened, we did not love our experience enough to do more than stop by for a cocktail before a show. Years have passed and now Chef Ross Pangilinan has taken the reins. Recently named one of Zagat’s 30 under 30, Chef Ross came up with a delicious and refined menu.
Leatherby’s was offering a 3-course menu in honor of Alvin Ailey but we had the 5-course tasting menu. We began with the Hawaiian Kanpanchi. The fish is wrapped around avocado and romaine lettuce. There’s also ginger, jalepeno, Asian pear, wasabi oil and yuzu soy gelee. It’s a work of art.
With this strong start, we wondered if we would have any other favorites?
Chef Ross came out to introduce himself and our risotto. It was very good and I could taste the chicken stock. My friend is nitpicky about her risotto. She thinks she makes the best risotto but this reminded her of her own- a high compliment!
Next we had the Eastern Diver Scallops. The two perfectly seared scallops came with Israli cous cous, tobouleh, baby carrots, scallions, harissa carrot lime puree and a coriander vinaigrette. My friend was fascinated by the rainbow carrots. Chef shops at the farmers’ markets for them.
I love Israeli cous cous and thought this was a great side to the scallops.
About a month and half back, my friend and I had gone to Jose Andres’ Tres at the SLS Hotel in LA. We both had the steak and she raved about it. I personally thought it was tasty but oddly not the right temperature. This night, we both agreed was a much better steak. And I loved all the little veggies and the bone marrow croquette it was accompanied with.
After we had made such a fuss about the rainbow carrots, Chef Ross made us a special rainbow carrot and tangerine sorbet along. Carrots are naturally sweet so having it as a sorbet was pretty interesting.
Despite my lack of a sweet tooth, I do appreciate chocolate and really enjoyed this crunchy kit kat cake. It’s not the junk food chocolate candy but rather Chef Ross’ take on the classic sweet with hazelnuts, chocolate sauce and passionfruit sorbet.
My only recommendations would be the bartenders and servers (our server made my Negroni) learn the difference between shaken and stirred cocktails. Both the Manhattan and Negroni I ordered were shaken. The frothy icy drinks probably did jive with the light menu but not really for serious cocktail geeks. On the other hand, my friend who had arrived earlier than I did was able to to talk to the bartender about what she liked. She wanted something with cucumber and he made her a cucumber mojito that wasn’t too sweet. It was her ideal cocktail. Later, she went with wine where the manager worked on finding that right glass to go with her meal and another perfect dessert wine.
I definitely would come back to dine before a show now that I know Chef Ross is in the kitchen. We had such a great time and it was fun watching the Alvin Ailey directors also enjoy a meal there. You never know if you’re going to run into stars!
Renee & Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall/ Segerstrom Center for the Arts615 Town Ctr Dr., Costa Mesa, CA 92626 — (714) 429-7640
© The Minty 2012