Thursday, January 16, 2020

X Marks the Spot?


Xclusive Taqueria Moderna
1701 Corporate Drive Suite C-8
Ladera Ranch, CA 92694

We all have that one friend that is always updating their social media accounts. They post tons of pictures and share with the online world how their day is going and their thoughts on everything. It's always in the back of my mind how they ever get the time to get any work done, watch a movie, or even go to the bathroom. I could never be like that because I'd be afraid that people would become bored with my pretty routine life, and unfollow me rather quickly. 

I know this is a weird way to start a restaurant review, but it's what I thought of when I heard who is one of the owners/partners of Xclusive Taqueria in Ladera Ranch. Chef Chris Tzorin, who is one of the most real and dare I say entertaining people that I follow on Instagram. I've met him a couple of times and because his life is an open book online, I feel like we are a lot closer than what we actually really are. 

I know all about his passion for the culinary industry, the love he has for his family, and his gregarious personality that landed him on the Food Network a handful of times. He has worked in more kitchens than anyone I can think of at the moment; The Beach House, Tortilla Republic, Kutsi, Tempo Urban Kitchen, Savannah Chophouse, Oak, Cafe Tu Tu Tango, Sol Agave, and I'm sure I'm missing a few but my fingers are starting to get tired from typing out the list. At Xclusive, he's now reunited with Manny Velasco and Eddie Perez and they not only have this Ladera Ranch restaurant, but a food truck, and have been doing a steady dose of private chef events. From what I have seen on Instagram, he's happier and busier than ever. 

Now to this trios latest venture in Ladera Ranch. They took over the old Jerry's Dog spot, which is a little hidden, but people seem to have found this place. They have a four and a half star Yelp rating with close to 200 reviews in their short four months in business. Xclusive is a bit of departure for these guys as they shed their fine dining backgrounds and run this as a quick-service restaurant with what they call elevated Mexican food.  Ordering is done at the register and then the food is brought out to the hungry patrons. 

The menu definitely hints at elevated Mexican food with calamari, cazuela de queso, seabass, and pork belly dotting the menu. Stuff you don't normally see at quick-service Mexican restaurants, especially in this area. Prices are a little elevated as well, with tacos going from $4 to $7 and enchiladas, burritos, and quesadillas hovering around the $11 mark. Chef specials like fajitas, braised pork or short ribs go for $18. Let's take a look at what we went with on this rainy Friday evening. 



When Chef Manny was at Sol Agave, he not only had some pretty solid chips and salsas, but he featured an excellent bean dip. I was very happy to see it here at Xclusive. It was just as good as I remembered, but it's very hard to not fill up on it while waiting for your food. The red salsa was also pretty good with a decent amount of spice to it. 





Our food started to come out in waves, so let's see what Katie was up to this evening. She started with two tacos, the Barramundi Seabass Taco ($6) and the Chicken Mole Taco ($5). Out of the two, Katie liked the chicken taco the best. It was dressed with Oaxacan cheese, refried black beans, and pickled habanero onions which gave this a slight kick. The mole had a great flavor to it, a little smokey, then sweet and savory at the end of each bite. The chicken did get a little lost here with everything else that was going on with this taco. The first few bites of the seabass taco were fine, but with the chipotle aioli, avocado mousse, cabbage, mango pico, and the seabass, the tortilla fell apart halfway through eating it. A shame really because these were some really good handmade tacos, but they could not withstand all the weight that was heaped upon them. Katie claims that she's going to get the simpler street tacos next time, as she thinks they will highlight the proteins a lot more. She was impressed with the Side of Rice ($3) she got to round out her meal. She enjoyed the roasted corn in it, which lifted this side dish up. 




I tried one of their tacos as well. I'm a big fan of anything from a pig, so the Pork Belly Taco ($6) would be my selection this evening. The pork belly here was very moist, almost too much. With the mango relish, pickled onion, and lime crema this was one of the wettest tacos I have ever had. I wish the pork belly was in cubed pieces so it would have been a bit more prominent. The tortilla was good but did get soggy near the end. I really enjoyed my Carne Asada Burrito ($12) much better. It came with plenty of carne asada, refried beans, rice, pico de gallo, and guacamole. I'm always a big fan of when they grill the outside of the burrito a bit to provide a nice crispy outer covering. The insides of the burrito were pretty good as well. All the ingredients meshed well together, although they could have used a bit more guacamole in this. I'm looking forward to having another burrito but with the pastor next time. 




Every time we ate at Sol Agave when Chef Manny was there, we'd get a very good version of one of our favorite appetizers, the Cazuela de Queso ($10). We were hoping that it would be the same as the one we had there. Sadly, it wasn't. I think the difference is the cheese blend that they use here. Sharp cheddar, jalapeno jack, and manchego are mixed with chorizo at Xclusive. A quick glance at the Sol Agave menu shows that they use manchego as well, but also Oaxaca and a fresco cheese fondue mixed with sour cream. The consistency was off, as this cazuela de queso was too liquified and the taste was not as good as others we have had. Even the good tortilla could not help save this for us. I also wanted to share the Side of Guacamole ($3) we got as well. Very fresh and it went perfectly with everything we had this evening.

Even with the misstep of the queso dish, I think Xclusive is a welcome addition to the dining scene in the desolate Mexican restaurant landscape that is Ladera Ranch. An area where Jalapenos and Taco Mesa are the only game in town unless you consider the very mediocre Casa Ranchero. The food at Xclusive will cost a few dollars more than those other places mentioned, but they are trying to bring a more gourmet product to the marketplace. Since we live so close I look forward to coming back and finding my perfect meal here. Chef Chris was very welcoming in the front of the house, making sure that everyone was enjoying their food and had everything that they needed. No surprise that he even gave us a shout out online before we even had finished our meal.

Out of five social media networks, (because as mentioned before, Chef Chris is a master at all forms of social media), five being best to zero being worst, Xclusive Taqueria Moderna gets 3 social media networks.

For more information about Xclusive Taqueria Moderna, head to their website here: https://www.xclusiverestaurants.com/

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Hoping for a Friendly Meetup at GuacAmigos


GuacAmigos
2607 Pacific Coast Highway 
Newport Beach, CA 92663

Katie and I are pretty much similar except for one glaring difference, I'm definitely a morning person and she would prefer to sleep in until 11am. I'm fine with it most of the time, but it does put a crimp into one of my favorite meals that we don't get to have enough, brunch. By the time she gets moving, gets dressed, stops at Starbuck's for her twice-daily dose of caffeine, and fight traffic to get where we are going, most restaurants are wrapping up brunch service and getting ready for dinner.

Katie made a real effort to wake up "early" on a recent Sunday when we actually made a jaunt out to experience brunch with our very good friend, Becky. Becky suggested that we try out one of her favorite places as of late, GuacAmigos in Newport. I had only heard of this restaurant when I read a blistering review about it in the OC Register. Brad A. Johnson called it one of the worst new restaurants to open in 2019. I was definitely intrigued to see if it was as bad as he made it out to be.

GuacAmigos comes to us from the duo of skateboarding legend, Tony Hawk and former Playboy Playmate, Nicole Dahm, who along with her sisters formed the famous Dahm Triplets, who were featured in numerous issues of the magazine at the turn of the century. They took over the old Joe's Crab Shack spot in April of last year. 

The Guacamigos team has made great strides in opening up this restaurant from the old days when it was Joe's. It's a lot less cluttered from what I remember, with very comfy booths lining the large windows overlooking beautiful Newport Harbor. I was a little afraid that this being a celebrity-owned restaurant that there would be way too much memorabilia busying up the place. There is a surfboard from Kelly Slater, a snowboard from Saun White, plus other action sports items from others, including Tony Hawk himself, but they are spread out enough, and I think most visitors might not even notice them.

The brunch menu is pretty compact here, with only six entree options available, plus 2 kids meals. Prices are not too crazy when you consider the rents in this area of town. Nothing will set you back more than $17. Drinks are about the same, but there is a  cocktail appropriately called the High Roller, which goes for $40. A little rich for my blood, but let's take a look at what we did end up having on this Sunday Funday.



The obligatory Chips and Salsa shot is up first. The chips were pretty light with a slight dusting of chili powder. The salsa was very mild and needed to have a little more chunk to it for my tastes, along with some spice. Not awful, but nothing that blew us away.



One of the things that almost every employee pushed for us to get was the Tableside Guacamole ($15). We would have probably have gotten it anyway, even without the gentle upselling suggestion. With this one, they roll out a cart and you build your own guacamole with the provided 12 ingredients and 2 avocados. Both Katie and Becky let me be the shot caller in building our guacamole. I went with red onions, garlic, jalapenos, bacon, cilantro, and red pepper. The grilled pineapple intrigued me, but I left it out. The result was a pretty solid version of guacamole. I should have added a bit more bacon and red pepper for a slightly spicier zing.




Both Katie and Becky got the Cali Classic Breakfast Burrito ($13), but with different meats in them. Becky got hers with sausage, while Katie went with chicken tinga. The burritos also came filled with hash browns, cheddar cheese, and sour cream and salsa served on the side. I did not really question Becky about her burrito since we were catching up on how things are going for her, but Katie felt hers was just okay. She liked that they held it on the flattop for a little bit to give the tortilla a little crunch. The inside was a little overwhelmed by the amount of potato included here. She'd probably also get bacon next time, as the tinga lacked the pop of flavor she was hoping for. Kind of just an average breakfast burrito.



I'm crazy for Chilaquiles ($14) and was excited to have them here at GuacAmigos. They start this off with a layer of seasoned tortilla chips and then add ranchero sauce, black beans, chicken, sour cream, a small scoop of guacamole, and two sunny-side-up eggs. Again, this was not anything that blew me away, as it was a pretty pedestrian version of my favorite Mexican breakfast dish. The tortilla chips were pretty limp, the chicken was not present, and this needed a tad more spice to wake up my taste buds.

My opinion of GuacAmigos was not as dire as what I read in that scathing OC Register review, but they do have a lot of work to do if they want to compete with the other Mexican restaurants in the area. The food here was not even close to as good as what we have had at nearby Sol Cocina, Playa Mesa, El Ranchito, El Matador, Red O, and Mi Casa, to name a few. The nice views of the harbor will get people to visit once, but the food and a good beverage program are what they need to have people make return visits. Based on this visit, both of these things need to change. Add some spice to the food, upgrade the ingredients, and make the cocktails a little more affordable are a few of my suggestions. People online have not been kind about the service they have received here, but we experienced none of that. Everyone we encountered was very friendly and seemed to genuinely care about our visit, which was nice. Maybe the food at GuacAmigos was not the best choice to get Katie out of bed, but at least we had the chance for a long-overdue meet up with Becky and got to experience a beautiful view. No need to fret, Katie did get a three-hour nap afterward.

Out of five video games, (because owner Tony Hawk not only is a legendary skateboarder, but he's also put out close to 20 wildly popular video games since 1999), five being best to zero being worst, GuacAmigos gets 2 video games.

For more information about GuacAmigos, head to their website here: https://guacamigos.com/

Friday, January 3, 2020

Third Time the Charm at This Address?


Asian Kitchen
30271 Golden Lantern Suite D
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677

I know I've been doing this restaurant blog for a long time when I have reviewed three different restaurants at the same address. My trifecta of visits to this address started way back in 2010 when we had a pretty unforgettable meal at Chaparosa Grill. We then ate here again in early 2018 when it became breakfast spot Stacks and Yolks. They lasted only nine months, as they were plagued by mediocre food and some scathing reviews about their service on Yelp.

Fast forward to September of last year and there's a new restaurant that opened up to try to break the curse of this address, Asian Kitchen. From what I've been able to find out online, this place is owned by a couple who used to manage Little Kitchen Asian Cafe in Dana Point. Although they have similar-sounding names, they are not related. The couple, Lauren and Chris decided to branch out on their own and try their hand at ownership.

Asian Kitchen is located at the corner of Golden Lantern and Marina Hills, in the same shopping plaza as Albertsons, CVS, and McDonald's. We had made reservations for our party of five at 6pm on a recent Saturday evening. Good thing we had made those reservations, as the restaurant was pretty full when we arrived.

The dining room was nice and spacious, with a higher than I remembered ceiling. The center of the restaurant has a u-shaped bar in the center, with tables scattered around it. The chairs are not the most comfortable, as they are hard metal, but we made them work. The menu at Asian Kitchen is pretty much what you'd expect to see at any mainstream Chinese restaurant in OC. Fried rice, pork, beef, poultry, and noodle dishes dominate, but there are also house specialties, soups, and salads for lighter eaters. We were excited to see if Asian Kitchen would become one of our favorite Chinese spots in south OC.



Starting things off on this evening is the equivalent of chips and salsa in a Chinese restaurant, Fried Wonton Strips with Sweet and Sour Sauce. Yeah, chips and salsa are way better, but I can never resist eating more than my fair share of these before the food arrives. I wish the fried wontons were in bigger pieces, so you could get more of the sweet and sour sauce across more of the surface area of the wonton. They also offered spicy mustard, but I forgot to snap a shot of it.


We started our culinary journey at Asian Kitchen with some Eggrolls ($11.50). These were filled with veggies only, were fried really well, and lacked the greasiness that you would expect from your typical eggroll. They were, however, very bland and even the provided sweet and sour did not help out too much. To be honest, I've always thought of eggrolls as a placeholder before the real food hits the table, so I was not expecting too much here.



As is our custom when eating in a Chinese restaurant, we eat family style, with everyone choosing one dish from the menu. I'm pretty sure this was my uncle Jerry's choice, Orange Chicken ($13,50). This was a good version of one of the most American of all Chinese dishes. The chicken was nice and crispy, while the orange-tinged sauce was sweet and tangy. The green onions and chilis did a great job of cutting the sweetness a bit. Not an overly thick sauce on this either. Way better than the version at Panda Express.


My first time having Chinese food as a kid, I can remember being blown away by Sweet and Sour Pork ($12.95). It was like nothing I had ever eaten before. That was at the now-departed Yen Ching in Orange and is still my benchmark for this dish. This version was fine but not as good as the one from my childhood. The pork cubes could have been a little crisper and the sweet and sour sauce was not as striking as others.


Not usually something that I'd order, but my aunt Hiroko has shied away from meat the last year, so she opted for this Garlic Eggplant ($10.50). This had a whole bunch of veggies in it, red and green bell peppers, onions, bamboo shoots, carrots, mushrooms, and of course eggplant. The vegetables were fine, even though I'm not the world's biggest fan of eggplant, but what made this dish was the very good brown garlic sauce. Very flavorful and I found myself poking around the eggplant near the end of our meal.


This Black Pepper Steak ($16.95) was my selection this evening and ended up being the best dish of the night. I'm not sure what cut of beef they used to make this, but it was very tender. The mushrooms, bell peppers, and black pepper sauce rounded this plate out wonderfully. I ate more than my fair share of this. I hope no one noticed.


Katie is always down for a good time, so it was no surprise that she selected the Vegetable Chow Fun ($11.50). This big pile of flat rice noodles was joined on the plate by a lot of veggies and a light brown sauce. It was good, but I tended to leave it for the meat-centric dishes that we had on this evening.

I left Asian Kitchen pretty full and content. I'd say this is in the upper echelon of Chinese food we have had south of Irvine, but I think nearby China Moon edges it out as the best we have had around these parts. Everything was freshly made and came to the table very hot. The service was very good during our stay on this evening. This is definitely the best restaurant we have been to at this address, and it should be around for a while. If not, then maybe they should just turn this building into another Chase Bank. There seems to be one of those on every corner.

Out of five shopping carts, (because four of the top 10 biggest employers in Laguna Niguel sell groceries), five being best to zero being worst, Asian Kitchen gets 3 shopping carts.

Asian Kitchen has a very bare-bones website, but you can check out their menu and hours by clicking here: https://asian-kitchens.com/

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Best Restaurants of 2019

The years just keep rolling by quicker and quicker these days. When I was a kid it seemed like it took forever for Christmas to get here. Now that I'm a bit older, it feels like it was just last week that all of the Christmas decorations were put away. As is the tradition of not only this restaurant blog but almost every publication around this time of year, it's time to let you all know the top ten restaurants I ate at during 2019, but first, a word of thanks.

I'd like to thank not only the following ten restaurants that are on my upcoming list but all of the restaurants I had the pleasure of eating at during the past 12 months. Restaurants have always been magical places for me. As a kid, I was always in awe that a place could make pretty much whatever I wanted to put in my mouth at any given moment. This enchanted feeling continued in 2019 with the assistance of the numerous hosts/hostesses greeting us, to the wait staff, bussers, cooks, dishwashers, chefs, and managers of the restaurants trying to ensure that we as guests had a wonderful experience in their dining establishments. As someone that works in the service industry, I am in constant awe of the many awesome people that we meet in pretty much every restaurant we visit.

Speaking of great people, I definitely need to thank my family and friends who have put up with my endless picture taking at every meal, the constant questions that I ask about how they enjoy their food, and for them allowing me to pick most of the places that we end up eating at. My number one supporter and cheerleader is my beautiful wife Katie, who not only is my partner in life but suffers through almost every meal you have read about on this blog for the last ten years. Words can not express what it means to have her by my side for not only the last decade but for the rest of my life.

Lastly, I'd like to thank all of you that have stuck with me through this journey of eating and discovering all the restaurants that our wonderful county and beyond has to offer. These days blogs are not really in vogue anymore. It's more of an instant gratification world now, with Instagram pictures, social media posts, videos, and whatever the latest app the kids are using for the next two days before another one hits their phones. My sincerest of thanks for anyone that has taken the time to read my subpar writing and glanced at my photos. I promise a creative writing class and a better camera are definitely in the works. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my posts. It means the world to me that people take the time to read my thoughts about restaurants. Now without further ado let's see the best restaurants we experienced in 2019.


#10 Restaurant Mary - Santa Ana

Not only is this the first restaurant on this list, but it was also the first restaurant we ate at this year. Early in the year, I was obsessed with a chilaquiles list that was put out by the OC Weekly. Restaurant Mary had the best I had this year. Very unassuming place in Santa Ana that makes not only great chilaquiles but everything else we had was excellent as well. Worth a visit.


#9 The Scratch Room - Anaheim

Due to my work schedule for a good majority of the year, I did not really get a chance to visit too many breakfast spots. The Scratch Room was one of the rare exceptions. Crazy busy on the weekends, but worth it with their down-home breakfast plates and probably one of the best slices of banana bread I have had in a restaurant.


#8 Vaka Burger - Irvine

OC residents need to rejoice, as an LA favorite, Vaka Burger has moved south to the new Mess Hall in Irvine. I've visited twice and have loved all the burgers I've inhaled. Forgo the fries and get the best onion rings we have had in a long time.



#7 Din Tai Fung - Costa Mesa

We were very late getting on the Din Tai Fung bandwagon. This restaurant has been at South Coast Plaza for five years now and it's easy to see why there is almost always a wait of an hour plus to get a table. Their dumplings and other options are all top-notch and fresh.


#6 Pino's Cucina - Ladera Ranch

The only Italian spot on our top ten list this year, and thankfully it's right near where we live. Ladera Ranch is not exactly swimming in great restaurants, but Pino's Cucina is one of the rare anomalies in this South OC city. The pasta is freshly made, the sauces burst with flavor, and the proteins are all done perfectly. Consider yourself lucky if you live near here, as we do.



#5 Pascal - San Juan Capistrano

The only restaurant on this list that you can't eat at. Unfortunately, they shut down for good at the end of March. Even better than the duck, french onion soup, and lyonnaise salad that I consumed here, all of which were fantastic, is that Chef Pascal Olhats is feeling much better after battling cancer. He's back teaching French cooking classes at Saddleback College and also working lunches and other special events at Cafe Jardin at Sherman's Gardens in Corona Del Mar. Head there for some great French food from the most legendary chef OC has ever known.



#4 Jav's BBQ - Anaheim

It was a very good year for barbecue in OC, and Jav's is the first of two barbecue spots in our top 4. Located across the street from the Anaheim Packing House, this small stand serves excellent brisket, sausage, and ribs, but do not sleep on the best macaroni and cheese we have had all year. Definitely worth the hassle of finding parking around this part of downtown Anaheim.



#3 Pour Co. - Fullerton

I don't understand why this restaurant doesn't get more love. I've been back three times, and that never happens. Pour Co. is a little off the beaten path of the craziness that is Downtown Fullerton, but if you want to consume the best hamburger I ate all year, you need to head here right away. Save room for the cinnamon roll ice cream sandwich for dessert. You will not be sorry.


#2 Evan's Smokehouse - Yorba Linda

When I was growing up in the land of gracious living, we never had a restaurant like Evan's Smokehouse. Situated on a dirt lot across from a parking structure in the new downtown area, Evan's is turning out some of the best bbq in OC right now. Once you try their brisket, ribs, and potato salad, you will dream of the day when they get their brick and mortar restaurant and be open for business more than just the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings that they are now. Fingers crossed that it happens in 2020.


#1 Ocean at Main - Laguna Beach

Grabbing the number one restaurant spot for 2019 is newcomer, Ocean at Main. Not really a surprise when you find out that Chef Craig Strong, formerly of the award-winning Studio at the Montage has branched out on his own right in the heart of Laguna. We found the food to be playful, full of flavor and possessing an understated elegance that wowed us. Not only the best new restaurant in 2019 but the best we ate at all year.

Thanks again for taking the time to read this blog, and I look forward to sharing more of our restaurant adventures with you in 2020 and well into the next decade.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Our Taco Trek Continues at Tacos De Chino


Tacos Del Chino
2431 Tustin Ave.
Santa Ana, CA 92705

I have been obsessed with tacos recently. One reason is that as the weather turns a bit colder in OC it makes me yearn for Mexican food and some hot salsa that will give my body a jump start. The other catalyst for my taco craving is that the OC Register Restaurant Critic, Brad A. Johnson recently published a list of the best tacos available in Santa Ana. His top ten list included some I have tried and some I have not. On our way to a Ducks game, Katie and I decided to try one that we have not been to yet, and we made a beeline for Tacos Del Chino.

Tacos Del Chino opened this Santa Ana location, their second in late 2017. They started as a food truck back in the '90s and then moved to a brick and mortar spot in El Monte in 2008. This Tustin Avenue spot is situated in a shopping center anchored by a Yum Yum Donuts, a dance studio, tax service center, and other merchants. Plenty of parking is available in front of this shopping plaza.

We arrived here shortly before 6pm on a recent Tuesday. Yes, to answer your immediate question, yes they do have a taco Tuesday special where their steak, chicken and pork tacos all go for one dollar. Other specials splashed across their front window include mulita Mondays, Torta Thursdays, and Sope Sundays. So, unless you are at Tacos Del Chino on a Wednesday, Friday or Saturday, you will be able to take advantage of deals on certain items.

The menu here is pretty much what you'd expect from a Southern Californian Mexican restaurant. They have plenty in the way of tacos, burritos, sopes, quesadillas, tortas, mulitas, nachos, and they even have breakfast listed, which I assume is made all day, since they are not open until 11am all week. Meat options run the gamut from the predictable to the more exotic; asada, chicken, pastor, carnitas, cabeza, chorizo, lengua, tripa, buche, and seso. With so many protein options, the combinations are nearly endless at Tacos Del Chino.

Ordering is done at the register and then the food is brought out to you. The dining area is way more spacious than it appears from the outside. The evening we were here many TVs were tuned to all different sports, including two hockey games, which is a rarity in restaurants these days. Also of note, there's a small salsa station to the right of the register where you can choose to spice up your food a bit. Speaking of the food, let's take a look at what Tacos Del Chino had in store for us this evening.




Let's start things off with Katie's selections this evening. She must have been in a chicken mood, as she is almost every time we go out to eat Mexcian food. She had Two Chicken Tacos ($1 each) and a Pastor Mulita ($3). Katie loved the chicken tacos, which came simply dressed with cilantro and diced onions. The tortillas could have been a tad softer but did a great job of keeping everything together. The pastor mulita was the star of the show though. The tortillas were grilled a bit and filled with some delicious marinated pork, cheese, onions, and cilantro. Just like a quesadilla with meat inside, except it has two tortillas instead of a folded one.



Katie also got a Chicken Sope ($2.95). This sope came piled high with a slathering of beans, shredded lettuce, onions, diced chicken, and cotija cheese sprinkled on top. It was good, but the base of the sope was kind of lackluster and the toppings could not recover. I would have liked this with a little more beans on it to add a little moisture, but the chicken was good and plentiful. Not the best sope we have had, but it was bigger than most we have tried.



I took full advantage that it was taco Tuesday, and had four tacos to fuel me up for cheering on our hometown Ducks a little later in the evening. From left to right, Buche ($1.65), Carnitas ($1), Pastor ($1), and Carne Asada ($1). I had mixed feelings about these tacos. Let's start with the good first. Both the pastor and the asada were delicious, full of flavor, and very tender. I was surprised about the carne asada because I very rarely have luck with it in lots of Mexican restaurants. I used salsa on these two, but they did not really need it. The carnitas taco was fine, but nothing really made it stand out and it was a little on the dry side. The salsa did help out a bit. I had hoped that the buche was going to be as good as the one I had recently at Los Olivos Taqueria in Orange, but that was sadly not the case. If I had to describe this buche in one word, it would be swampy, which is not how you want your tacos to taste. I also had a Chorizo Mulita ($3.50) which I sadly did not get a picture of. I know, a real rookie move, especially after a decade of writing this blog. The chorizo was as advertised at Tacos Del Chino, although the one featured in the OC Register article had about double the chorizo as the one I had, it was still excellent. The tortilla was a little crunchy from the kiss of the flattop, while the chorizo and cheese melded slightly to form a mass of delightfulness. A good finish to my up and down meal.

I liked the food from Tacos Del Chino, but I could not help comparing it to Los Olivos Taqueria, a spot that we recently visited in nearby Orange on our way to another hockey game. I liked the tacos and other things we had there better, but that doesn't mean you should not eat here. The prices here are just as reasonable, and the chorizo was even better at Tacos Del Chino. I also liked that they have plenty of specials throughout the week, along with lots of games on their numerous TVs, and beer and wine are available here to wash down your tacos and mulitas. Service was fine, and they got us on our way rather quickly so we could make it for puck drop at the Honda Center. I'm looking forward to seeing where Brad Johnson will steer us next.

Out of five cornucopias, (I'm not sure how they came up with their name when they don't even have a location in Chino, but I learned that the city of Chino has a cornucopia featured on their city seal), five being best to zero being worst, Tacos Del Chino gets 3 cornucopias.

Tacos Del Chino does not have a website, but you can find out more information about them by visiting their Yelp page here: https://www.yelp.com/biz/tacos-del-chino-santa-ana-2