A lot of places seem to change all the time. Restaurants change owners, change locations, change their food, but Mr. Stox has been consistently great for over forty-two years. Even though the area around them has changed dramatically in the last few years, Mr. Stox has been the one restaurant that has stood the test of time. Let's see if it is still this way.
Mr. Stox has been run by the same family for the last 33 years, (The Marshall's). I have been coming here for about ten of those years with my family to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries. Mr. Stox is an elegant yet not overly stuffy place, where the service is always impeccable. Hopefully this visit will be the same.
Mr. Stox makes some of the best bread in the county. These are three of the offerings on our night. The sourdough is great, the red bread, (I think it was beet, but not sure), was good as well, but the crowd favorite is the sunflower bread above. Very good texture, and the flavor was amazing. Nice start to our meal.
I ordered the Caesar Salad. Hearts of romaine, homemade croutons, anchovies, and an anchovy vinaigrette. Really a very fresh salad. I even ate the salty anchovy in one bite. This was a very traditional Caesar salad.
Now on to the main dishes. Katie's Seafood Linguini is pictured above. This dish combined Scampi and Day Boat scallops, tossed with spinach linguini, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and parmesan cheese. Katie really liked this entree. The shrimp had a good flavor, the scallops were cooked perfectly, and all the other ingredients combined to make this one of the best seafood dishes, she has ordered in awhile.
My sister chose the Filet of Beef. Beef Tenderloin, glazed with Roquefort cheese. The side item for this was truffled creamy potatoes. She had no complaints with this at all. The bite I had was very tender, and the truffled potatoes were very rich. The meat paired with a black currant reduction, made this a great dish.
My choice for dinner was the Prime Rib. This big cut was served with creamy mashed potatoes, and mixed vegetables. The vegetables were just okay, but the meat was cooked just the way I had ordered it, medium rare. I also loved the creamy horseradish that was served with this. Very light and fluffy. Not a lot of fat on this prime rib either.
Always a crowd pleaser, is the Maryland Crab Cakes. I will go on record here, and say that these are the best crab cakes I have had in the OC. Jumbo lump blue crab is paired with a spicy peanut slaw, which my mom called, "the best slaw I have ever had." These two crab cakes melt in your mouth and make even the most giving person want to hoard them all to themselves. This is also served with asparagus and a Yukon potato.
The last entree for our group was the Lamb. Sliced rack of lamb with a thyme reduction. The lamb here was cooked perfectly. Not too gamey, and had a great smoke flavor. This dish was enhanced with a pesto risotto that rocked when paired with the lamb.
When celebrating anything at Mr. Stox, you are always treated to a Mini Baked Alaska. Cake with chocolate ice cream on top, and then surrounded by meringue. I am not too big of a fan of this, but it is free, and you can not argue with that.
So another fine outing at Mr. Stox. The service, food and atmosphere were top notch, as usual. I would like to see a few more items added to their menu, but what is on there now, is all so excellent.
Out of five dividends, (because when you own stocks, you want to be rewarded with dividends), five being best to zero being worst, Mr. Stox receives 4.5 dividends. Yes, this is my first 4.5 rating.
Looking for something different, and not wanting to stray too far from home, Katie and I headed to Chaparosa Grill in Laguna Niguel. I had been to the old location of Chaparosa Grill a long time ago, and remembered liking it, but not enough to remember what I had eaten. On this Tuesday night, there are about five tables occupied in the restaurant, and the bar is little more crowded.
Chef Tony Corke has created a very unusual menu for our area, one that is Caribbean inspired. He is an English trained chef, who has spent a great deal of time in the islands of the Caribbean, and that seems to be where he draws his inspiration. There are other influences here as well, mainly Italian and Asian as well. Let's see if this mish-mash of a menu works well or not.
Sorry, for the blurriness of the picture, here we have the Strawberry Gorgonzola Salad. This was Katie's salad, served with balsamic dressing. Katie liked her salad, but thought that it needed more dressing on it. We both thought they were generous with the amount of cheese and caramelized walnuts that were on this salad.
My salad was the Chaparosa Dinner Salad. This is your basic dinner salad that you will find anywhere. This really needed more blue cheese dressing on it. After I got more dressing, this salad became better.
For an appetizer we went with the Asian Nachos. These composed of wonton chips, cheese, peanuts, Thai-marinated chicken, and a wasabi cream sauce. The top layer of this was good. As we got down to the bottom, the Thai sauce that was marinating the chicken was way too sweet. Also, some extra cheese would have been good on this. The wasabi cream sauce was not prevalent in this.
Katie has not had good luck with scampi lately, and Chaparosa's Shrimp Scampi is no exception. This bland dish was served over angel hair pasta, with capers in a lemon-white wine sauce. Garlic was nowhere found in this offering. Katie liked it, but felt mislead by the scampi claim of this dish. She would have been satisfied more if they would have called this what it was, shrimp served over angel hair pasta. I personally would have liked this a little better if the sauce was a little thicker.
Lastly, was my entree. I went with one of their Caribbean Specialties, the Bahama Beef. This is sautéed filet mignon, with a green onion and sweet chili sauce, served over rice with roasted peanuts. The flavor of this was exactly as I suspected, but the meat was not so good. It was hard to cut, and as tender as a piece of chuck steak. I should have tried one of their spicier dishes, because after the sweet of the Asian Nachos, the sweet of this dish did not sit well with me.
I really wanted to like Chaparosa Grill. I liked that Chef Tony came around and talked to all the tables. The
staff were all very nice and got the food out in a timely, almost too fast manner. The menu is very diverse, maybe too much so. There is a lot going on here. Maybe we just chose the wrong items to try, but that is the risk you run when operating a restaurant, you only get a first chance to make a first impression.
Out of five passports, (because the menu feels like you are eating around the world), five being best to zero being worst, Chaparosa Grill gets 2 passports.
It seems like the new food trend lately has been hot dogs and sausages. There is the new Valhalla Table in Costa Mesa, Portillo's in Buena Park, and now we have Berkeley Dog in Mission Viejo. Berkeley Dog is the sister store to legendary Top Dog, that has been serving Cal students since 1966. Top Dog started when a young man from New York could not find a good dog in northern California. So he took matters into his own hands and came up with Top Dog.
Berkeley Dog is located inside a yogurt shop in Mission Viejo. They have a very simple menu. They have your choice of ten different frankfurters and sausages, all priced at $3.75. Their toppings are limited to grilled onions, grilled peppers and fried egg. Any of these added to any of the sausages will cost you fifty cents. They do have a large assortment of condiments that you may add for free. These include at least three different kinds of mustards, sauerkraut, and diced onions. So lets get a look at what they have going on at Berkeley Dog.
First up in our cavalcade of sausages is the Bockwurst above. This sausage is half pork, half veal, with eggs and milk added. This had a very mellow taste, almost too mellow for me. It really did not taste like anything. This was Katie's favorite out of all the hot dogs we ate. She liked the texture and added sauerkraut and Dijon mustard to this one.
The Smoked Chicken Apple is next. This really had an unusual taste that you would not expect from a sausage. The sweet from the bits of apple, really shocked my taste buds here. I liked this one, second best, out of the five that we sampled. Katie also liked this one second best, and liked the fact that it is very low in salt.
This is the Kobe Beef Dog. The menu says made from 100 percent premium Beef. This dog did have a nice beefy flavor. Katie felt that it was too salty. I liked the flavor of this hot dog though.
The classic Frankfurter was next for us to try. On this one we added grilled onions. I liked this dog better with the onions. Both of us thought that this frankfurter really had a good snap to it, though Katie thought that it was too greasy, and lacked the meaty flavor of the Kobe dog. I thought the flavor on this one was okay.
Our last stop on our adventure around Berkeley Dog is the Calabrese. Made of pork, paprika, chili, and fennel, this one was my favorite out of the bunch. Katie thought that this had way too much fennel, but I liked the spice, and this sausage made me wish I had gotten their Louisiana Hot Link. I added spicy deli mustard to this for an added kick as well.
Up until now I have not mentioned the buns at Berkeley Dog. I did not really like them at all, and I thought they took away from the frankfurters and the sausages. The meat to bun ratio was all off for me. I would have just been so much happier with store brand hot dog buns. The buns here are more of a French roll consistency, and I would have rather had softer buns. The star of this show should have been the meat, but it was over shadowed by the less talented bread.
I will probably give Berkeley Dog another shot, mainly because I want to try the Louisiana Hot Link. I will also definitely add grilled onions to the other dogs, just to fill up the bun.
Out of five hippies, (I am sure you get the connection), five being best to zero being worst, Berkeley Dog gets 2.5 hippies.
Mollie's Country Kitchen is easy to miss. If you are looking for it on a Sunday morning it is easier, you just have to look for all the people waiting outside for a table. It is located in a non-descript strip mall off of La Paz Road, close to the Walgreens.
I have been here about three times and it is always crowded, but they always seem to have it under control. The wait never really is that long, they get you in and out pretty quick. Also, for how busy it is, the servers are very nice, and really make you feel welcome.
On this Sunday morning we got here about ten, and the wait is about five minutes for our party of four. So lets see what we had to eat.
This was John's meal. He got the Vegetarian Omelette, and Buckwheat Pancakes. The waitress warned him before he got this, that these were not a popular dishes, but he went for it anyways. He actually liked these plates and ate all of them. The pancakes were big, and easily filled the plate. The omelette seemed a little sparse in the vegetable department, but he did not seem to mind.
Next we have Jay's Hash with a Poached Egg. Jay is a corned beef hash connoisseur. He said the only way to eat hash is with poached eggs on top of it, not on the side. He added that it is hard to duplicate good hash, and this was just adequate hash. I have never really been into hash, so I will trust his expertise here.
Matt chose the Banana Pancakes with two eggs and sausage. Matt is a big breakfast eater and swears by the banana pancakes here. They were a very good sized serving, and he seemed to enjoy them. I usually stray from pancakes with fruit on them, because I would miss the maple syrup.
All of the reviews I have read about Mollies have talked about their Mexican breakfast dishes. So I opted for the Chili Verde above. This dish is served with two eggs, hash browns and refried beans. I also got flour tortillas not shown. This dish was very good. The pork chunks were very tender and the green sauce was a little runny, but had a great flavor. I would have liked a little more guacamole on the plate, but otherwise this was a solid breakfast.
I understand why people line up for breakfast at Mollies. They really make you feel at home while you are there. In future visits I am looking forward to trying more of their Mexican dishes.
Out of five Ringwald's, (yes I know that she spells Mollie differently, but she was in Breakfast Club, and this post is about breakfast, so it works here), five being best to zero being worst, Mollies Country Kitchen gets three Ringwald's.
Boys night out, so eight of us headed to A Restaurant in Newport Beach. This place used to be the Arches, as far back as I could remember. The vibe here is cool, Newport Beach. Very dark inside and a huge bar, with all the eye candy you would expect from Newport Beach.
The dining room is pretty noisy, as it is right next to the bar. On this Saturday night the place was filled, all the time we were there. Let's find out if people are coming here for the food, or to be seen.
The first of three appetizers for us was this Crab Cake. This $17 crab cake was served with an herb salad and yuzu aioli sauce. This crab cake was light and had a mild flavor. The aioli sauce complimented this well.
The second of our starters was the Spicy Yellow Fin Tuna. This dish was tuna on a crispy eggplant, with chili aioli and sweet soy glaze. All of these flavors melded together well, and was not too over powering. I also liked the way this plate was presented.
Sorry the picture of the Pork Belly Skewers is blurry. It was difficult trying to snap pictures quick, and the lighting was difficult as well. The horrible picture does not diminish the taste of this plate. Braised pork belly and pearl onion with a maple syrup glaze, made this a great choice for an appetizer. Think of this as a big hunk of bacon, cooked crisp, with a tinge of maple. Pork belly is quickly becoming one of my favorite foods. This was steal at $9.
Here is my Butterleaf Wedge Salad. This salad was as good as it looks. Heirloom tomato, red onion, point reyes blue cheese, maple glazed bacon and buttermilk dressing made this a very tasty salad. I know they left the bacon whole for effect, but it would have been nice to have it cut already. The dressing was not too over powering on this.
Here is the A Caesar salad. Romaine hearts, parmesan reggiano, fried capers, all with anchovy dressing. I did not try this, but it looked good from where I was sitting. I thought that fried capers on this was an interesting choice, and made this salad their own.
Here is the French Onion soup. Made with gruyere and parmesan reggiano cheese, we at the table felt that this soup was way to sweet. It was an okay soup, but it was like the onions were a secondary thought.
Here is the 16 oz. Rib Eye. This looked like it would be cooked perfectly for me. I did not try this steak, but Jeff, who did, did not rave about this steak. In fact he said it was just okay, nothing special.
This is the 8 ounce Filet. Rueben got this steak, and had the same opinion that Jeff had, and that is that it was nothing special. In the pictures it looks a little dry, but I am not sure because I did not try it. This steak goes for $32.
The next entree is the Scallops. This was served with potato puree, asparagus, morel mushrooms, peas, bacon gastrique and bearnaise sauce. This plate had a lot going on. Jim thought, "The scallops were good, but they could have been cooked a little more, and you should get more for the money you are paying for this dish". This plate was $28. Jim did give this three stars though.
This was my Pot Roast. Potato, heirloom carrots, onion, mushrooms all served in an actual pot made up this dish. The meat came whole, and was not as tender as I would have liked. The broth was way too salty. I was very disappointed with my choice.
Now on to the sides. None of these inspired any praise from the table. The Onion Rings were probably the most liked out of the three, but they were said to be just average. The Potato Puree was flavor challenged, and the Broccoli Rabe, was just plain mocked by our party. We also had a side of Mushrooms, not pictured that were just okay.
How should I sum up the experience at A Restaurant? I would give this advice, skip the entree's and order appetizers, they were good. The bar scene was great, and they did make great martini's. The salads were good, but the entree's need some work, they lack the wow factor.
Out of five report cards, (because I never got an A on any of my report cards), five being best to zero being worst, A Restaurant gets 2.5 report cards.