3737 W. Chapman Ave.
Orange, CA 92868
I have written it before on this blog, and I still stand by it. Breakfast is the hardest meal for a restaurant to make memorable. Most breakfasts contain the same old items. So when you find a breakfast that you still think about, months, if not years later, you know that you have been to a good restaurant. That is why I was so excited to try Anepalcos, a restaurant that is known for their legendary Mexican breakfasts with a French twist, for dinner.
Anepalcos started out serving just breakfast and lunch at their original Main Street location. When they opened this new location, which is attached to the Ayers Hotel, they started serving dinners. It is hard to believe that they have already been open for a year now, and that we have not made it in for dinner until now. A lot of the numerous OC food blogs that I read are always crowing about how great the dinners are here. Our experience for breakfast/lunch were great, and can be seen here.
We were recently invited by Anepalcos Owner and Executive Chef, Daniel Godinez and one of the best food bloggers, not just in OC, but anywhere, Anita Lau, from Diary of a Mad Hungry Woman to come try out some new dishes that will be appearing on the Anepalcos dinner menu. This very intimate dinner was also attended by Terri Williams of Great Taste Magazine, Priscilla Mayfield of OC Food Nation, and Anita's son, Seb, or as I like to call him, the Human Garbage Disposal, because that kid can eat.
We arrived at Anepalcos on a Thursday night just before seven. I have always observed that restaurants in hotels never seem very crowded, but that was not the case at Anepalcos. The dining room here was bustling with much activity. The dining area is definitely dominated by the color brown, with the darker walls, trim, and the dark wood tables which are handcrafted in Mexico. After the drive up here from Irvine in rush hour traffic, I was definitely ready for some food. Danny must have known I was hungry, because the plates started coming out of the kitchen at a furious pace. Let's check out some of the new menu items at Anepalcos.
Chef Danny really started things off with a bang. The Pambazo Ahi Crudo is listed under the small plates portion of the menu, but the taste was anything but small. He starts by soaking the ciabatta in a Guajillo marinade, then tops it with ahi tuna, avocado puree, cilantro, red radish, Serrano chili, and chili oil. Even with all of these big flavor enhancements, the tuna was still the star of the show. It was very fresh, and tasted great. The chili was not overpowering, but played along nicely with the tuna. I had expected the bread to be a little soggy, but it still held its crunch. A great way to open this tasting session, and it really got our whole table excited.
The Ancas De Rana did not garner the same excitement from Katie. She is no fan of frogs legs. I have only had frog legs maybe a dozen times, and I can say that these were the best prepared ones I have ever had. They did not taste swampy like the others I have consumed. The frog legs were served with a black chili, baby carrot puree, a maple glaze, and sprinkled with some pepita dust, then placed on a corn cake. The corn cake was a little on the heavy side, and seemed a little out of place to me. The frog leg had an ample amount of meat, and was very well executed.
The last of the new small plates was the Tacos Orientales. This Asian inspired taco came with one of my all time favorite foods, pork belly. The pork belly at Anepalcos was very crispy, and I could not get enough of it. Joining the pork belly in this unconventional taco was a chili de arbol salsa and micro cilantro. The tortilla here was thicker than a normal tortilla. I'm not sure what kind it was, but it kept the contents all in one piece. A definite must order on my next visit here.
I was pretty excited to see this Al Adobo come out next, because not only did it feature a very finely cooked coulette steak, but it also came with a mini chilaquiles on the side. The chilaquiles at Anepalcos is of course a classic, but the steak was not to be out shined either. It was very tender, and the adobo sauce, along with the chimichurri sauce, really kept my taste buds intrigued with these two great sauces. A very satisfying plate.
This colorful plate really highlighted Chef Danny's playful plating technique. Just looking at this Surf and Turf plate made me feel really happy. Not only was this plate pleasing to the eyes, but it was also delicious as well. This surf and turf plate was made up of scallops and pork belly, both of which were done to perfection. The dish was all brought together by a nice black potato and truffle puree and an almond salsa. Very complex flavors all working together to create a memorable meal.
You can never have too much steak, and Anepalcos proved that with their version of the Hangar Steak. The steak was matched up nicely with a green potato puree, Enoki mushrooms, a maple glaze, and a black chili sauce. The steak was a little over cooked for my taste, but the sauces helped to hide this fact a bit. The purees and sauce here at Anepalcos are a very big factor in the success of this restaurant. All of them really compliment the dishes they come with.
Proving that you can not do wrong by ordering a seafood dish at Anepalcos, the Red Snapper hit our table next. This fish was flaky and light, with a very nice cauliflower and corn sauce, pink cauliflower, and sauteed corn. This was probably the most mellow of the plates we had on this night. It was a nice change of pace, and was Katie's favorite. This is a great choice for people that want a lighter meal.
This would be my first time having nopales ever. I know, I should have had them sooner, but never have. This Mixiote Lamb came with nopales and slow roasted potatoes. The red sauce was of course fantastic, but the lamb here was a little over done. I could imagine eating this dish on a colder night, when a hearty meal is called for.
The last of our entrees was this interesting Chile Negro. Arroz verde, red radish, and micro cilantro join a ancho chile filled with sirloin beef. This dish was pretty good, but not like any chile relleno I have ever had. It was not as heavy, and did not have that big pop of flavor that I have been accustomed to with other chilie rellenos.
Not new on the menu, but I was happy that we got to try the desserts at Anepalcos. Since this is a French inspired Mexican restaurant, it is no surprise that they have crepes on the menu. These were way better than the crepes you could get when I was a kid at the Magic Pan, (if you remember that restaurant, you are old just like me). I'm not a big fruit fan, but this strawberry crepe was pretty tasty. The crepe that really caught my attention was the Chocolate Crepe. I was dining with other people, and was expected to share, but I had a hard time not hoarding this one all to myself. The crepe portion of this was well made, and of course you can almost never go wrong with chocolate. The last dessert we had was another Anepalcos classic dessert, the Passion Fruit Panna Cotta. With my dislike for fruit desserts, I was not sure I was going to enjoy this, but the texture was spot on, and the flavor was not overly sweet. Very refreshing, and a great end to the meal.
With all of these new additions to the Anepalcos menu, along with their already fantastic remaining favorites, it will not be too long before we return for dinner. This night could not have gone better. Great dinner guests, great food, all in a pleasant and relaxed atmosphere. What really sets Anepalcos apart is their uniqueness. I have not been exposed to Mexican food with a French twist before. It really makes it even more special to come here knowing that this is not the kind of food that you can just get anywhere. Chef Godinez really knows what he is doing in the kitchen, and it shows when the food hits the table. These new menu items are now being offered at Anepalcos. Thanks again to Anita and Chef Daniel for the wonderful evening.
To find out more about Anepalcos Cafe, click here: http://www.anepalcoscafe.com/