Tonight I had a craving for Filipino food. I have been thinking about a recent lunch that my best friend and I had in Santa Ana, California. I had bookmarked Irenia when I was doing my research on places to eat near Disneyland. Los Angeles food critic Jonathon Gold had included Irenia on a list of Best Restaurants in Los Angeles. Irenia was only a handful of restaurants located in Orange County so my curiousity was piqued.
We were on holiday, so cocktails during lunch was a no brainer. My BFF got the Purple Drank which was made with gin, coconut rum, ube, and pineapple. Although it wasn’t on the menu, I was able to get a Petite Colada. There is definitely something about drinking from a coconut that sends warm vacation vibes.
Our waiter recommended the Dilis, baby anchovies. I don’t know why I was surprised when a bowl of hundreds of tiny fried anchovies were set in front of us. How bad could it be if they are fried right? Right, because I actually really enjoyed these delicacies. It came with some vinegar to dip them in, which I didn’t really need. It was a fun snack that I kept munching on.
I ordered the Chicken Inasal rice bowl. The pan roasted chicken thigh came with sautéed Chinese broccoli and zucchini. The grilled chicken had a nice crispness and the flavor was out of this world. I definitely could taste a mix of vinegar and soy, like you would find in adobo.
My BFF ordered the pancit which was described as egg noodles with a soft boiled egg, chicken skin chiccharron, fried garlic, and scallion. It didn’t taste like pancit that we are accustomed to. I think it was the sauce that was problematic. The flavors were one dimensional and fell flat. She let the waiter know it wasn’t what she expected and did not like it. He explained that there were different varieties of pancit, but offered to have the kitchen make her something else. Since we had some time constraints, she declined.
To make up for the dish, our waiter brought us a dessert on the house. The ube brown sugar pie was a nice way to end the meal. Ube is a purple yam. The pie offered a nice caramelization and the fresh whipped cream lightened up the sweetness.
Irenia offers some very traditional Filipino dishes with a modern twist. Minus the pancit, I thought Irenia was excellent. Looking at the full menu, it’s very clear that they aren’t afraid to use vegetables which I can appreciate from a restaurant serving Filipino cuisine. If you are near Santa Ana, I would recommend a visit to Irenia.
Lunar New Year is February 16 and this year it will be the Year of the Dog. My BFF had mentioned to me that Disneyland has special festivities to celebrate the holiday and we should go since we were born in the Year of the Dog. The festivities are actually held at Disney California Adventure Park from January 26 – February 18. We packed a bag and set out for Anaheim last week. Most of the Lunar New Year activities were held in the area known as Paradise Pier. The first thing we went to do was to check out the kiosk to shop for Lunar New Year merchandise. It was disappointing to find out that they were already sold out of the commemorative pins. It was only Day 4! They did have special Mickey ears, t-shirts, snow globes, key chains, and lucky red envelopes for sale.
It was cool that they had food stands serving food from different Asian countries that celebrate Lunar New Year. My BFF and I would attempt to try as many food items as we could. We first stopped at the Korea marketplace. We got the Yachae Mandu which are steamed vegetable dumplings with a sesame-garlic soy sauce. These dumplings tasted like they were from the frozen section of an Asian supermarket. They weren’t bad, but they weren’t very good.
We also tried the Korean dessert, Yang Gaeng, which is a sweet red bean and raspberry jelly. This dessert was beautiful with the gold flake topping. I had a couple of bites and thought it was pretty tasty.
Our next stop was the China marketplace. I picked up an order of Xiao Long Bao (pork soup dumplings), Sanbeiji (three cup chicken), and a Dan Ta (egg tart). The soup in the dumpling had evaporated and the chicken luckily came with rice to offset the salt and sauciness. The egg tart was the best thing I ate that day. It tasted more like the custard pie that I have fond memories of getting from San Francisco Chinatown.
We picked up a Banh Khoai Lang Tim from the Vietnamese marketplace. The purple sweet potato macaron was gigantic and quite good. The texture was crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside.
One of the highlights of the day was Mulan’s Lunar New Year Procession with dancing and performances.
The star of the show was Goofy who looked amazing all dressed up.
Speaking of dressing up, we also got to see Mickey, Minnie, and Pluto in Asian attire.
The finale was a special evening water show called Hurry Home.
There are still two more weeks of the Lunar New Year celebration at Disney California Adventure. If you are a Disney fan, I would recommend it. I would suggest skipping the savory foods from the Asian marketplace, but make sure to pick up some desserts.