Irenia: Filipino Cuisine in the O.C.

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


Nido: Adding Color and Flavor to Jack London Square

I love Mexican food. I love sustainable food. There aren’t too many restaurants that do both. My favorites for both have been Tamarindo and Cosecha in Oakland and Nopalito in San Francisco. I now have another to add to the list. Nido opened the latter part of 2012 in Jack London Square.

Nido in Spanish means nest. With a cute logo and a neon painted building, I have been anxious to try this newcomer. A group of four of us had dinner there on Friday. We started with some $5 margaritas before sharing a couple of appetizers.

The chicken taquitos were a perfect starter. The meat filling fried in the rolled tortillas were tasty, but was extra tasty thanks to all the goodies that topped it.

The salad we shared included many fresh vegetables including butter lettuce, blood oranges, avocado, cucumber, and jicama. The salad was tossed with a light vinaigrette and pepitos.

One of my friends ordered the ollita de pobre. A cute tin pot arrived filled with rice, beans, salsa, avocado, and braised beef. It came with house made tortillas. Although it may have ranked least favorite of the evening, it was still very good.

Two of my friends ordered the special of the evening which was al pastor (marinated pork). This is one of my favorite meats, so I was looking forward to a taste. I have never had it cooked on a skewer. It seems like everyone knew how tasty this dish would be because this special sold out before 7pm. Nido hit it out of the ballpark with the al pastor. I would definitely look out for this item again. One reason I “liked” Nido on Facebook is so that I can keep track of this special as it is not on their permanent menu.

Based on a recommendation, I ordered the pork chop. It lay on a toasted almond & chile mole and diced squash. I have never ordered a pork chop at a Mexican restaurant, but trusted the referral. The grilled chop had perfect sear marks and was delicious. It’s nice to be able to count on a place to serve a great pork chop.

Dessert was going to be pie. Sharing the space at Nido is a business called the Pietisserie. I love the name.

With only beet pie and spiced apple pie left, we decided to try a slice of each. The beet pie was interesting and tasted a little like pumpkin pie. The apple had a nice flavor and crumble. It was a bit of a disappointment after such an amazing meal. I would have probably enjoyed them a lot more if it came with a scoop of ice cream. They sold out of many of their other pies so it may be worth another try.

Nido is definitely adding a lot of color and flavor to Jack London Square.