Rooster Cafe does a good job for breakfast, but what I have been enamoured with has been the little pop-ups which have taken over the space in the evenings starting with Hidden Kitchen. In fact, I celebrated my birthday at Hidden Kitchen that year and enjoyed it several times before it closed its doors.
Then, Boqueria arrived, a Spanish tapas place worthy of praise since I had been disappointed with the other tapas I had encountered in Orange County. Sadly, that didn’t last long either.
Rooster PM has managed to do what its predecessors have not and that is, stay in business for longer than just a handful of months. I’ve visited on several occasions with friends and each time enjoyed my experience. Most recently, I spent a late night supper here with my friend Michael Harris of the Chronicles of a Charmed Life blog. I was relieved that for a change, it was someone else who was getting fawned over instead of me. After we were seated, co-owner Frankie dropped off some juice glasses for wine — yes, they do it the European way here — telling me “Mike likes his wine”. Ummm, yes, I know!
I was kind of reluctant to come at first stating I’d been on a low-carb diet for a week and wanted to adhere to that. Naturally, the ever convincing Mike insisted and we order an array of small plates to accommodate my self-induced disciplinary diet. I was so good I even abstained from wine!
We started with some roasted shishito peppers ($6) which always puts me in a good mood. I love these Japanese peppers which are most often than not, sweet without much of a kick to them.
Once in a while you’ll find one which knocks your socks off and I am tickled when it is me as I love spice in any shape or form. So how happy was I to find that 80% of this plate had peppers pumped with heat but Mike choked on a couple at some point — nothing another glass of wine can’t rectify!
Grilled salmon ($10) was nicely crisp on the outside, while lovely and moist on the inside. It is served with a house-made ponzu sauce which has a good amount of tartness but honestly, the salmon was stellar enough to stand on its own. The ponzu does help cut the oiliness of the fish a little, but I was enjoying the well-seasoned flaky fish on its own.
I am very impressed by how everything was seasoned. There is nothing worse than protein that’s lacking in flavor. Grilled lamb chops ($10) are succulent and flavorful, and while I like pesto — the one here is good — again, I wasn’t sure it really needed any.
The chops were beautifully prepared and required no additions to enhance it whatsoever. Next time I’ll request the pesto be put on the side!
Of course, some veggies had to grace the table and just my luck, Mike ordered mushrooms prepared 3 ways ($8) — crimini with cheese in the middle, sliced criminis and some that are battered and deep fried.
This is where Rooster PM gets an added star in my book. They use the freshest ingredients and they don’t mess it up by adding unnecessary ingredients to it. The mushrooms are simple, flavorful and not a lot is added to it allowing the natural taste to shine. I hate fussy dishes where too many things are on a plate but what is worse is when the ingredients distract one another rather than complement.
Our last plate of the night was also my favorite. Prawns with lemon and capers ($8) are large plump prawns sauteed to perfection, topped with a caper mix and strewn over bits of bread.
The prawns are so delicious I could’ve eaten the entire plate on my own. I wasn’t happy that carbs were my enemy tonight and sighed as I watched them take that plate away with the cubes of bread left behind soaked with the juices from the prawns and capers. Just as well I was pretty full by now.
I can attest to the fact that nothing is better than a meal shared with friends and with a friend like Mike, you can be sure the evening won’t be boring — read his blog and you’ll know what I’m talking about!
We are the last ones left. The staff are sweeping the floors, cleaning up for Rooster Cafe’s morning crew the next day. Mike takes his last sip of wine and as we say our goodbyes, I promise I will be back again soon, and next time, I shall be ready to consume carbs!
750 St Clair Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Open Wednesdays to Saturdays — evenings only