I’ve always felt Rancho Santa Margarita is too far to go for a meal, but ever since The Blind Pig opened, I’ve found myself rather eager to make that drive to eat there. The restaurant has a view of the lake and it is so pleasant to sit outside on the patio just relaxing and enjoying some great grub.
I’d never heard of Chef Joshua Han until my first visit here. His resume reflects Charlie Palmer, Broadway, Playground and The Crosby, but I can’t recall if any of my visits to those restaurants coincided with his stints there. I can also say some of those restaurants aren’t my favorites, therefore, I was rather impressed by what I’ve experienced so far at The Blind Pig. I can say without a doubt, he has me craving for more.
We started off with some cocktails created by master mixologist Gabrielle Dion, who is also of Broadway fame. Here, she has deftly put together something that is bound to appeal to everyone.
Although I’m a tequila drinker, and I did enjoy the Mexican Firing Squad ($11), I’d have to say, my favorite was a gin-based concoction with blackberries named A Good Thyme ($11). All of the cocktails sound simple enough on paper, yet, the final results are complex and wonderfully pleasing on the palate.
If you’ve been to any of the aforementioned restaurants Chef Josh has worked at, don’t expect anything similar here and I was wrong to. Mushroom Ceviche ($8) is simplicity with finesse — perfectly diced trumpet mushrooms, marinated and served with charred scallion, sour grapes, chile guero and taro chips. It is light, it is refreshing. If you didn’t know what it was, it would take you several bites before you realize that those bits on the bottom are actually mushrooms.
I love beets but am tired of the way beets are being served in every restaurant I go to. Therefore, it was such a delight to find Gold Beets ($8) having absolutely no goat cheese alongside, but instead, a sharp cheddar, accompanied with crunchy pistachio granola, hibiscus compressed Maui onions, watercress for color contrast and drizzled with a cutting edge cumin-guava vinaigrette. The hints of cumin brought a burst of life to this already impressive dish.
Fried Spot Prawns ($16) blew my mind on so many levels. The prawns were fried with a coating so light it was barely visible to the eye, but the slight crunch was undeniably present. Sweet pepper quinoa, green olives, peanut, braised fennel surprisingly married well together, but it was the bouillabaisse vinaigrette that had me craving for more. The swirl of ‘sauce’ was so umami-packed, a reduction, if you will, of the seafood-filled stew. Simply sublime!
Being a huge fan of bone marrow, and again, having eaten it so often at various restaurants, I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw no green on the plate. Bone Marrow ($15) a la Joshua Han style is topped with smoked shallot marmalade, pickled figs, Maytag blue cheese and served with toast. It was genius. The acidity of the pickled figs, saltiness of the cheese and the hints of sweetness from the marmalade are exactly what it takes to get that perfect flavor profile into one mouthful. The tartness cuts the unctuousness of the marrow, so you can continue eating without feeling nauseous.
Chicken Liver Mousse ($6) was so delicious my son wanted to order more. Fennel blackberry compote and whole grain mustard complete this item which does not require further explanation except it was a favorite all around the table.
I wish I could tell you more about Beef Tartare ($7) with cheddar, pistachio granola and watercress but by the time I’d finished photographing the other plates, I was lucky to even get a taste of this. It must have been awesome because everyone devoured it within minutes.
I do remember NY Steak ($12) because it was simply outstanding. Sourdough bread is slathered with blue cheese, shallot marmalade and horseradish, then topped with medium rare slices of steak and finished with sprigs of watercress. You know why this was a favorite? Because everyone wanted another order. Again, the combination of sweet, sour, salty were all in sync with one another.
What I am most impressed with is Chef Joshua’s mindful use of acid in every single dish. I love something tart in my dishes, but most importantly, I need to taste balance of flavors in everything I eat. Here at The Blind Pig, I always leave feeling every dish was created especially for me, for my palate. Perhaps this is why I am utterly enamored with this place.
On Sundays, a limited menu of “chalkboard specials” are served, so don’t be disappointed when you’ve only a handful of items to choose from when you get there to watch the game.
The Blind Pig
31431 Santa Margarita Pkwy
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688