Whenever we go to a show at Segerstrom Center for the Arts, we will most often than not, eat at Leatherby’s Cafe Rouge beforehand. Before attending a showing of ANNIE this week, we stopped by and dined on dishes Chef Ross Pangilinan creates especially for each show.
I honestly believe you should visit Leatherby’s during the run of ANNIE even if you’re not watching a show. Chef Ross has outdone himself with stunning dishes inspired by the show. There are two selections for each of the three courses ($45) — appetizer, main and dessert. This time, we choose one from each course and also some off the a la carte menu.
An amuse bouche arrives as soon as you place your order. On this evening, it is a duck pate crostini with balsamic onions and chive blossoms.
For the first course, there is a choice of soup or salad — I always choose soup because Chef Ross is a master when it comes to this. Most of the time, there isn’t even butter or cream in the soups, yet they taste luscious, creamy and so full-bodied you would think otherwise. On this evening, Easy Street is a “street corn” soup with espelette pepper for a little heat, lime for that hint of acid, and cotija cheese for the salty element. There is a pinch of popcorn for textural contrast, and I find it hard not to wolf the bowl down quickly.
Off the a la carte menu, we choose Hudson Valley Foie Gras Torchon ($18) an item we can’t seem to get away from each time we visit. The plating is different from my last visit, with the disc of torchon teasingly peeking through the saba gelee it is draped with. There are no words when eating this absolute decadence. The accompaniments of fresh strawberries, nitro strawberry “clouds” and amaranth leaves make for a beautiful plate and an even better eating experience.
For the main course, the theater menu offers a vegetarian pasta choice, but I opt for N.Y.C — three pieces of bacon-wrapped east coast monkfish cooked to perfection. An apple-celery puree lines the plate with a schmear of buerre rouge (same concept as buerre blanc except red wine replaces the white wine), and the most perfect tomato-onion tart I have ever eaten. In fact, I mention to our server, Christian, how if I am vegetarian, I want three or four of these tarts and call it a night. Absolutely stunning!
Bristol Day Boat Scallops ($36) off the a la carte menu is always a solid pick. The accoutrements may change, but the scallops are always melt-in-your-mouth perfect. The caramelized onion potato puree is nice, but the morels and lobster sauce bring this to another level of sophistication.
There are two desserts on the theater menu, and we choose Tomorrow, an apple and chocolate chip cookie cobbler with vanilla ice cream. I take a bite. It is simple and as my dining companion tells me reminds him of apple pie.
Leatherby’s Cafe Rouge has never disappointed. The only disappointing thing is that the restaurant is not open every night. If you’re not attending a show, please call to make sure they are open (better yet, always make sure you have a reservation before going).
Leatherby’s Cafe Rouge
615 Town Center Drive
Costa Mesa, CA 92626