It has been quite some time since my last visit to Savannah Chop House — before Executive Chef Chris Tzorin left for Tortilla Republic. I never dined at Savannah while Chris was away, but now that he’s back at the helm, we decide it is time to pay him a visit. This is also one of the last few remaining places where you’ll be able to sit in nostalgic red booths while enjoying a meal of classic comfort dishes.
Chef Chris stops by the table donned in his signature red chef’s coat. He looks well considering the tragedy he’s had to endure during the last few months. However, through it all, his energy is positive and there is a sense of calm and humility surrounding him. We chat briefly before he makes his way back into the kitchen, promising he’ll be back later in the evening to see how we’re doing.
The menu is slightly different, with more small plate offerings than I remember. I am happy about that as it means I am able to order a bigger variety of dishes to try. We begin with Fried Calamari ($10), coated in a buttermilk batter and fried until crispy. It is tender on the inside and is great with the chipotle tartar dipping sauce it is served with. However, a squeeze of lemon is really all you need because it is perfectly seasoned as is.
My dining companion is eyeing the Pork Belly Cornbread ($8) and I do not object. I am quite keen on cornbread tonight and this does not disappoint. The house-made roasted corn dots the cornbread and each bite is deliciously comforting. The Goose Island beer-braised pork belly is served on one side of the cornbread, and on the other, a bundle of sauteed spinach. It is a meal in itself should you be looking for something to nibble on with a glass of wine or two.
Next is Soft Shell Crab ($12), another favorite regardless of where I am at. The crab is battered with a crispy exterior. Bite into it to expose the piping hot moist interior. I especially like the shredded Asian cabbage slaw which cleanses the palate between bites.
One of the biggest surprises of the night is Grilled Romaine ($9), topped with pumpkin seeds, pico de gallo and drizzled with a pumpkin seed dressing. Quite frankly, I do not even need the accoutrements on top as the romaine is tremendous on its own. The char gives the vegetables a beautiful smokiness, with a hint of bitterness I find utterly appealing. It might not be for everyone, but it definitely whet my appetite for more. I love cooked vegetables, especially those mirroring stir-fry style — not completely cooked through, but just wilted enough that it takes that bite of raw out, but still retaining the crunch I am looking for.
I have only heard of the Fried Chicken ($19) here and therefore, is definitely long overdue in my book. Two very tender and moist chicken breasts are beautifully executed with a crunchy coating which is not at all greasy. In fact, it is so good I want to go back and eat it again very soon. The spinach and mashed potatoes are good sides, but the chicken alone is so mind-blowingly tasty I don’t need anything other than the thyme gravy it is served with. It’s going to be a tough choice between this and the Beef Stroganoff on future visits — THE best I’ve had in Orange County.
Voodoo Flat Iron ($26) is an ideal selection for meat lovers. The steak is presented at a perfect medium rare and well-seasoned. The jalapeno cheddar scalloped potatoes is rich, cheesy, and to-die-for, while Cajun succotash offers a hint of sweetness to counter the kick from the spices.
I definitely noticed something different in the meal tonight, something which wasn’t as apparent on my last visit. There is obvious maturity in the dishes, both in execution and presentation. Everything is good… REALLY good. If you haven’t dined at Savannah in a while, it is time to go back. I leave that evening with the feeling that all is right again, and that Chef Chris is right where he belongs. He is at a good space and it is noticeable in his demeanor and in everything we eat tonight.
Savannah Chop House
32441 Golden Lantern
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677