I almost always stop by Leatherby’s Cafe Rouge before going to a performance at Segerstrom Center For The Arts, and The Lion King is no different. As usual, Chef Ross Pangilinan has a wonderful menu created for the show. We dined with some friends on this evening and we want to try Into The Woods Mushroom Soup ($10) because we see Chef Ross serving it at a table nearby. It looked SO cool.
This pureed mushroom soup is served with a thin curl of pumpernickel toast, crispy prosciutto chip, porcini cream, shimeiji mushroom, blackberry, and edible flowers. However, the delight comes in the form of liquid nitrogen. Chef Ross artfully plops a spoonful of liquid nitrogen infused Parmesan snow onto the bowl creating a veil of “smoke” mimicking the mystique of the environment in the woods at dawn. My photos absolutely do not do it justice, but if you look closely at the second photo, you’ll catch a glimpse of the dissipating “smoke”. For its full effect, go to my Facebook page to check out the video, or you’ll just have to experience it for yourself.
The $45 Theater Prix Fixe menu includes a three-course meal, and tonight, we begin with Circle of Life, comprising caramelized salmon deviled eggs served on a round of wood. Presentation is impeccable and this appetizer is delicious. Topped with salmon caviar, pickled mustard seeds, chicken crackings and mustard frills, there is a sublime marriage of flavors here. Chef Ross explains to us how he envisions “the circle of life” with the eggs being the beginning of life, which aptly begins the meal.
The second appetizer option is This Land, a salad of greens and chicories, apple, grapes, Roquefort, walnuts, pomegranate seeds, all toseed in a mustard seed dressing. The red wine gastrique adds the acidity which brings the dish together. It is perfect for vegetarians, or those with nut allergies if you ask the walnuts to be removed. They are really good with that at Leatherby’s.
Moving on to the entrees, I am really pleased to see Chef Ross infusing his Filipino culture into this next dish. He Lives in You is a plate of braised beef short ribs done “kare-kare” style. Kare-kare is a Filipino stew using peanut as its base. Here, it is the peanut sauce which gives it the “kare-kare” aspect. Bok choy, eggplant and haricot vert grace are served alongside a little round of toasted rice. Shrimp chips add the crunch while beef marrow gives an additional unctuousness to the finish. I am afraid the short ribs might be dry, but it is absolute perfection — fork tender as well as moist.
The vegetarian entree option this evening is Can You Feel The Love Tonight — house-made buratta agnolotti are tossed in a light vodka sauce, and mixed in with roasted broccoli rabe, melted leeks and tomato, trumpet mushrooms and Parmesan cheese. The tomatoes lend a burst of freshness and acid while the broccoli rabe leaves hints of welcoming bitterness on the palate.
Hakuna Matata is the final course of the night. A bowl of house-made rocky road ice cream sundae topped with chocolate sauce, banana, whip cream, nuts, and cherry brownie leaves us swooning.
The young man at our table is not able to partake in the dessert due to his nut allergies, so Chef Ross offers him Butternut Squash Cheese Cake with cranberry sorbet, orange ginger crumble, candied butternut squash, and pomegranate seeds. This is a fall-like dessert and definitely not as rich as the Hakuna Matata, but I enjoy it tremendously because it is not overly sweet.
The Lion King menu runs until November 1st, 2015.
Leatherby’s Cafe Rouge
615 Town Center Drive
Costa Mesa, CA 92626