It’s been quite some time since my last visit to Anepalco for dinner — there have been several menu changes I am told. A group of us decide to battle the rush hour traffic and explore happy hour, but ultimately end up enjoying a host of dinner menu dishes while sipping on mixologist Cesar Cerrudo’s array of creative concoctions.
My favorite is the Doña Maggo, a refreshingly easy-to-drink margarita with a chile limon half rim. Dunk the kaffir lime leaf garnish deep into the glass to experience its intoxicating aroma.
We start with a palate whetting Tiradito, white fish with chile manzano, avocado, and ink. Chef Danny is a master in flavors which is why I find the tartness level in this dish so enticing.
Ceviche of Sinaloa shrimp is another example of perfection. I am always looking for the right amount of acid in every dish and here, the combination of cucumbers, radish discs, Serrano peppers, in the aguachile bath is mouth-puckering good.
Moving on, Deconstructed Taco is something we have enjoyed in the past, but with every each visit, I am seeing elevated elegance in both presentation and execution. The pork belly is intermittently soft and crispy, served with house-made nixtamal (a preparation in which the corn is soaked and cooked in an alkaline solution) tortillas. The salsa de rancho is smokey with a hint of heat, it’s so good you’ll want more of it!
Our next dish, #BORRACHOPROBLEMS, arrives on a tequila bottle. Not only is the presentation stunning, but the octopus is on point, possessing superb texture and enhanced by the savoriness of the chorizo.
When your Bone Marrow is able to sway one who is ordinarily not fond of it to take a second bite, it’s a sure winner! The unctuous morsels of bone marrow is dotted between calabazitas (zucchini), corn, peas, and cotija cheese. Eat with bits of the thinly sliced crispy rustic bread for a texture-filled mouthful.
One of my favorites of the evening is Calamari. Fried calamari is tossed with roasted red peppers, peanuts, cilantro, and shishito peppers to create a beautifully spicy sweet dish to munch on while you sip on your cocktails.
Beef is an entree of flat iron steak adobo, accompanied by papas con chorizo (potatoes with chorizo), onions and a beautifully hued salsa verde. The steak is reminiscent of al pastor. The only complaint I have with this dish is there is not enough pineapple on the plate!
Those of you who love Anepalco’s signature chilaquiles will no doubt love Arrachera, an entree of hanger steak with chilaquiles, and poached eggs. There is no describing how utterly delicious that 7-chile sauce is. It is smokey, bold and so robust, but not much heat considering how many different chiles are used.
Anepalco has long been one of my favorites ever since moving here 10 years ago. In the last decade, I have witnessed Chef Danny Godinez’s cuisine progress from a brunch favorite, to now, one of the most creative and forward thinking chefs in Orange County. His plates are not only tantalizing on the palate, but they are visual masterpieces. If you haven’t experienced Chef Godinez’s menu, you’re definitely missing out on one of the most innovative local restaurants OC has to offer.
3737 W Chapman Ave
Orange, CA 92868