|Who Song & Larry's
1535 W. Katella Ave
Orange, CA 92867
Tel: (714) 639-9550
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Went recently with Judy Asman (the writer formerly known as "Judy the Foodie") to try out Who Song & Larry's Cal-Mex Cantina at the Century Promenade. We both enjoyed the food (comped meal this first time) but Judy did the writeup:
What restaurant experience could pull me out of food blogger "retirement" but a fantastic lunch at the new Who Song & Larry's Cal-Mex Cantina in Orange, California? Not to mention the opportunity to review the latest hot spot for Christian Z.'s OC Mex Food blog. #honored
Located in the same space where an Acapulco's resided for years, Who Song & Larry's brings an intriguing atmosphere—an homage to places Who Song and Larry visited together on their international travels—fusing a south-of-the-border-resort vibe on the patio and neo-classic Mexican décor and memorabilia on the inside. The entire restaurant is spacious, including the indoor and outdoor bar areas, where creative menus of tasty libations enhance the festive vibe.
Christian Z. and I started by whetting our palates with a refreshing cucumber-ginger cocktail, non-alcoholic. This lovely spritzer was the perfect prelude to the braised chicken wings, mild and sweet with chipotle jelly glaze, and the diablo-ed eggs, offering a scrumptious, well-balanced rendering of traditional deviled eggs. Topped with bits of bacon, each egg offered a creamy, savory and cool experience, with coarse salt for dipping and avocado slices as an aside. As we indulged, our server Charles kept our table well-attended, ever-so friendly and very knowledgeable about the menu. Christian left the table in intervals to take pictures of the décor, particularly the dining area, where charming paintings of the women of Who Song and Larry offer both beauty and sentimentality. By the time my next cocktail arrived—a pineapple cocojito (Bacardi pineapple fusion, fresh coconut water, lime, pineapple juice, Sprite, Mint and dressed with coconut shavings)—I was ready for more.
After indicating to the staff that I'm currently going no-carb, low-carb, a variety of excellent recommendations emerged. Our taste buds ventured to the cold smoked salmon tostada, exceptionally good—crunchy, savory and light. With this dish, fresh smoked salmon slices rest on a thin, crispy flour tortilla, coated with a delicate spread of green onion crema. Tobiko (flying fish roe), citrus "caviar" from a finger lime and pickled red onions top the salmon, creating an incredible mix of flavors that span the globe. We switched gastronomic gears to a dish full of heat both in temperature and spice—the chipotle meatballs. Served in a skillet, hints of mesquite coupled with fresh ground beef and pork are the stars of this show, with a cheesy, polenta-ish crust at the bottom. Unforgettable. And then, the "it" dish. The Idaho rainbow trout. OMG. In talking with Chef Johannes'—whose international heritage of Japanese, Dutch and Indonesian parallels so perfectly with the Who Song & Larry's menu and history—what we would learn is that Chef has a penchant for all things charred. Wouldn't you know, when done to perfection, I love charred. To me there is no more pleasing combination of heat and food than a dish that is charred perfectly on the outside and juicy on the inside, whether it's a bell pepper, a steak or a fish. That's where Chef's Idaho rainbow trout knocks it out of the park. Presented in stacked filets, the fish is pan-seared and served resting on a bed of caramelized white onions and diced pork belly. Roasted cherry tomatoes linger subtly beside these filets, where the citrus-buttery flavor of the meat is accented by the crispy, charred skins. Each bite is a delectable experience in and of itself. Even better is that this entrée left me feeling light, nourished and very satisfied.
As we waited for our dessert, Chef prepared a raspberry sorbet for us at the table. The demonstration was entertaining and educational, of course yielding a refreshing diversion to this unusually humid SoCal day.
Even after all of the above, our yearning for more culinary adventures continued. We finished our meal with the avocado split, where scoops of dulce de leche ice cream top avocado quarters; pecan brittle and a caramel sauce offer a sugary crunch. I was pleasantly surprised by the balance the avocado slices bring to this dish, realizing that avocado is, after all, a fruit, so it makes sense that it fits so naturally with a dessert.
I gave Who Song & Larry's in Orange, California five stars on Facebook. A couple of hours after the meal and I'm enjoying that I do not feel gluttonous and stuffed. While I know this has something to do with the low-carb selections, I believe it's also thanks to the high-quality meats, vegetables and spices carefully selected by Chef Johannes.
What about the chips?
Although a cantina, Who Song & Larry's helps those on a low-carb/no-carb diet to stick to the eating plan by not automatically offering chips and salsa. You must order them. Both salsas are fresh, two versions of spicy and mild, and the creamy bean dip is tasty with bold smoky flavors. The chips and salsa are a fine option as a social appetizer. However, if I had to make a strong recommendation—do away with filling up on chips and take a chance on the other dishes. They will not disappoint.
Here's the official press release along with some photos they sent:
Headquartered in Cypress, California, Real Mex Restaurants is the largest full-service, casual dining Mexican restaurant chain operator in the United States with 118 company-owned and operated restaurants, as well as 13 franchised restaurants. Our brands include El Torito Restaurants, Acapulco Mexican Restaurants, Chevys Fresh Mex® Restaurants, El Torito Grill Restaurants, Las Brisas Restaurant in Laguna Beach, Sinigual Restaurant in New York City, Who Song and Larry's in Vancouver, WA, and El Paso Cantina in Torrance, CA.