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Bold Flavors in OC

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I am going to try again to find a recommendation for a nice, upscale meal with some bold flavors, but not spicy.

I am going through chemotherapy, and the drugs have played havoc with my taste buds. Starchy carbs taste absolutely terrible, so anything relying on those as a base are out. They also have sensitized my mouth to spice, so even moderate heat is too hot for me now. Probably the most flavorful thing I have had to eat in the last few weeks is a bowl of Pho without the noodles (so just the broth & meat), extra lime, and just a dash of hot sauce. I will not have any problem with nausea by the time I go out for dinner, so I don't have to worry about sensitivity in the stomach.

After this next round, I am going to start radiation, which I am told is going to completely wipe out my taste buds for 4 months, and it may be up to a year before I am back to (what will be) normal. I posted this question before, but I was a little less direct with my issues and the recommendations really did not fit the bill for me. Maybe there really isn't anything out there, but I want at least one really fantastic dinner while I am still able to process and taste solid food.

I figure I am going to have a little time between when my taste buds rebound enough from my last round of chemo to when they get wiped out by radiation. I was thinking of something like Tabu, where the entrees are not just straight ahead proteins and the flavors are a little more pronounced. I have not been to Eva's but that might be an option if they don't use too many starches. I don't eat pork, so some of the previous suggestions for Chinese are not going to work, and Szechuan is definitely out.

I has been ages since I have been to The Golden Truffle, but maybe that is a choice, I just don't know. Most of my really nice dinners out of late have been at sushi bars, and lately I find that the cooked Japanese dishes hold the stronger flavors, while the sushi is too delicate for it to be worth my while.

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Golden Truffle
1767 Newport Blvd., Costa Mesa, CA 92627

Tabu Grill
2892 S Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

Drew & Eva's Caribbean Kitchen
31732 Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

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  1. The truffle dishes at Marche have all been pretty bold tasting. Very fragrant.

    Chicken with peppers (Saturday special) at Mozza and caulifower fritti with dipping sauce at Mozza should also satisfy that request. Ribs al forno (Thursday special) also delicious and very flavorful.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Porthos

      With the daily menu changes at Marche, how often are the truffle dishes on the menu?

      1. re: ocshooter

        They were there for 2 weeks straight about 3 weeks ago under the chef's tasting section. I'd call to ask to see if it's still available. The chef's tasting section of the menu is usually pretty stellar. There is a dish of seafood and shellfish in lemongrass curry broth with black forbidden rice that's now on the entree section that's also very flavorful and tasty.

    2. Have you thought about contacting the restaurants that you are most fond of and ask them to possibly create a few dishes for you. I am sure a few chefs would welcome the challenge.

      6 Replies
      1. re: TNT Adventures

        I am not a regular anywhere that I would feel comfortable doing so. I think I saw something on teh Golden Spoon web site where they will do something like that on request. I just prefer knowing that a chef is comfortable working with bolder flavors and pairing them with various protiens.

        Plus I would hate to have a chef make something up for me and I walk in to see something I would rather order on the specials board.

        1. re: ocshooter

          Go with an understanding friend and if that happens, ask your friend to order the special.

          I can't imagine that you'd need to be a regular—just call during non-peak times (say, 3 p.m.). Explain to the person who answers the phone, and ask if it could be done a week or so out so they have time to plan. Tip very well.

          1. re: Das Ubergeek

            OK, so I call up and ask them to do something special.. The question remains, where would you do fro a great meal with bolder flavors that is not too spicy and does not have starchy carbs?

            I got some take out from Thai Spice in Irvine last night. I am used to the place (though I have not been in a while) and know that they generally use more heat in their dishes, and medium+ is about as hot as I used to get and still enjoy it. This time I asked for very mild and the food was almost too spicy for me to eat. Tom Ka Gai and Green Chili Beef. My mouth is really a wimp these days, and this is as much a rebound back to normal as I am going to get for at least 6-8 months.

            1. re: ocshooter

              Marche Moderne. Gabbi's in Orange. Any barbecue restaurant (MEAT!). Korean places, and only eat the non-spicy panchan. Traditions in Tustin.

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              Marche Moderne
              3333 Bristol St 3001, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                Gabbi's was just OK, last time I went. And Mexican is too difficult with all the various carbs used to hold the proteins. Same with Indian, I would hate to miss out on some excellent naan and basmati rice.

                Marche Moderne is emerging as a strong contender.

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                Marche Moderne
                3333 Bristol St 3001, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                  I tried Traditions last night. It was like the scene in the Matrix where Joe P is negotiating to get put back in the Matrix. He was eating a succulent steak and was saying that he know the steak does not exist, but no longer cares. For me it was the opposite. I ordered 2 dishes that all my other senses were saying should have been great, lamb curry and chicken tikka masala, and I enjoyed them a bit, but the taste was off and the mild spice too hot for me.

        2. Mil Jugos in Santa Ana. Amazing Venezuelan Food. Their Arepas are to die for. They have 2 types of aji sauces that also have bold flavors. They have great empanadas and meat filled corncakes called chacapas?

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          Mil Jugos
          318 W 5th St, Santa Ana, CA 92701

          4 Replies
          1. re: karynx78

            Mil Jugos is indeed delicious. I think the aji sauce will be way to spicy for ocshooter. He is looking for bold flavors but with minimal spice and no starchy carbs.

            If you have enjoyed Tabu in the past, I would say go with the tried and true and stick with it. +3 on the Marche Moderne recommendation.

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            Marche Moderne
            3333 Bristol St 3001, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

            Mil Jugos
            318 W 5th St, Santa Ana, CA 92701

            1. re: TNT Adventures

              I have been to Mil Jugos when I was on jury duty. It is indeed good, but not exactly a nice night out, and everything that I recall was wrapped in carbs. Not to put too fine a point on it, but carbs taste HORRIBLE.

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              Mil Jugos
              318 W 5th St, Santa Ana, CA 92701

              1. re: ocshooter

                How about Anqi? More specifically the molecular menu. Priced at $160.

                Maybe the textures and taste will be something that might be appealing to you. The menu looks very interesting. Worth checking it out.

                I have never eaten there myself but read positive things about it. You could even email the chef and let him know of your current aversion to carbs and spicy food.

                1. re: TNT Adventures

                  They list a minimum of 8 guests for the menu. I don't have 6 friends willing to pony up that kind of money, and there is no way I am going to foot a $1,200 bill. $320 for the wife and I, perhaps. The menu does look interesting though, and it looks like they will do smaller tasting menus for less, with some customization.

          2. I gotta think Golden Truffle is worth a shot. That place has always been about unexpected flavor combinations. With some advance discussion you might just wind up with something truly memorable.

            A quick google of my fave OC chefs ever, Tim and Liza Goodell yielded this:

            http://25degreesrestaurant.com/25-Deg...

            The variety of cheeses and toppings should do the trick.

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            Golden Truffle
            1767 Newport Blvd., Costa Mesa, CA 92627

            4 Replies
            1. re: GroovinGourmet

              I loved Aubergine when they helmed it, but a burger bar in HB is not what I was after. Plus, The bun would render the whole thing un-palatable. I have had lettuce wrapped burgers from time to time, but they are not really satisfying. It really is a pain to have carbs taste as the do. No sandwiches, pasta, pizza, rice, tortillas... Even breaded fish is bad, I have not had fried chicken, but I imagine that would be bad as well. I eat a lot of roast chicken, and grilled beef, and even with the pure protein, the taste is still a bit off...

              A few of the salads at 25° look good, but not worth the trip to HB.

              1. re: ocshooter

                Pizzeria Ortica's apps might work well. I usually stick with a couple of starter plates for my meal when I go. They have a wonderful prosciutto with burratta, a fabulous octopus dish (it has potatoes, but you might be able to ask them to do it without them), and a new conserva di pollo.

                http://www.pizzeriaortica.com/

                The Crow Bar also had a really nice shrimp salad a couple of weeks back, if you deal ok with veggies.

                http://www.crowbarcdm.com/

                A very filling dinner with a drink or two usually runs me ~$50 at each of those.

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                Pizzeria Ortica
                650 Anton Boulevard, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

                1. re: BekahR

                  I don't eat pork or shellfish, but they do have some other items on the app menu which look tasty. I would just hate to go to a place that specializes in pizza, which I love, at a time when I can't order it.

                  As for Crow Bar, I have been, and it is really is not what I am looking for, though it was good.

                  1. re: ocshooter

                    Their apps and entrees far outshine their pizza. Don't get me wrong, the pizza is totally good. But the rest of their food is just to die for.

                    I would never consider trading my meal for the pizza at the table next to me. You won't be jealous. :)

                    Wishing you the best.