Rene and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall
615 Town Center Drive
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
I was recently invited down to a media dinner at Leatherby's Cafe Rouge to sample the culinary creations from their fairly new executive chef, Ross Pangilinan. Leatherby's seems to be a restaurant that a lot of people in Orange County have never heard of. This is a shame, because the food here is top notch. Leatherby's is located on the first floor of the Rene and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. The restaurant is frequented by patrons of the Orange County Performing Arts Center and SCR. Therefore, if you dine there after the nightly shows begin, you will most likely be dining in an almost empty restaurant.
(Please excuse the graininess of the photos. The lighting in the restaurant is dim and I was not using a flash.)
We had a preset menu for the media dinner. The meal started with an amuse bouche sent out by the chef. It was a small cube of compressed watermelon topped with a balsamic vinegar sphere and pop rocks. It was very tasty and very fun to eat with the pop rocks exploding in your mouth.
Our first course was a Fresh Seafood Quartet. The quartet contained octopus, lobster, ahi tuna tartar in a cone and smoked hamachi. Each item on the plate was absolutely delicious. The octopus was the most tender piece of octopus I have ever had. I think my favorite had to be the lobster though, with the tuna cone coming in a close second.
The second course was house made fettuccine with roasted mushrooms and white wine parmesan sauce. The dish was topped with a generous serving of truffle shavings. I enjoyed this dish so much that I waved down the waiter and asked him if there was any way I could get an order of this to take home. I was more than happy to pay any amount for this dish. Sadly, when I got home and opened the container, there were no shaved truffles on top. The truffles are what made this dish truly special. I think the truffle shavings on top may have been special for this media dinner because the online menu for the restaurant only lists "truffle essence" in the description.
For our main course, we had the choice of three dishes, all of which are available on their daily menu. Our three choices were:
Black Striped Bass (Market Fish of the Day, normally market price)
Israeli couscous paella, mussels, shrimp, chorizo, saffron.
Duo of Beef Shortribs (normally $28)
Braised and grilled, raclette potatoes, yellow and green bean salad, mushroom red wine sauce.
Maple Leaf Farms Duck Breast (normally $29)
Mushroom risotto, caramelized blackberries, Szechuan pepper, cider jus.
All of the dishes sounded fantastic, but I finally decided on the short ribs. The grilled short rib was served on top of the raclette potatoes, which were basically pureed potatoes with a little cheese in them. The braised short rib was served with the yellow and green bean salad on top. Both versions were absolutely delicious. If I had to pick a favorite though, it would have to be the braised. It's just so hard to go wrong with braised short ribs. It was tender, full of flavor and scrumptious.
After dinner, we were presented with an assortment of desserts to share. Pictured are a trio of chocolate desserts, panna cotta, cheesecake and bread pudding. They also served an assortment of gelatos and sorbets. All of the desserts were presented nicely, but were pretty average. The only thing that stood out was the watermelon and black pepper sorbet. Everyone at the table had fun trying to figure out what flavor the watermelon was paired with.
Overall, I think that Leatherby's is a fantastic choice if you are looking for a delicious, upscale meal in Orange County. You're not going to get huge portions here, but the food you do get will be amazing. Everyone should treat themselves to this place at least once.