Saturday, June 28, 2008

Golden Truffle (Orange County)

If you ever drive down to Balboa Island off of Newport Blvd, you're bound to pass by a restaurant with a giant gold awning.

The Golden Truffle, owned by Chef Alan Greeley is a true "hybrid/fusion" restaurant with influences from the Caribbean, France, Asia, and Spain. Chef Alan is truly an artist at what he does, his creativity shines from each dish. The very best thing you can do is when come to the restaurant, ask if Chef Alan is there. If he is you have him make whatever he wants. It'll be dishes that aren't on the normal menu, just whatever he thinks of impressing you with that day.

The problem here is that Chef Alan does not always cook. He's always there for lunch, but more often than not he's at a catering event at night. The waiters/hosts don't seem to know when he's working at night either. Whether they are lying.. or they truly don't know, either one is quite vexing.

So for your viewing pleasure I have two trips to the Golden Truffle. One.. where the hostess told us he was working when we made the reservation but in fact he was not.. and Two where he was working.

First meal, Dinner... no Chef Alan.

The waitress promised us the quality was up to par with Chef Alan, of course the real big difference is everything is off the menu for this meal. $55 prixe fixe for 5 courses, one dish wasn't on the menu.

First dish, Chicken liver marinated in chicken broth.

This was probably the best dish of the night. Chicken liver doesn't have that overly rich flavor that comes with Foie. The interesting part of this dish was the way it was constructed, chunks of liver were put together ,then lightly cooked with chicken broth, and then chilled so there is a lining of chicken broth around the liver. Pretty good strong chicken stock flavor. Nice briny pickles to pair with it.

Next dish, Soft shell crab roll.

Fresh soft shell crab (still swimming before our meal) mixed with avocado on a thin chinese tortilla. Topped with shaved green onion, pea sprouts, and cilantro, this wasn't like the standard "crab roll." Instead of rice, a chinese style tortilla was used, it's a very thin yet doughy tortilla. On the side is house made hot sauce and hoisin sauce. The hot sauce here is very good, slightly sweet with a lingering burn at the back of your throat.

Next was the quail eggroll (not on the menu)

Ground quail stuffed with far too much ginger. Served with a side of fish sauce the giner flavor overwhelmed everything. Incredibly spicy.. which is always a + for me. Some shitake inside but not earthy at all.

First entree, Argentian style steak

Strips of well done filet marinated in lime and spices and topped with tomatoes. A very strong Chimichurri sauce was poured over the steak. Reference to Chimichurri here! The steak was tender even though it was on the well done side. The lime was a bit strong but the tomatoes were really well marinated.

Final dish, Jamaican style soft shell crab

Two whole soft shell crabs grilled and then lightly stewed with a "Jamaican" style sauce. The sauce is a generous amount of basil, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, red and yellow pepper, and cilantro. A very spicy, savory dish with a light vinegar taste. The sauce is really good with bread because it's so rich.

Finally the dessert, a Tiramisu with vanilla gelato

Star of the evening! Delicious dessert! Tiramisu with a torched hard sugar topping. Light espresso flavor and soft lady fingers. Really well done thick vanilla bean gelato.

Now the meal with Chef Alan. Lunch time on a sunny Newport day.
Since it was lunch, we asked for a more limited menu.. lighter and only 3-4 dishes. We were told.. 3 appetizers and an entree. All dishes were not on the menu. We were the first people there so each dish he made that day were inparted to those that ate after us for lunch =P.

First dish was smoked scallop with soy sauce and wasai infusion.

The scallops are thinly sliced and topped with pea sprouts and sesame. A bit heavy handed with the sauce so the wasabi is very intense, but the scallops were tender and almost like abalone. A new set of chopsticks was given to us with the dish. Very cute presentation.

The second dish was a crab louie with chicken feet and infused flavor tomatoes.

This dish is made to be eaten together. That's the problem with deconstructed dishes, if you eat it piece by piece it might not be what the chef had invisioned. If you eat the crab by itself, it has too much mustard.. but the mustard balances out when you have a piece of the tomato, with the crab, and the avocado. As a combined dish, it's done very well. Spicy, meaty, with a bit of acid.

The tomatoes are interesting, one had a pepperoni infusion flavor and the other tomato was more of a citrus flavor.

Ahhh chicken feet. Since I love me some dim sum I eat quite a bit of chicken feet and this was well done. Not as strong of flavor as the normal chinese style, it actually made it easier to eat. When I told the waiter I love chicken feet, he brought out a giant plate of it for us to eat.

The 3rd "appetizer" was more an entree than anything. Stuffed mussels with ground veal and chinese sausage with egg noodles and fresh tomato sauce.

Look at the size of this puppy, how is this an appetizer.. huge! I was not a fan of the egg noodle.. it just has a weird consistency that matches soup more than Italian sauce. Big chunks of tomato with flaked basil and oregeno.

Six large mussels wrapped in rubberband.

DELICIOUS chunks of veal sweetened by the Chinese sausage. The mussels themselves were just okay, a bit bitter. I really didn't like the use of the rubberbands for the mussels. It was hard to remove, every time you took a rubber band off you got sauce everywhere and some of the dishes had a bit of rubber band flavor.

Final dish. Braised Pork Flank with stewed beans.

This is one of the best pork dishes I've had in my whole life. The dish itself took about 20 minutes later than the noodles but it was well worth the time. A great porportion of fat and meat and so tender it melts underneath your fork. Incredibly flavorful, strong pork notes with light salt and pepper.
I'm normally not a fan of beans but these were stewed perfectly. Not too mushy but cooked just right.

We had some leftovers of the pork and I devoured it.
All in all a good deal for $40.

There is definitely a stark contrast between Chef Alan's cooking and his chef de cuisine, so much so it might be worth going only when Alan is cooking.

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



Roger. said...

It's almost 2am and the post is making me hungrier and hungrier...

I suppose a 2am snack on top of my midnight snack is alright for my waistline?

Charlie Fu said...

Roger: Sorry bud! Just gotta not read food blogs late at night -=P

Anonymous said...

Chicken feet...What a delight!

Mary said...

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skillet said...

I hope this doesnt post twice. I go to the Truffle very often (just last night) and always get the tasting course you describe. But mine is like a fraction of what you got! Last night: cold mussel salad
tomato gorgonzola salad
soft shell crab
a lone piece of brisket

All of it delicious but compared to your descriptions I feel like Oliver Twist. Did you dine alone? I have often sensed that it doesn't pay to get the tasting course if one is alone, because the dishes are liable to be better or more varied if the cook has more to work with than one serving. I always go there by myself because the food is so remarkable, and I don't think my friends appreciate it enough.

Charlie Fu said...

Skillet: I've gone each time with one other person. Dinner was 5 courses and lunch was 4. But the less you eat the cheaper right? (i hope so!)

Yours still sounded very good! Cold mussel salad =).

Our lunch was rather particular, we were the first in to do the tasting menu, so he was trying out new stuff. The other tables got far less food of the same thing.