O.C.’s Best: Fusion Cuisine

Six local places that blend familiar ethnic flavors to create something exciting

It was only a matter of time before the diverse mix of culinary tastes here in Orange County began blending—sometimes, all in one dish. Korean BBQ tacos? Yakisoba hot dogs? Yes, please! These restaurants offer dishes that represent a clever and delicious melding of cultures.


1 TLT Food
The Lime Truck spawned this brick-and-mortar restaurant from chef Daniel Shemtob and Murray Wishengrad. Try the addictive carnitas fries, with braised pulled pork, cotija cheese, crema, house-made guacamole, and a chipotle-honey slaw. The Spicy Sambal Wings, LEFT, a twist on Buffalo wings made with a fiery Asian chile sauce and sesame seeds, pack legitimate heat, tempered with a bit of sweetness from sliced green apples. Pork belly nachos, made with a Filipino-inspired adobo marinade and pico de gallo on top, are an interesting and flavorful take on the Tex-Mex snack. $3 to $11; 705 Spectrum Center Drive, Irvine, 949-727-1414, tltfood.com
2 Anepalco’s Cafe
Chef Daniel Godinez marries the two loves of his life: refined French cooking techniques and bold Mexican flavors. The Le Mexique Coq Au Vin—wine-braised Jidori free-range chicken with pork belly, potato puree, baby carrots, and Brussels sprouts—is a lovely rendition of the French classic, with dry chipotle chiles for a little heat. And the Serrano Beurre Blanc features a perfectly pan-seared tilapia with corn pico de gallo, potato puree, and a vibrant chile serrano beurre blanc that’s poured tableside for an elegant presentation. $10 to $25; Ayers Inn, 3737 W. Chapman Ave., Orange, 714-456-9642; anepalcoscafe.com
3 Dos Chinos
You can find Vietnamese, Chinese, Mexican, Korean, Thai, and Hawaiian flavors at this popular roving restaurant (yeah, it’s a food truck) that lets you pick your protein and dish: taco, burrito, rice bowl, quesadilla, or salad. The crispy Vietnamese roasted pork, thit heo quay, with salsa verde is great as a bowl or burrito combo. Another solid pick is the Garden Grove BBQ, an homage to Korean and Mexican BBQ meats, with ribeye, cabbage, and crema sauce. Try it “stoner” style by adding roasted pork belly, chorizo fried rice, and a fried egg. It’s a tasty exercise in culinary extravagance. $7.50 to $12; 714-383-0414, doschinos.com
4 Urban Seoul 2.0
Flavors here range from Korean to Mexican to Hawaiian. There are Wagyu Kalbi Sliders and Gogi Quesadillas, but we highly recommend the Wagyu Loco Moco Skillet. It’s a marinated Wagyu patty on a bed of garlic fried rice, topped with a fried egg and crispy fried onions, all slathered with mushroom gravy. Green onions and fuchsia-colored pickled onions add gorgeous color to this rich dish. We also love the pork buns—buttery slabs of pork belly braised for five hours and tucked into steamed sweet buns with mixed greens, pickled cucumber kimchi, and Korean chile aioli. Wash it all down with a frozen soju margarita. $6 to $13; 414 Spectrum Center Drive, Irvine, 949-727-1900, urban-seoul.com
5 Burntzilla
The Burnt Truck and Dogzilla bring together their favorite signature hits. Don’t miss the mini-Japanese fusion hot dogs such as the Yaki Dog, with spicy cajun pork link, stir-fried yakisoba noodles, okonomi sauce, aonori, and pickled red ginger. There’s a lot going on there, visually and tastewise, but it all works. Also try the Vietnamese pork slider, with garlic aioli, marinated pork, pickled carrots and daikon, cucumber, jalapeno, and cilantro. It’s topped with an irresistible nuoc mam, the family recipe fish sauce that includes lime, sugar, garlic, ginger, fermented fish, and potent chiles. $3 to $5; 14413 Culver Drive, Irvine, 949-392-5995, burntzilla.com
6 Café Hiro
For decades—before fusion cuisine became a thing—chef Hiro Ohiwa has received rave reviews for the quirky Japanese-Italian-French fare at this cozy bistro. The uni spaghetti remains a beloved dish: perfectly al dente thin noodles coated with a kiss of buttery sea urchin, toasted seaweed strips, and wasabi. The combination is balanced and could even win over non-sea urchin fans. The beef tongue stew is a delightful surprise, with tender braised beef in a demi-glace sauce. For dessert, don’t miss the silky panna cotta with fresh seasonal fruits. $4 to $18; 10509 Valley View St., Cypress, 714-527-6090, cafehiro.com

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