A written signature establishes an individual’s uniqueness and style. For chefs, a signature dish has the same characteristics. A recent opportunity to taste seven iconic dishes at South Coast Plaza was revelatory—they all shared a pursuit of perfection that makes them standouts with loyal followings.
Piggyback Sushi, Hamamori Restaurant-Sushi Bar
Sitting in front of James Hamamori, you’re captivated by his technique. The movements—swift, delicate and efficient—never miss a beat, yet remain wholly artistic. The “Piggyback” gives the opportunity to simultaneously experience three distinctive layers of taste and texture. The creamy uni brings oceanic roots; the toro a rich umami. The finish of vinegary sushi rice punctuates the palate with brightness.
Soft Egg Raviolo, Leatherby’s Café Rouge
The single large parcel of pasta with a savory filling and served in a puddle of sauce has become a trend in recent years. Chef Ross Pangilinan does a showstopping version that theatergoers love. A cut into the arugula pasta breaks a delicately cooked egg, creating a vibrant color palette, intermingling with finely braised oxtail jus. With an array of tastes—guanciale, house-made ricotta, puffed beef tendon—every bite is different from the last.
Gold Standard, Holsteins Shakes and Buns
The Gold Standard has the heft we expect of a burger. With the first bite, the quality of the ingredients becomes evident. Dry-aged beef tastes sweet and clean; thick-cut bacon gives a smoky chew; aged goat cheddar lends a creamy richness. It’s finished with tomato confit and peppery arugula and sandwiched between a toasty bun generously spread with zesty garlic-chive aioli.
Seared Foie Gras and Bigeye Tuna, Marché Moderne
With the return of foie gras to California menus, chef-proprietor Florent Marneau presents a seasonal interpretation of his popular starter. Rich foie gras, beautifully seared, is surrounded by a carpaccio of the freshest tuna. Shaved black truffles bring a third dimension, making for a heavenly masterpiece.
Khyber’s Nectar, Royal Khyber Fine Indian Cuisine
Chef-proprietor Arun Puri redefines “low and slow” cooking with Khyber’s Nectar, his specialty dish for over three decades with historic roots. Choice lamb shanks are simmered for 14 hours so the tender meat falls off the bone. The rich, complex sauce, made with distinct, whole Indian spices and enriched with melted marrow, is fit for a maharaja.
Xiaolongbao, Din Tai Fung
A soup dumpling automatically comes with a surprise—a burst of broth as you pierce the steamed, delicate casing. The xiaolongbao here are the best translation of the Shanghai originals in the U.S. And thankfully they’re at our Southern California fingertips, literally. Ditch the chopsticks and soup spoon; some of the best flavor comes as you dip the juicy dumpling into your custom mixture of black vinegar, soy and ginger, and then savor.
C.C. Brown’s Hot Fudge Sundae, Lawry’s Carvery
Lawry’s Carvery understands the classic ingredients of a sundae: vanilla bean ice cream, toasted almonds, house-whipped cream and, most important, ribbons of dark chocolate hot fudge. Forget trendy ice cream novelties with carriers like donuts or waffles, and focus on the divine fudge with a pedigree going back to 1906 when Clarence Clifton Brown brought the famous sundae to Los Angeles.