Take a tasting tour of the globe without leaving Orange County.
For many frequent fliers—particularly those who moonlight as obsessive epicureans—the best part of traveling to a new country is experiencing the cuisine. Spending time with locals and absorbing their traditions and flavors can offer a complete cultural immersion.
Here in Newport, dozens of international chefs and restaurateurs bring tastes from their native countries to our dining tables, offering an education for coastal palates. The area’s culinary scene is on an upward swing, and between Newport and Costa Mesa there are authentic dishes hailing from almost every continent.
It’s too hard to narrow down the options—we have stellar cuisines ranging from Mexican and Mediterranean to Italian and Thai—but here are a few out-of-the-ordinary dishes that may satisfy your taste for travel.
Australia: No Utensils Required
Orange County’s first Aussie-style bakery, Pie-Not, is the brainchild of Newport resident Ryan Lopiccolo and Jai Snowdon, who hails from the Gold Coast of Australia. Part of the 17th Street Promenade in Costa Mesa, it delivers authentic meat pies meant to be eaten by hand. You can pick your pie from the glass case in the small shop; it’s served in a paper bag so you can enjoy it warm on your way out. The classic option, known as the Dog’s Eye, features Angus ground beef with diced onions encased in a flaky crust. Savory and simple, it’s perfect for a snack or lunch on the go. (949-650-7437; pienot.com) —Allison Hata
North America: Southern Comfort
While a Southern flair can be seen throughout Bosscat Kitchen & Libations’ menu, one of the most authentic dishes is undoubtedly the rock shrimp and Hoppin John’s Gouda grits. According to chef Peter Petro, the primary ingredients come straight from the South: Grits are milled-to-order in the mountains of Georgia and the rock shrimp are sourced from the Gulf. He cooks the grits for an hour and a half to ensure a creamy texture, which is enhanced with the addition of Gouda. Then, the shrimp are sauteed with classic creole seasonings: the “trinity” (onion, bell pepper and celery) and garlic, with Louisiana hot sauce for some heat. (949-333-0917; bosscatkitchen.com) —Katherine Duncan
Asia: Chef’s Choice
At Takashi Abe’s small but acclaimed Bluefin restaurant in the Crystal Cove Shopping Center, the omakase menu allows guests to try an array of dishes at the chef’s selection. The often two-hour dinner experience is a study in Japanese tradition. Like many revered sushi chefs in Japan, Abe beats the sun to the fish market to purchase fresh seafood. His trek takes him up to downtown Los Angeles and all the way back to Orange County before 7 a.m. It’s a labor of love: “Sashimi, carpaccio, sushi, even cooked dishes—they all are fresh, sashimi quality,” he says of his menu. (949-715-7373; bluefinbyabe.com) —Linda Domingo
Europe: Lucky Shot
“The modern version of the Irish stew is our Black Bush Irish stew,” says Sindi Rae Schwartz, executive chef and co-owner of Muldoon’s Irish Pub. For this contemporary take, she begins with a classic preparation—vegetables, herbs, cream, Guinness—but substitutes braised beef for lamb, the meat of choice on the Emerald Isle. She serves it with baby lamb shanks for dipping and a short shot of Bushmills Black Bush whiskey to pour over the dish for the luck of the Irish. (949-640-4110; muldoonspub.com) —Lauren Matich
South America: Cultural Influences
Inka Grill owner Ana Kishihara has offered a taste of her native Peru for more than 20 years and has gained a loyal following—especially around lunchtime. One of her favorite dishes to recommend at the Costa Mesa restaurant is the “saltados,” a hybrid stir-fry. “Peruvian cuisine is a blend of Italian, Chinese and French, and the saltados is a perfect sample of all of these flavors without losing the essence of each,” Kishihara says. “Your choice of meat (beef, chicken or shrimp) is sauteed with onions, tomatoes, cilantro and scallions. We splash a bit of soy sauce and throw fries and veggies in there and serve it with garlic white rice. (714-444-4652; inkagrill.com) —Kirsti Bloom NBM
~Written by Kirsti Bloom, Linda Domingo, Katherine Duncan, Allison Hata and Lauren Matich