Not all of these exotic cuisines are represented on the Peninsula, but there are a few gems within reach. Among them is Dragonfly Thai, a relatively new restaurant on the north side of the Peninsula Center. They’ve only been open for a few months, but they set standards for authenticity and flavor that will be hard to beat. This is a bit surprising because owner Emily Tjakra featured the cuisine of Indonesia, her home country, rather than Thailand at her previous restaurants, the Banyan and Chakra.
This Chicken Shack is decidedly upscale, the lighting modern and muted, the paintings on the wall moody and romantic. As for deep-frying, they obviously do have a fryer, because they serve French fries, but the chicken here is cooked on a rotisserie. It’s still home cooking, but home was in Peru, and this fast food has a touch of South American elegance.
I really enjoy traditional sushi, and I really hate describing it.
HT Grill moved from venerable but cramped digs across the street and gave the place a startling renovation. Gone are the white walls that covered the old brickwork, the plastered ceilings and divided rooms, in favor of expanses of stonework and open beams. The once quiet room is buzzing with life, and the bar hops even on weeknights. It’s a whole new scene, albeit one with a pedigree; the menu not only has items that were popular in the old HT Grill location across the street, but favorites resurrected from the cookbooks of the Velvet Turtle.
For many years I’ve enjoyed trips to Little Bombay, the area in north Orange County that boasts a huge South Asian community.
The easygoing vibe is as much an attraction as the food and beverage, and it’s no surprise that the same enjoyable atmosphere can be found at the more upscale HT Grill. It can also be found at the newest of Hennessey’s ventures, the cheerful tropical-themed joint known as Mickie Finnz. Where the Hennessey’s Taverns make at least a nod toward the Auld Sod of Ireland and the HT Grill is modern Californian, Mickie Finnz is a loving recreation of a surf bar, palm fronds, bamboo, and all.
The Lido Island near Venice is one of the most famously picturesque places in the world, a seven-mile stretch of villas and sparkling beaches. The name has become such a symbol of luxury that restaurants and nightclubs around the world have adopted it, hoping to capture a hint of the glamour. Parisians eat escargot and see expensive shows with minimally costumed starlets at their Lido, residents of Springfield, Massachusetts nibble Clams Casino at theirs, and locals in Riga dine on Latvian and international food in an atmosphere which I can only imagine is very much unlike Venice.