Recognize the name? Chef Amar Santana dazzled viewers as a finalist on Bravo’s “Top Chef.” He competed on Korean Food Battle, and although he doesn’t speak Korean, almost won the competition.
The HALL Global Eatery, SCP, Costa Mesa: Along with business partner Ahmed Labbate, Chef Santana has opened a extraordinary food hall at South Coast Plaza (it’s the spot where Z’Tejas used to occupy). Santana and Labbate also own the popular restaurants Vaca and Broadway. but this new spot is enormous, with over 200 seats located in over 7,000 square feet inside and 1,500 square feet on the patio.
Lucky me. I got to go in and sample before they opened. Life is good. It is set to open on January 2.
The HALL includes a Mediterranean grill with Moroccan influences; it includes 3 types of shawarma that are served as a wrap or as a plated meal with mouth-watering sides. Another option are briovates (briwats), delicious Moroccan versions of crunchy phyllo wrapped meat-filled “egg rolls.” Adjacent to the grill is the patisserie that offers coffee, smoothies, juices and sandwiches – and beautiful French pastries.
Crudo, a full-service restaurant, holds court on the opposite side, as well as an beautiful bar (they stock 26 Japanese whiskeys). Talented Chef de Cuisine Nelson Sanchez along with Santana, has worked out a menu that is so appealing, it’s hard to whittle down choices to a manageable number.
Here are some dishes that I tried on the full-service CRUDO SIDE:
Peruvian Scallops with yellow aji, coconut, finger limes and chopped corn nuts (this turned out to be one of my favorite all-time scallop dishes). The flavors danced delightfully in my mouth.
(While we’re on the subject, I want to mention that I recently taped how-to videos with Amar. In the video he accompanies beautifully-seared scallops with an egg-less Bearnaise (that sauce is on the Crudo menu served with Steak et Frites), as well as a luscious sous-vied chicken breast adrift in corn pudding. Be sure to watch it. OK?)
Now, back to The Hall!
The cocktails I sampled were both delicious and delightfully new-different. Exciting.
(Below) On the left in the photo, is the FALSE KING – close your eyes and listen to the ingredients: VSOP Cognac, Edmond Briottet Creme de Mure (blackberry liqueur), Caffe Amaro, Lime, Cardamom bitters and grated coffee bean and a blood orange garnish. Brilliantly delicious.
On the right, a YU REBEL, a mix of Suntory Roku Gin, Domaine de Montreuil Calvados, Spiced Hibiscus, Coconut, Lime and black lava sea salt.
Server Celeste had a smile that was contagious.