Good Eats This Week: Bites in Brea

Chefs, Cooking, Recipes, Restaurants By Jun 24, 2012

Brea, boring? Not at all. Pull up a chair and get a word-photo taste of two of its eateries.

TAPS Fish House & Brewery’s New Summer Menu:

Taps’ Sashimi Salad: Trio of Skuna Bay Salmon, albacore and halibut – crudo style (thinly sliced, then ever-so-gently pounded. Miso-ginger dressing atop microgreens including radish sprouts and arugula, and thinly sliced seeded cucumber. My plate went back to the kitchen clean.

Tom Hope, Taps’ director of culinary, shows off a super-fresh Skuna Bay salmon, craft-raised on Vancouver Island. Raised in a natural ocean environment, the salmon is absolutely delicious.

I’m a big fan of Taps’ Brewmaster Victor Novak. He brews approximately 1700 kegs, or 26,000 gallons of beer for TAPS on an annual basis. His repertoire includes 30 to 35 classic styles of European and American ales and lagers and ales – up to eight at a time are featured at the restaurant.

Taps’ tasting trio: Hefeweizen, Irish Red and Cream Ale. Love them all, but the Irish Red was particularly scrumptious with the salmon; there’s a hint of cucumber in the cold brew.

Shaved Spring Salad: There is nothing wishy-washy in this beautiful concoction of finely-shaved curls of baby beets (both candy cane beets and golden),  fennel, radish cucumber dill and red onions. Drizzled with D.O.P. olive oil and Maldon sea salt, every bite is irresistible. The salad was inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s vegetable garden at Monticello. Thanks to blogger Austin Trask ( for the photo.

Other new dishes include Grilled Jerk Pork Tenderloin, Shrimp&Grits, and a killer Tiramisu Fondue (an espresso-infused ganache and mascapone “martini”). Taps Fish House & Brewery, 101 E. Imperial Highway, Brea 714-257-0101

BUT WAIT, there’s more. Across the street from Bruxie is Cha Cha’s Latin Kitchen where handcrafted margaritas hit new heights. And the food stands up to the challenge of being just as ambrosial as the cocktails.

Don Myers, Cha Cha’s co-propiertor, Cha Cha’s Margarita (Siete Leguas 100% blue agave, Elderflower liqueur, fresh lime juice, and fresh grapefruit juice; Classic Margarita (Blanco Tequila 100% pure, Cointreau, fresh lime, agave nectar- hand shaken and served on the rocks); Mango-Habanero Margarita (Pueblo Viejo 100% blue agave, mango, fresh lime juice, habanero-chili infusion).

It’s hard to pick a favorite marg here. So many tempting offerings. But for my maragarita-loving palate, I love the Fresh Watermelon Margarita the most (El Jimador 100% pure tequila, fresh watermelon, hibiscus juice, fresh lime and agave nectar.)

Any of Cha Cha’s margaritas – all made with fresh-squeezed juices and homemade infusions – go beautifully with the Wood-Fired Queso Fundido (three cheeses baked with poblano chiles and portobello mushrooms over roasted potatoes. Scoop it hot and gooey-good into warm tortillas. You can also order it with chorizo. Mmmm.

Fresh Seafood Caldo: Seafood lovers, here’s your dish; oh-so-fresh mahi mahi, shrimp, clams and squid simmered in a luscious seafood broth with herbs and toasted angel-hair pasta.

“Wood-Oven” Carnitas: Slow-braised marinated pork with achiote, onion, fresh salsas, black beans, rice and corn tortillas.  So darn good.

Fresh Grilled Salmon: The fish is glazed with a chipotle-honey mixture – so it has that smokey-spicy-sweet allure. Served with roasted potatoes, fresh corn and pasilla chiles.

Delectable creamy flan; hiding behind it are what put it over the edge = lovely little orange and anise cookies.

Tres Leches with fresh strawberries adrift in creme anglaise.

Cha Cha’s co-propietors, Peter Serantoni and Don Myers.

Cha Cha’s Tacos & Tequila, 110 W. Birch Street, Brea 714 255-1040

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