Event - Early Bird Dinner Menu Preview

If you're one of the early birds that is a big fan of the award-winning breakfast & lunch menus of Fullerton's Early Bird Cafe, you're in for a treat come dinner time. A dinner service is in the final stages of development (aka the testing on we guinea pigs stage) with menu items given a creative twist on some diner dinner classics. The official release of dinner service will be June 4, 2013 from 5:30pm to closing (Tu-Sat) but I was fortunate enough to get to taste the menu items yesterday night and I was thrilled. With not even a year under their belt, Early Bird Cafe has managed to capture a fan base for their seasonal, innovative, and from-scratch foods. If they are feeling any bit timid on that crowd warming up to their dinner menu, I'll say that they have nothing to fear. It was a fantastic spread last night during the preview.

The menu will feature two types of main dishes to enjoy - Small Plates (designed for sharing at 2-3 per person) and Large Plates ("treat this like an entrĂ©e or go family style – your choice"). There were actually several that I was unable to taste but considering the variety they had, I didn't regret it because even with five at the table total, we were all verily stuffed by our departure. The staff was very on top of what they were doing throughout the night, a welcome addition to our experience. I wish that I had sat down somewhere more conducive to taking better pictures with my flash-less camera (forgot it!) because everything that came from the kitchens was artfully presented.

The first to arrive on our table was the
Salt Cod (Crispy Rice, Thai Chiles, Herbs & Young Ginger) followed soon after by the Summer Squash (Shallots, Preserved Lemon, Coriander) and Watermelon & Citrus Thai-Veche. These were all on the Small Plates side of the menu. The salt cod lived up to its name by being quite salty, an attribute well balanced out by the use of lime and ginger overall. There was a small amount of Thai chiles that gave the dish a slight heat (perhaps could use a tad more) and fresh herbs to continuously refresh the bites. I loved the feeling of the crispy rice in the dish mixed with the soft flesh of cod. To quickly wipe away the saltiness from our mouths, we then dove into one of my favorites for the evening in the form of summer squash in several forms and styles. Atop a puree of other squash, lemon, and sumac with za'tar sprinkled on, hearty and crisp squash laid colorfully. Everything was so refreshing from the grilled chunks to the ribboned slices to the edible flowers. We even got the tip that the shallots in it had a 3-2-1 ratio of vinegar-water-sugar in its pickling. To sweeten the palate, the watermelon and citrus thai-veche was heavy in Thai basil, microgreens, and natural fruitiness. The succulent cubes of watermelon was spiked with citrus zings amidst its sweetness.


Savory plates came out afterwards: Pork Belly Po’ Boy (Smoked Sriracha, B&B Pickles), Shishito Peppers (Bonito, Yuzu), Sweetbreads (Hot Sauce, Celery, Ranch), and Chicken-Fried Thin Chops (Guajillo, Spring Vegetable Crudite). The chops were the only on the menu from the Large Plates side. The po'boy was something that stung with a sriracha heat upfront but then mellowed out with the sweet finish of the bun and pickles; the
pork belly was beautifully flavorful and soft in all the right areas. Our peppers dish was quickly dispensed of as each small pepper could easily be picked up and eaten in one bite. A few areas of the skin were blackened during the cooking process, bringing out its sweet vegetal flavor. I felt like the bonito flakes did not add too much to the dish overall but it did present nicely. The sweetbreads were surprisingly light and almost pate-like, just a little thicker. It paired well with its accompanying vegetables. For the chops, the sauce was just enough to add flavor to the meat without overpowering any part of the batter or creating a soggy mess. The crudite were also very spring season-oriented which presented a welcome crunch.


The last round of dishes were all fairly heavy too: Twice Fried Chicken (Vinegar Dip, Scallions), Fried Pig Ear (Black Garlic Salsa, Chimichurri), Singaporean Chili Crab (Fresh Dungeness Crab upon request), and Poutine (Beef cheeks, Oregon Cheddar, Sunny Egg). Of them all, the chicken was my least preferred because the vinegar was a tad too strong for me. However, I think the rest of the table really dug it as it got eaten quickly. The fried pig ear was their take on "Chips & Salsa" and what a creative one it was! It was just about my favorite for the night because it satisfied two very primal desires in eating: saltiness and crunchiness. Replace me my fries on a dish with fried pork ears please! The chili crab knocked me just about over with its spiciness, and I'm a wuss with that stuff. That's not to say it wasn't good though. It certainly was and with a sweet spice (tamarind?), it could have been addictive. Keep in mind that you have to reserve a crab for your table at least 24 hours in advance if you want it! Then there was the poutine, a shoestring fry-heavy plate piled on with braised and brilliant beef cheeks. It would serve to be a great starter.


So what didn't we get to try out? The list is below, and yes, there was quite a bit too! Because their food is also made from scratch and seasonal, there will be potential situations where they may be out of certain items as we discovered (other customers had gotten it before us!). Also, please note that "
Modifications & Substitutions Politely Declined. Please Let Us Know Of Any Allergies/Dietary Restrictions."

Our missed treats that you shouldn't miss: 
  • Lemon Curd, Sugar Cookies, Blueberry Compote
  • House Soda Float
  • Street Melon, Lime Ice, Bacon Fat, Beer Emulsion
  • Early Season Greens – Tomato Confit, Avocado, 7min Eggs, Lemon Vin
  • Romaine – Bagna Cuda, Manchego, Breadcrumbs, White Anchovy
  • Jerked Carlsbad Mussels – Cilantro, Cheese Toast
  • Trout – Lime Butter, Charred Corn, Pickled Carrots 
  • Ribeye – Nebraska corn-fed, 12oz, Duck Fat, Horseradish, Pickled Onion Rings
  • Dr. Pepper Glazed Spare Ribs 
  • Coffee-Rubbed Pork Chop – Ancho Chile Vin, Roasted/Pickled Cauliflower  
*Weekly seasonal specials will also be available. Local craft beer, wine, and Early Bird's coffee will be served as well. Menu is subject to change.

There's a reason why they were voted Best New Restaurant in 2013 by OC Weekly. With Executive Chef Frank DeLoach (whom you may know from Playground, Pinot Provence, Pizza Ortica, and Mezze) at the helm, the restaurant is sure to show you some good eats replete with the Asian-inspired flavor profiles he likes to use. Pictured above are Chef Frank with co-founders Tank Menzies and Marcelo Caraveo. Additionally, recent co-owner Steve Sims of Bodhi Leaf Coffee was present and pictured speaking to staff members at the start of this article. If you're interested in dining at this delicious spot, you will find them at 1000 B. East Bastanchury Road in Fullerton.

Photography by Minerva Thai. More photos available on Facebook.

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