Leatherby's Cafe Rouge Excites with Broadway Dinner Menu - August 2015 to March 2016

One of the beautiful perks of living in Orange County is the Segerstrom Center for the Arts which becomes home to several Broadway shows and exciting performances throughout the year. In addition to being a central point for exquisite entertainment, its grounds also houses several other points of interest including Leatherby's Cafe Rouge, a restaurant led by Executive Chef Ross Pangilinan and part of the illustrious Patina Group. The menu here is dictated by international influences upon a Californian cuisine; however, when it is Broadway show season, Chef Pangilinan has a few tricks up his sleeve. Special pre-show prix fixe dinners can be reserved and feature dishes inspired by the show, interpreted as creatively as the chef decides it. We were invited to preview some choice dishes for shows taking place between August 2015 and March 2016, and once again, we loved the mastery Chef Pangilinan has in the culinary world.

The tasting was organized as acts of a show so we begun with Act I by The Phantom of the Opera which opens today and runs through August 16th. This course was named "The Phantom" and made up of lightly cured cobia, ginger gelee, daikon puree, white asparagus, nori, and calamansi. For the chef, the word phantom brought to mind the experience when a swimmer sees a fish that quickly disappears. Because of this, he opted for mainly translucent ingredients to complement the fish. Though seemingly simple in appearance, the delicate bites were the perfect composition of flavors that were kept light and balanced. The nori was a thoughtful touch in giving more savoriness to each bite, and the calamansi had just the right amount of acid for a sashimi-like dish.

It was very hard throughout the night to select a favorite of the dishes tried but Act II's contribution for The Lion King (runs October 6 - November 1) was brilliant both in concept and in mouth. "The Circle of Life" was composed of caramelized salmon deviled eggs, salmon caviar, chicken skin, pickled mustard seed, and mustard frills. Aside from the playful yet elegant taste, the dish had thoughtful execution and inspiration. The egg was presented atop paper on a wooden board (first circle of life reference), accompanied by fried chicken skin (second reference), filled with caramelized salmon and roe (third reference), and accessorized with both mustard seeds and mustard greens (fourth reference). If that isn't impressive forethought, I'm not sure what is. It was also a very tasty course that played on textures and the dichotomy of flavors per ingredient pair. I particularly enjoyed the contrast between the soft, smooth deviled egg and the crunchy, rough fried chicken skin.

Act III, inspired by 42nd Street (November 10-22), was "Philadelphia" consisting of "Cheese steak," oxtail, housemade cheese "whiz," caramelized onion and peppers, and fries. How can a Philly cheesesteak be made into a dish presentable for fine dining? Chef Pangilinan figured out how. As part of the show is set in Philadelphia, he found it fitting to highlight such an iconic dish and in a deconstructed way. The savory, tender oxtail made itself to be a suitable rendition of cheesesteak, and the fries actually were what really took it to the next level!

Next up was Act IV's Wicked (February 16 - March 6) and the "March of the Witch Hunters" dish consisting of veal ravioli, sweetbreads, bacon, cipollini onion, mushroom, oven-dried tomato, and "hunter" sauce. Inspired by the iconic song, Chef Pangilinan opted for ingredients that can be hunted or foraged in a forest and even took the dish to the next level with a sauce chausseur also known as "hunter's sauce." Each of the pieces stood very well on their own but were even better when enjoyed together. Including the sweetbreads was an apt and poignant choice to really drive the concept of a hunt home.

Lastly, The Final Act was for Nutcracker (December 10-20) and titled "Christmas Eve," consisting decadently of brownie, Oreo, peanut butter all in one, and a milk sorbet. This is not a dessert for the weak, and I would recommend it being shared as all of those rich components will surely make one miss the show. The guilt-inducing concoction was assembled well and gave each spoonful an even portion of every part. I especially enjoyed how subtle the milk sorbet was and how it lighten up the decadence even just a smidge.

Overall, another applause-worthy showcase of what is in store for those opting for pre-show dinners at Leatherby's. If you'd like to see the full menus for this season, visit here and make your reservation by learning more here.

Photography by Minerva Thai.

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