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The Gossiping Gourmet: Small plates add up to big treat

February 27, 2013|By Elle Harrow and Terry Markowitz | By Elle Harrow and Terry Markowitz
  • Pork belly tacos with kimchi sauce, topped with radish and cilantro at Scraps in Huntington Beach on Wednesday.
Pork belly tacos with kimchi sauce, topped with radish… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

Chef Jamie Ngo is a talented young chef with serious credentials, including Le Cordon Bleu, the Bazaar (a bastion of molecular gastronomy) in Beverly Hills, the Polo Lounge and the Ritz-Carlton in Pasadena. She now presides over her own kitchen at Scraps in Huntington Beach, serving an inventive fusion menu of small plates.

Once again, we note that Huntington Beach appears to have more new, small, chef-driven restaurants than anywhere else in Orange County. The menu has many intriguing combinations that just beg to be tasted, and unusual variations on more familiar dishes.

We never did get to try the mini kim chili Kobe dogs with roasted garlic aioli, or the deviled quail eggs filled with salmon and topped with apple chutney, but we did begin our adventure with chicken bits and hearts, fried in cornstarch batter, tossed with five-spice powder and chili. If you've never tried deep-fried chicken hearts, here's the place to get started. They were delicious with just a nice bit of chewiness and the flavor of dark-meat chicken. The coating was very light and crunchy. The "bits" were little scraps of dark meat prepared in the same manner, and the portion was very generous.

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Alongside these, we munched on a basket of thin, crispy potato and taro chips that came with a terrific cilantro, jalapeno aioli dip. It was so tasty that we dipped the bits and hearts in it too with great results. Taro, like potato, is a root vegetable and, when thinly sliced, also makes a great chip with a slightly more distinctive flavor than potato.

Chicken and waffles is an old soul food dish, combining fried chicken with waffles and maple syrup on both. It has recently become a trendy treat. Chef Jamie, with her Asian heritage, has come up with a rather unique version, substituting ginger-glazed chicken wings for battered fried chicken and adding the unusual touch of kim chi flavor to her Belgian waffles. The addition of a fermented spicy ingredient to a waffle takes some getting used to. The wings in a Korean barbecue sauce were good but messy.

Kim chi popped up again more fortuitously in roasted pork belly tacos, where it was combined with radish and onion to top the tender pork, which was meaty, not fatty and had an excellent crispy skin. The soft tacos were brushed with a spicy, subtly sweet sauce that completed this satisfying dish.

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