Niyaz’s Top 20 O.C. Dishes of 2016

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My top food moment of 2016 … Zov winning the Golden Foodie Award for 2016 Chef of the Year!

It’s been a great year for Orange County foodies.

We have Lobster Fries, Spaghetti Pizza and Churro Loops; Top Chefs in the kitchen and new openings at such a rapid pace it’s hard to keep up. There’s been a lot of delicious dishes to try, and while I couldn’t get to them all, I did manage to enjoy my fair share of awesome plates.

Here’s the 20 best things I ate and drank this year!

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Irenia at Lunch: Modern Filipino Food Shines in DTSA

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Filipino food is not something I’m thoroughly familiar with. Back in the day we used to raid my friend Noel’s pantry for Vienna Sausages, Spam and rice—and while that’s sure to make the Filipinos reading this smile—we can all agree: true Filipino food that is not.

I’ve previously dabbled in dishes at Pinoy Pam’s and Magic Wok—finding introduction to lumpia, pancit, sisig and lechon—but it hasn’t been until the recent influx of finer-dining Filipino fare, led mostly by second generation Filipino Americans, that I truly began to take notice of what this new wave of chefs are cooking up.

Filipino food is taking over the Golden State: In Los Angeles Eggslut founder Alvin Cailan’s Amboy helped pave the way for the Jonathan Gold-approved LASA; in Oakland the first Savor Filipino food festival goes down Oct. 15; and here in Orange County we have our own special gem in the heart of Downtown Santa Ana, the humble yet show-stopping Irenia.

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This Wu-Tang Clan Pop-Up Dinner Was Nothin’ to F#!K With

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I’ve been looking forward to Chef Linh Nguyen’s Wu-Tang Clan pop up at Mesa Lounge since he announced it earlier this summer. I grew up listening to the Wu, Shaolin’s finest rap collective, and can still rap the entirety of the song “Triumph”—though a few lines get a little hazy these days.

The same goes for Nguyen, who might as well have come from the 37th Chamber. His love for these beats and rhymes goes back to when he was 10 years old. Inspired by music and memories, Nguyen—along with Ashley Guzman, his former cohort at the North Left, and current Pastry Queen at Irenia—delved deep into their catalogue to deliver 6 fresh cuts complete with drink pairings.

Nguyen, who is Foodbeast’s house chef, told us he’s about to become Executive Chef again somewhere in Santa Ana. If this is the kind of creativity he’s producing, I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Orange County next.  … Read more…