After lunch @ Patina @ the (wonderful) renovated Bower's Museum in Santa Ana, we had dinner last night @ Patina's new restaurant in the O.C. Performing Arts Center - Leatherby's Cafe Rouge. We were excited to go after reading Irene Virbila's strong review in the LA Times + chowhound reports.
The setting is lovely. The restaurant is on the main floor of the new Segerstrom concert hall and I'd requested a table by the glorious undulating windows when I made the reservation. We were dining @ 5 p.m. (pre-theatre) so I laughed as we approached as we were the first arrivals - no problem getting the table we wanted! The setting was typical Patina; elegant, understated, beautiful glass/tableware.
After our Patina lunch we weren't up for the tasting menu, so we ordered a la carte. Three had the beet salad appetizer; artfully presented, delicious and a huge portion. Three varieties of flavorful quartered beets w/a sprinking of goat cheese and a drizzle of oil. Simple and delicious. My husband opted for the pork belly, which was billed as bacon - not a fair description. Cubes of juicy, flavorful pork belly served w/a potato puree. Lots of jokes about my husband's impending cardiac demise, but he deemed it well worth the risk.
For entrees, there was Arctic char - looked like salmon and tasted similar, but more delicate in flavor and served w/a strip of grilled eggplant and topped w/zummy blue oyster mushrooms. All char-eaters very happy. One of us had the crab salad appetizer as an entree - another beauty. A tower of unadorned dungeness on a yuzu (citrus - who knew?) sauce and accompanied by kyoho (again - where have I been?) grapes. The big winner was my entree - their "classic" risotto. A delicious cheese-y blend that had butter drizzled in. Oh, my! The LAT review promised this dish w/a side of shrimp & asparagus which my entree didn't include. I can find no fault my w/risotto, but I think the asparagus would have added some appealing texture and color.
The service was friendly and knowledgable. Our waiter walked through most of the highlights of the menu and demonstrated an encyclopedic knowledge of the origins of the food without coming across as stuffy. Thanks to this board, we knew we could bring wine w'out a corkage (special promotion so ask before you go) and they graciously served our wine.
My only quibbles were the traipsing through the bar of name-tagged, casually dressed conventioneers en route to a private party for 70 in the restaurant's back room - sort of marred the zen. Also, we had ordered 2 Breton apple tarts (yum) to share, but a server (not our waiter) brought 3. We explained we had only ordered 2 and he should have whisked the 3rd away, but seemed confused - maybe a language barrier. We kept it and ate it. Also, our view of a cool sculpture in the courtyard was marred by a sponsoring auto company's SUV placed on a stage and dramatically lit - like some Aztec god! Par for the course and not the restaurant's fault, but a jarring note. But these are minor issues. Leatherby's is a real gem and I would imagine, they'd be falling all over you if you made a reservation after 8 p.m. We'll be back.