Haute Dining: Bloomingdale’s South Coast Plaza’s Vietnamese Restaurant, AnQi

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Just when you thought South Coast Plaza couldn’t get any more exciting, AnQi, the mall’s newest Vietnamese-fusion bistro opened its doors inside Bloomingdale’s. The sister restaurant to the celebrity studded Crustacean in Beverly Hills, does not disappoint. Situated steps away from designer stores like Prada, Dior and Fendi, AnQi is a place to see and be seen. The An family which own AnQi have created a gourmet designer empire with upscale restaurant establishments in San Francisco, L.A., and now O.C.

AnQi (pronounced “On Key”) is the perfect Zen-like place to unwind after a day of non-stop shopping at the über mall or an easy-to-find place to meet for a fun night out. The décor is breathtakingly stylish with modern Asian influences and attention to detail, like tiny ceramic vases filled with pebbles and moss lining each table. With a South Coast Plaza location in the O.C. that is equivalent to Rodeo Drive, it’s fitting that the restaurant was designed with a runway, which is often used for fashion shows.

For a recent birthday celebration my friends and I shared stories, cocktails and yummy plates of food. The menu is broken down into small and large plates. Like a Tapas menu, this modern take on Vietnamese cuisine is best enjoyed when shared, which means you get to taste a variety of flavors.

Our favorites were Sweet Mango-Chili Glazed Shrimp ($9), each of the four shrimp arrived in its own little square on a white sectional plate, topped with marinated shitake mushrooms and corn and mango salsa. We also loved the Grilled Filet Mignon Pot Stickers ($12), which arrived with a dipping bowl of sesame soy sauce and tasted divine.  The most memorable dish that evening would have to be the Sea Bass Special ($26) drizzled with a spicy orange sauce. One of the best sea bass dishes I’ve ever had.

The place is cozy, yet sleek; hip, yet elegant. Although the food portions were small (this is not the Cheesecake Factory), they were presented beautifully and most importantly tasted delicious. The waiters were courteous and the atmosphere is more like L.A. than O.C, which is refreshing. This was a well-needed destination for O.C. dwellers looking for somewhere to lounge, get a bite to eat and watch a fashion show, (if you’re lucky). And, if you’re there for lunch, I the noodle bar is a must.

I’m not sure whether it was because my friends and I were so loud or it’s de-rigueur but Ms. Helene An, family matriarch, executive chef and owner dropped by our table, had a chat and took a photo with us. Now, that’s what I call, service.

For more information, you can visit their website at www.anqibistro.com.

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