Fall came right around the corner - of 4th Street and Main Street of Downtown Santa Ana...
In this highly acclaimed, diminutive restaurant, fittingly called Little Sparrow, Kimberly and I were introduced to 8 fall menu items. Seven of them were created by a talented woman, Executive Chef Melissa Ortiz, a former army vet to now world-class chef, while one dish was done by her Sous Chef Alex Silva. It was her global destinations during her army tours that inspired her to concoct these following courses - many of them garnished with edible florals which was the icing on these snapshots.
Course 1: Roasted Butternut Squash Tostada. This bite had an interesting blend with Mexican ingredients (i.e. the queso fresco and blue corn tostada) and that warm, silky, American-feeling squash.
Course 2: Yellowtail. Done the “chef’s way,” this piece of carpaccio gave somewhat like a spa treatment in your mouth thanks to thin strips of cucumber on top.
Course 3: Gnocchi. This was the crowd favorite. The beech mushrooms, mint emulsion, and grapefruit harmonized beautifully among the impeccably chewy potato dumplings. Another plate, please!
Course 4: Seared Scallop. The eclectic twist of the meaty mollusk, soba noodles, and peanut satay sauce gave enough hints about the chef’s gastronomic experience in Southeast Asia. It was quite a stunner in lieu of the soft shell crab listed on the menu.
Course 5: Roasted Corn and Goat Cheese Agnolotti. Assertive touches of pork belly and pork au jus produced an “oink” heard all over this fully comforting plate.
Course 6: Elk Boulettes. By paper it sounded salivating. Perhaps I was overly expecting the flavor of meat to pop sharply, but I give props to the chef’s technique in taming the elk with less game, coated with the maple bechamel.
Surprise Course by the Executive Chef: Prime Rib-Eye Steak. Just saying it makes my mouth water. This was so juicy and tender - another crowd's favorite!
Surprise Course by the Sous Chef: Honey Fried Chicken. Last dish of the night was certainly a surprise - namely the fond richness of the crispy drumstick and the ultra buttery, fluffy homemade biscuit.
We also cheered on with 2 of their seasonal cocktails: Solida del Sol (right) and Chareau Me the Money (left). The Solida del Sol was intense and fairly vivacious due to tequila as the main ingredient and the fruity flavors of blood orange and peach. The Chareau Me the Money was mellower - suspecting that the aloe vera liqueur was to blame - and was calmly sweet, yet still provided the same level of flavor as the sunny former. Take my money on the latter, please!
No wonder Little Sparrow has been receiving high mounts of praise in Orange County. I knew there was something about this restaurant when I passed by one time during a DTSA Tasting Event last year. However, I never had the chance to try it out due to the highly enthusiastic crowd inkling for samples within that tiny space - until this media night’s Fall-out moment. Cheers to a great night out!
***Thanks to Ajenda PR and the Little Sparrow team for the delicious media tasting and drinks!
What fall dishes are you going to try? You must, and we mean must, try the gnocchi! It was so, so good and full of flavor.
CHECK IT OUT: Little Sparrow, 300 N. Main Street, Santa Ana, CA. Tel: (714) 265-7640. Menu changes frequently. Open Wednesday-Sunday for lunch, happy hour, dinner, and Sunday brunch.