Break of Dawn - Laguna Hills
Culinarily speaking, if you drew a line from Little Saigon to the ritziest luxury hotels on the O.C. coast, you'd find Break of Dawn in Laguna Hills at the halfway point.
Arguably the most beloved breakfast spot in Orange County, this restaurant by Chef Dee Nguyen who was previously at the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel, takes the best of Vietnamese, the precision of French, the surprise of everything else in between and puts it on a plate that begins with one ingredient: the egg.
The place is not new. Nor is it exactly a best-kept secret. If you read food blogs or talk to anyone considered a foodie, you should've already heard of it. Just about every O.C. food publication has gushed about the place with accolades upon accolades, including Gustavo Arellano, fellow food blogger Chubbypanda, and oh yeah, me.
So if you haven't been, go. And if you have, let this overdue post be a reminder to revisit. The place is still fantastic and deserving of all the praise designating so.
If you are new to it, start with a glass of O.J. while you bask in the effortlessly sunny room -- a space with communal tables that seems to breathe the possibilities of Southern California. It reinvigorates you just being there. This, as you may have already guessed, is no greasy spoon.
A good primer is the sausage and rice plate, whereupon a fatty, delicious Portuguese sausage is sliced on the bevel, then fried to a mirror-shine and a boomerang curl. Every bite is porcine transcendence, which for me, fondly conjures memories of breakfast in Hawaii's Big Island where the meat is more likely to be seen next to the eggs than bacon.
But this is a spicier, bolder specimen; almost treading the line of chorizo than linguica.
Although I would much prefer just regular white sticky rice rather than the chewier, nuttier brown rice they form into a dome by an upturned bowl, its healthier and offsets the porky and eggy indulgence of its platemates.
The same can be said of the bright green swipe of scallion puree and the green papaya salad, which exists in refreshing, vinegary shreds atop the rice. Both cleanse the palate for the next piggy mouthful.
Wassatyousay? You like your breakfast meat more mooing than oinking? How about corned beef then? Theirs is not-too-salty, colored pink like a cherub's cheeks and served with cubed sweet potato hash, braised cabbage, coarse grain mustard sauce and just about the cutest, most bulbous poached eggs that dares you to pierce it like a water balloon.
And if there's any doubt that the restaurant respects all of O.C.'s wonderfully distinct food cultures, take the next dish I have pictured, which I believe is called Ranchero.
Dribbles of crema, sauce, and black beans surround a block of steamed masa, which functions as the base of a gravity-defying fried tostada disk. The crispy platform is itself mounded with scrambled eggs, wilted onions, and a slathering of fresh guac.
You forget for a second that you're in Laguna Hills, at the far end of a sprawling neighborhood center, not beachside at a Mexican resort somewhere. Then you look around and conclude you'd rather be nowhere else but here at Break of Dawn eating breakfast in O.C.
Break of Dawn
24351 Avenida De La Carlota #N-6
Laguna Hills, CA 92653
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