California Plate - Santa Ana
At the food court sandwiched between the ground floor and the theater at MainPlace in Santa Ana, your choices are the usual mall food offerings of Sbarro's and Hot Dog on a Stick, and then what seems like carbon copies of the same teriyaki chicken bowl restaurant. California Plate is one of those; but for some reason it transcends them all.
At first you may have your doubts. The chicken they'll use to assemble your massive $4.99 plate is already pre-cooked, sitting in a mountain on the griddle. The vegetable pile sits opposite. And when you order, they take some from the top, push it around the hot surface a few times to get a sear, and then slide it over a Styrofoam plate with rice on it. But when you eat it, you're floored on how good, hot, simple, and satisfying it is. The rice is fluffy; the shredded veggies still snap; and the chicken is surprisingly wonderful.
Cut not into pieces, but whittled down to pebbles, the final sear on each tiny bit's surface area caramelizes and transforms to become crispy shards of concentrated flavor akin to candy.
California Plate's staff comes not from the land where teriyaki originates, but then neither does this dish, which is as Californian as the hard shell taco.
2800 N Main St. # 916
Santa Ana, CA 92705
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