For this week’s Dishes Worth the Drive from Los Angeles to Irvine, we’re going on a multicultural culinary journey from Mexico to Vietnam!

(Courtesy of Taco Rosa)

First up this week, Taco Rosa in Irvine brings a little bit of Mexico to Orange County. The first one opened in Newport Beach in 2003, followed by the Irvine location in 2006. It’s the same as the full-service Mexico City restaurant from chef and owner Ivan Calderon. Calderon also owns Taco Mesa, the fast-casual restaurants serving healthy and authentic Mexican cuisine, as well as Taco Mesa Tortillería Organica & Café, where he produces all the tortillas, chips and other masa-based products. The first Taco Mesa opened in Costa Mesa in January 1992 and is still open today. Taco Rosa, which considers Taco Mesa its sister restaurant, was recently named the Best Lunch Spot in Orange County at the 2018 Golden Foodie Awards.

“The award-winning menu utilizes sustainable ingredients and artisanal spices brought to life through authentic and contemporary cooking techniques. Presenting the very best dishes and beverages from a variety of regions throughout Mexico, Taco Rosa takes its commitment to authenticity and sustainability one step further by using GMO-free masa for all their housemade corn products and tortillas,” says Calderon. The first dish that makes it worth the drive is the enchiladas de Mexico City. The dish consists of two chicken enchiladas topped with tomatillo sauce, melted Oaxaca cheese, crema, queso fresco and marinated serrano peppers and onions, served alongside Mexican rice and pinto beans. There’s a lot of Mexican food in L.A., but these are really worth the drive because of how authentic they taste. The combination of flavors makes these anything but your average enchiladas.

The second dish is the chile relleno tacos: two chilaca peppers stuffed with panela cheese, topped with calabacitas and served with white butter rice and black beans. If you can handle the spice, you’re sure to love these tacos that are totally worth sitting in traffic for. “Since its inception in 2003, Taco Rosa has been committed to sustainability by using artisan alkalized water, produce sourced from hyper-local, regenerative farms, wild seafood guided by Seafood Watch, and humanely raised meats,” says Calderon. “The restaurant stands out in Orange County’s diverse culinary landscape by offering exceptional service and sustainable ingredients that honor our bodies, our ancestors, and the earth.” Calderon has been widely recognized for pioneering healthy and authentic Mexican cuisine in Orange County for nearly 30 years.

Taco Rosa, 13792 Jamboree Road, Irvine.

(Courtesy of Broken Rice)

The second restaurant we’re spotlighting is the newest addition to TRADE Food Hall, Broken Rice, which first opened its doors back in March. The Vietnamese eatery first started as a popular Orange County and Los Angeles food truck. Serving classic Vietnamese staples, Broken Rice uses the textures and taste elements of its namesake, which are fragments of rice grains, and allows customers the opportunity to build the meal by adding combinations of veggies, proteins and handcrafted sauces such as sriracha BBQ, miso curry, peanut sesame or cilantro lime. The TRADE location offers two new options: crispy glazed salmon and Cajun shrimp, in addition to the food truck’s original offerings of chicken, beef and tofu.

The first dish we’re recommending as worth the drive from Los Angeles is the surf ‘n’ turf bowl. “The surf ‘n’ turf bowl is a craveable combination of Cajun shrimp and marinated Angus beef on a bed of Jasmine broken white rice and topped off with our half cilantro lime mixed with half Sriracha BBQ. We call this sauce mixture ‘popular sauce’ for good reason!” says chef and owner Peter Nguyen. The seafood and beef over all the other ingredients chosen for the dish makes it really delicious.

The second dish we’re recommending is the creamy cilantro lime chicken bowl. “This is a delicious mixture of veggies, chicken breast and handcrafted cilantro lime sauces, mixed perfectly in a bowl that will keep you craving more after the first bite,” says Nguyen. We couldn’t agree more! The Broken Rice food truck built a loyal fan base throughout Orange County, and when the space at TRADE Food Hall became available, Nguyen jumped on the chance to serve his customers at the unique location. Guests are no longer limited to searching for the Broken Rice truck schedule, and the brick-and-mortar location at TRADE will also allow Broken Rice to facilitate take out orders and catering requests.

Broken Rice, 2222 Michelson Drive, Ste. 206, Irvine.

Whether it be authentic Mexican cuisine at Taco Rose or scrumptious Vietnamese food at TRADE Hall’s newest addition, Broken Rice, you really can’t go wrong at either of these places, and both are definitely worth the drive from Los Angeles to Irvine. Come back next month for two new restaurants and four new dish recommendations.