Most Popular: OC Chefs Ross Pangilinan and Nicholas Weber Open Cal-French Bistro

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For Orange County chefs Ross Pangilinan and Nicholas Weber, opening a restaurant together seemed inevitable.

The friends and business partners met while working at Patina Restaurant Group under renowned restaurateur Joachim Splichal.

“We always worked at the same station because we had the most dishes and all the specialties at our station,” Pangilinan said.

“We’ve always worked well together, like a dance,” Weber said. “It was a good time.”

Both have enjoyed success in the industry, Pangilinan as the owner and operator of its global food concepts, Terrace by Mix Mix at South Coast Plaza, Mix Mix Kitchen & Bar in Santa Ana and ReMix Kitchen Bar in Long Beach, and Weber as Executive Chef at 24 Carrots Catering Events and Downtown Disney’s Catal Restaurant and Newport Beach Cannery.

Today, the duo opens their latest concept, Popularie, at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa. The modern Cal-French bistro takes over the space once occupied by Lawry’s Carvery, with an indoor and outdoor patio on level 2 in the Saks Fifth Avenue wing and offers fine French cuisine with a California flair in an accessible setting. Pangilinan takes on a business partner role while Weber will serve as Popularie’s main boss.

“I just wanted it to reflect my personality,” Weber said. “We both grew up working in French restaurants, but it was always a white tablecloth, and I wanted it to be more comfortable, laid-back, and somewhere I’d like to hang out.”

Chawanmushi crab with sea urchin, saffron dashi, green onions and red yuzu kosho at Popularie at the South Coast Plaza on May 31. The modern Cal-French bistro opens to the public on June 1.

(Sarah Mosque)

The restaurant features cool blues and purples with an elegant floral mural juxtaposed with artwork and posters featuring the Beastie Boys and the Ramones.

“A lot of things are just things hanging around my house, things I’ve collected over the years,” Weber said. “The Beastie Boys poster, I bought it in 1995 when it came out.”

“Nick puts all his touches into it,” Pangilinan said.

Weber also adds his twist to the food, drawing inspiration from classic French cuisine while incorporating distinct West Coast flavors. A duck confit joint from the appetizer section of the menu, for example, is a dish Weber calls “tongue in cheek” and is served with cucumber, cilantro and nuoc cham, lending bold Vietnamese flavors.

“I just wanted to have fun with it, but also ‘keep it simple, stupid,'” Weber said. “We don’t want to think about it too much.”

The menu also features snails, with the snails artfully encased in aebelskivers of sauerkraut and served with a buttermilk sauce and parsley oil, making it a dish that’s more like a donut dipped on a ranch than it is. to a clam drowned in garlic.

Snail aebelskivers with sauerkraut, buttermilk and parsley at Popularie at the South Coast Plaza on May 31.

Snail aebelskivers with sauerkraut, buttermilk and parsley at Popularie at the South Coast Plaza on May 31. The modern Cal-French bistro opens to the public on June 1.

(Sarah Mosque)

The menu will also be influenced by the seasons.

“Seasonal produce makes it easier, but it already tastes good when we buy it,” Weber said. “At the moment, our fish dish is swordfish belly with English peas, fava beans and pea tendrils in a caviar beurre blanc sauce. We probably still have about four or five weeks of peas, and then maybe it’s sweet corn or whatever.

The team is completed by pastry chef Margeaux Aragon and Alyssa McDiarmid, formerly of Marche Moderne, in charge of wines.

Paris Brest with choux pastry, pistachio mousseline and fleur de sel at Popularie at the South Coast Plaza.

Paris Brest with choux pastry, pistachio mousseline and fleur de sel at Popularie at the South Coast Plaza.

(Sarah Mosque)

Together, Pangilinan and Weber say they hope to host an elevated but still laid-back experience.

“I just want people to feel at home at a dinner party, just to have fun,” Weber said. “They should leave here wanting to come back.”

For hours and reservations, visit popularieoc.com.

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