Mah Jong’s opened at Collage in Costa Mesa – Orange County Register
Tenants are starting to appear at Collage, a two-story restaurant collection in Bloomingdale’s South Coast Plaza. It’s sort of a food hall, but not like the ones we’ve seen locally. Here’s what we know about it and Chef Mike’s Mah Jong’s, which has already opened. Paradise Dynasty and The Shrimp Ramen are slated to open on Saturday July 10, then open full on August 8.
Background: Collage, which will celebrate a grand opening in September, fits into the space that Holsteins and Charlie Palmer were before that. Owner Morgan Zhang said the Irvine-based J + R Group is spearheading the development. The total space is 16,000 square feet, with a new area dug into the lower level that served as a warehouse for the department store. The first US location of Paradise Dynasty, the internationally renowned Singapore-based dumpling restaurant, will be relocating to a prime 5,000 square foot space upstairs. Its sister restaurant The Shrimp Ramen will be located downstairs along with 8 or 9 other venues offering sit-down service.
More tenants under construction: Egg LXIII, Cherubic Tea, Churrino, Bruxie, Mochinut and Phoholic.
Collage design: Interior Architects designed the entire space to be light and airy with high ceilings, green walls, and French white oak arches. Lighting features include neon sculptures and Mah Jong lamps with lights that can change colors. There is a grand entrance, which will have a cocktail and coffee bar, leading to a double height staircase. Common areas have vignettes with furniture imported from Japan. Alcoholic beverages can be purchased and enjoyed throughout the space with certain limitations; buy a beer or a glass of wine at a restaurant and you can bring it to a common area but not to another restaurant. If you order a cocktail, you must taste it at the bar.
The lobby is a collection of restaurants inspired by Zhang’s travels across Asia, like something you might see in Tokyo or Taiwan. There will be an area shared by several restaurants, but most restaurants like Paradise Dynasty, The Shrimp Ramen, and Mah Jong’s will have their own spaces and settings.
Mah Jong’s look: The restaurant is downstairs and open to the interior of the room. It is bright and nicely decorated with huge mah-jongg tiles. There is a full bar as you enter, continue towards the back and you will see a room with a whimsical wallpaper of monkeys playing in the trees. Another dining room has beautiful red leather chairs – they were white when they belonged to Charlie Palmer. The atmosphere is relaxed and intimate, with only 14 tables.
Mah Jong’s story: The concept comes from the youth of chef Mike Doctulero. Her grandmother used to board Merchant Marines and Sailors at the family’s Victorian home in Cow Hollow and host games of mahjongg and cards. His grandfather, the personal chef of the Presidio Commander, made late-night snacks for the players. Nine-year-old Mike was mixing their whiskey drinks. âI would be sitting on their knees,â he said.
Mah Jong’s menu: Even though Doctulero has a fine dining experience, cooking here won’t be difficult. âMy philosophy is that protein is the star, just accentuate around it. I don’t build plaques architecturally. I keep it really simple and clean, âhe said. For those who were fans of Doctulero at Scott’s Seafood, he’ll take care of you, making sure some of his iconic dishes reappear here. If there is enough demand, he will seriously consider adding a “Scott’s Night” in the future.
Mateo Lopez, 25, formerly of Taco Maria, is a chef. He’s already worked with Doctulero at Scott’s and the two are in sync again. Doctulero gives Lopez the frame for a dish and the collaboration begins. âI’m just going to try to incorporate whatever I can until we both like it,â Lopez said. Like replacing your chimichurri with an old-fashioned Madeiran shallot butter on a juicy sirloin.
Selections will include a “homemade” chicken soup with bone broth, vegetables, cilantro and green onions ($ 14); Seared Yellowfin Ahi with Cashew Spinach, Nishiki, and Soy-Wasabi Frosting ($ 36); and Prime Ribeye Block with Chimichurri, Roasted Cauliflower, and Mashed Potatoes ($ 52). The chefs will prepare around five side dishes a day, so there will always be something new on the menu. There are a variety of dishes to suit all tastes, from a gourmet burger ($ 19) to a stylish bar entree ($ 42). Brunch will be added in about five weeks.
The last word: Doctulero says he is as happy as a clam in his new space and that he won’t miss those huge, fancy dining rooms at all. âI just want to be the place where you have the most smiles, the best energy and the best laughter,â he said.
Find it: 3333 Bristol Street, 949-295-3841, mahjongsbychefmike.com.
Open: 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday; noon-9 p.m. from Thursday to Saturday; 5 pm-9pm Sunday. Closed Monday to Tuesday.