Thank god for OC Weekly.
Because if it wasn’t for that article they ran on Break of Dawn a few weeks ago, I would’ve never stepped foot in this charming little place. I’ve always known that it was there; after all, it’s in the same shopping center as my neighborhod Trader Joe’s. But I only do my groceries on my way back from work, and, since Break of Dawn is a brunch/lunch place, the lights are always out. It was always dark, and judging from the name of the place, I thought that it was some weird spiritual clinic and let it be for the last 6 months of my south OC residency. (It also does not help that I’m blind as a bat, but that’s for another discussion.)
So, like I said, thank god for OC Weekly, because if it weren’t for them, I would’ve never known about an egg tempura or a creme brulee french toast.
Also, thank god for Anna, who keeps tabs on me to try out new places (because I have memory issues, and that’s for another discussion as well). In celebration of Ryan’s brief return from the evil-that-is-known-as-Chicago, we had our monthly “family” meal on Easter Sunday. Quite busy, but they managed it very, very well (unlike other places).
Break of Dawn reminds me of Old Vine Cafe – brightly lit with natural light, cozy, with fanci-fied comfort food on the menu – only, Vietnamese-French instead of Italian-Meditteranean. The decor is colonial-tropical, with Vietnamese-style calligraphy adorning the walls, bright mustard yellow walls and sturdy wooden furniture. Hemingway would like this place, I presume.
And the food- wow, the food. Like any respectable Vietnamese place, eggs are taken very seriously here. SO good where it’s poached, scrambled, or fried sunny side up. And like any good Vietnamese place, the coffee here is good and strong. We like!
Jenn and Ryan had the Eggs Benedict (11): soft-poached eggs, grilled Potato Bread, smoked ham, Asian pesto, Hollandaise sauce. Translates to: runny eggs and peppery cilantro-pesto fused Hollaindaise madness. The potatos have a nice kick to it, but mild and delicious when sopped up with the sauce. So good, so unpretentious, and so… familiar.
Mac and Cheese (13): Sicilian sausage and short ribs, bacon fried eggs, smoked Gouda, Tomato Carbonara sauce. Don’s been on a mac-n-cheese kick since our visit to Beachcomber Cafe, and Break of Dawn’s quickly ousted it out of the favorite status. Very smokey and meaty.
French Toast Crème Brulee (12): Mexican Chocolate and coconut custard, raisin and cinnamon Brioche, Caramel-Chocolate Sauce. We didn’t taste much of the Mexican chocolate (we saw it though), and the coconut dominated – but oooooh so good. The bitter caramelized sugar layer off-sets the richness – very enjoyable.
Meatloaf (10.50): Vietnamese style meatloaf, buttermilk-cheddar biscuit, fried eggs, espresso gravy. It’s the steamed meatloaf that you find on Com Tam (broken rice) dishes! I thought that the sauce was too sweet for my taste, and the biscuits weren’t cheesy enough… But a satisfying dish nonetheless.
Then I returned the next week, this time with Twiggy and Little One in tow. Little One has developed a certain aversion towards the term brunch since our last one, so I thought that Break of Dawn would be a great cure. It was (thank you!), and she ate every last bit of her eggs benedicts.
Twigs, on the other hand, was overwhelmed by the Corned Beef (12): sweet potato hash, poached eggs, tarragon cabbage, mustard sauce. It was good, but the asian spices left her craving for a big bowl of rice.
I had the BBQ Pork (11): pulled pork, jalapeno corn cake, tropical slaw, egg tempura, essence of Five Spices. TO DIE FOR. Anise-y tender pork, tart slaw, and crispy, gooey fried eggs were meant for each other. This dish is must try!!!
Break of Dawn is great place if you’re looking for great flavor without the flair, of if you’re bored with the usual grease-pie Grand Slam. Make sure to stop by when you’re in the south OC!
Break of Dawn Restaurant
24351 Avenida De La Carlota N6
Laguna Hills, CA 92653