Disclaimer: this is not a happy post. In fact, it is a very unhappy post. So unhappy that I had to give myself a few weeks to chill out before pressing the new post button.
So If you only want to see unicorns and rainbows, I suggest you go watch Candy Mountain instead.
You’re still here? Good. Now let me tell you about an unhappy happy hour experience that I had.
Several weeks ago, I read somewhere on the interwebs that happy hour is a great way to “try on” a restaurant. Small bites for less bones and some booze should be a great audition for your money, the article said. So I bought into it and looked into happy hour that was happening around our area.
There are many, many happy hour options by my workplace; Charlie Palmer, Blue Water Grill, Kimera, The Auld Dubliner, to name a few. And out of all that, I chose AnQi. Why? Because I am a sucker for persistent marketing, that’s why.
The PR firm that AnQi uses sends me a shit load of email press releases about the next underwear runway show AnQi will be hosting, or some summer cocktail contest that AnQi is in (okay, more like 5 or 6, but still. Do not want.) And as annoying as PR releases are with their low quality JPEGS and irritating “feel free to write a post about this!” footnotes, the name of the restaurant is, by then, deeply embedded in my memory cortex. Then I get suckered into visiting the restaurant because it’s stuck in my head.
I knew that AnQi was in the South Coast Plaza, which means that it caters to the money-dropping couture crowd. The same crowd that lines up for Sprinkles cupcakes when you can drive a few miles to eat better sweets at Cream Pan (for much less).
But how bad could it be? AnQi is part of the highly venerable An family business. The An family owns Thanh Long in San Francisco and The Crustacean in Beverly Hills – both highly regarded restaurants that are famous for their garlicy crab. In fact, it is really hard to snag a reservation at both restaurants. Even my parents approve of Thanh Long, and it’s rare to hear my Dad not bash, in fact, compliment another Vietnamese entrepreneur.
That must mean something. Right? I mean, they have pork belly on the menu for chrissakes.
These are actual excuses I used to drag Don into AnQi with me. He didn’t want to step foot into AnQi because one, it looks too fancy, and two, we couldn’t find the bloody entrance. Unfortunately AnQi managed to betray me, and my happy-hour-choosing privileges have been revoked by my husband.
Let me list the many ways AnQi’s Happy Hour (erm, I mean, Red Hour) is just wrong…
- There were only 2 waiters throughout the whole floor (AnQi is divided into three dining areas, and easily seats a 100)… During a Thursday evening happy hour.
- Time from seating to finally flagging down the waiter and placing drink orders: 30 minutes.
- The waiters are impeccably rude. When we tried to order some food, our server responded with a flat-out, unapologetic “we’re out of that.”
- Which leads me to another point. Why the hell are you out of bar food an hour into happy hour?
- The waiters love to flirt with clients. (While I glare at the back of his head with an empty glass at hand for 20 minutes)
- Before our drinks even arrived, our waiter came by and asked if we would like to order anything else from the kitchen.
- The waiter never asked us if we wanted to another round of cocktails. So we asked for the check and GTFO‘d.
- Well, are the foods/cocktails at least worth the neglect? No.
But enough of the rambling – you’re all here for the photos, yes? Let me show you:
White Samurai (6). Hand pressed orange, corzo silver tequila, fresh lemonade, 100% agave nectar, with a splash of pama (pomegranate liquer). Faintly smoky and fruity at the same time. If you like a penicillion or even the Donaji (at Rivera), then this one’s for you.
Shangria (7). White peach sangria made with Grey Goose L’Orange, Navan (vanilla liqueur), Licor 43, Cointreau, Peach Schnapps, white wine, fresh peach puree, prosecco. Way too much going on, and a disconcertingly slimy mouthfeel.
As for food, we came to AnQi primarily for the pork belly bao, but they were out. We should’ve walked out then, but we had just ordered our drinks. So we perused the menu for other options. (Unfortunately the ‘famous garlic noodles‘ are not available at the lounge area)
Salt & Pepper Fried Potatoes, Truffle Essence (4). Filling, but without the faintest note of truffle.
Salt and Pepper Calamari, Jalapeno, Sun Dried Tomato Aioli (6). You would think that an Asian restaurant would have perfectly crispy calamari. Not the case. However, it’s a very familiar dish: the flavor reminded me of the salt and pepper shrimp with green peppers that you can buy at any Chinese restaurant. Think of the aioli as fancy mayo, and just that.
Chicken Satay, Essence of Lemongrass, Pickled Vegetables (6). A Thai dish at a Vietnamese restaurant should have been the red flag. BUT. But. It was also the strongest dish out of our spread. The chicken was perfectly cooked, and the sauce was like a spicy teriyaki. The tart, Vietnamese style pickles balanced it out very well.
Crispy Chicken Drumettes, Soy Ginger Glaze (6). Nothing home to write about – just your standard crispy fried chicken with sweet gringo sauce.
AnQi: despite the multi-million glitz and glam, runway shows, and your self proclaimed family treasure recipe shpeel, you did it wrong from all angles – service, food, ambience. Your only saving grace is your location and the cougar crowd that flock about your bar. Needless to say, we won’t be returning.
South Coast Plaza, next to Bloomingdales
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
* NO, not the Stacie Orrico song.