Anchor Hitch has unintentionally become the anchor of the new Union Market in Mission Viejo’s Kaleidoscope mall, one, because they are currently the only sit-down restaurant and, two, because it is the seafood restaurant that South County has been yearning for.
With a modern minimalist interior invigorated with bold murals and dazzling pops of azure blue evoking the sea and its creatures, Anchor Hitch elicits the promise of superior fresh seafood.
Before you dive into the gallery of sensational seafood offerings, I highly recommend tasting one of their handcrafted cocktails. The Parsnip Pearade was stunning in its originality – who puts parsnip in a cocktail?! – this pear brandy, fresh parsnip juice, lime juice, and pear bitters libation is balanced, refreshing and entirely quaffable!
From the raw bar, diners can choose fresh oysters on the half shell or a choice of three specialty oysters: Crispy Pesto flash fried with with a light panko coating and topped with a creamed cabbage-pesto, sun dried tomatoes and prosciutto; Rockafellas – Anchor Hitch’s take on Oysters Rockefeller with creamed spinach, parmesan crisp, sautéed mushrooms, tomato and salmon roe; and Cilantro Lime with garlic butter, scallions, cilantro & jalapeño vinaigrette. OR a combination hot/cold seafood tower with the come-on moniker’s of Baller and G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time).
My dining partner and I shared a combination of Shigoku, Blue Points, and Kumamoto oysters along with a trio of the specialty oysters. The oyster selection varies each day and you can take advantage of great prices on prized mollusks during their Happy Hour from 3:00-6:00 p.m. and 9:00-10:00 p.m.
Two other unique drinks currently on the menu are the Apple Martini made with whiskey, fresh Granny Smith apple juice, lemon juice and brûléed apple bitters and the Yuzu Margarita with Finger Lime Caviar (Blanco tequila, yuzu and agave).
We also ordered the Hamachi Chipotle Ceviche ($12) – basically a poke served traditionally – with wonton chips. I love hamachi (yellow tail) but felt that the chipotle cream sauce masked the fish’s firm texture and unique flavor and would have preferred a more traditional citrus-based ceviche that highlights the fish.
The most written about dish and a must-try is the Abalone Panna Cotta (braised abalone, uni, mirugai, ikura, lemon vinaigrette, herbs, $22), each element is meant to be savored together: generous bites of abalone, luscious uni, with mirugai (geoduck) and ikura (salmon roe). In one spoonful your eyes will roll back at the mingling of tastes and textures: the surprisingly savory panna cotta, creamy uni, salty salmon roe and the clam which lends a chew that some may not appeal to some Anglos, but is the mysterious texture referred to as “shiko shiko” in Japan – chewy, springy, al dente.
Anchor Hitch’s chef and partner Michael Pham, once worked at Providence as a protégé of Chef Michael Cimarusti, so it’s no coincidence that the dish and its stunning presentation is reminiscent of a one created by Cimarusti, arguably the most respected seafood chef on the West Coast.
The Uni Pasta – fresh egg noodles, uni cream, sous vide poached egg, rule puffs, and crispy seaweed. Rich and decadent with a creamy mouthfeel, each bite is enhanced by the salty, crispy seaweed and diminutive magic puffs of rice.
The Green Curried Scallop Risotto ($21) is a safe dish for the less adventurous seafood lover and one that is also deliciously satisfying. The citrus-honey glazed Hokkaido scallops were well executed and perched atop a bed of creamy green curry risotto with red peppers garnished with a tangle of microgreens.
Wild Pacific Halibut ($25) was almost forgotten and, in the end, a tad overcooked, but the parsnip puree, wild foraged mushrooms, ginger scallions, and roasted corn lend a good amount of textural interest and complexity on the palate.
Finally, the one dish that I’ve read is their best and somehow was not on my radar is the Tom Yum Agnoletti (shrimp stuffed ravioli, tom yum cream and Maitake mushrooms, $18), which means I’ll have to return to Anchor Hitch soon.
Two off-menu dessert specials offer a fitting sweet finale to a surprising suburban seafood experience: Blueberry Beignets with Dulce de Leche ice cream which was upstaged by the Peach Angel Food Cake with Caramel Sauce.
Anchor Hitch has a lot going for it, including the area demographics and demand for fresh superior seafood, but the fact that Union Market has been slow adding tenants and Kaleidoscope is a typical confusing multi-level shopping center, owners/partners Kyle Tomita, Andrew Parrish, and chef Michael Pham deserve props for placing their faith in south Orange County.
27741 Crown Valley Parkway,
(Inside Union Market at Kaleidoscope Court)
Mission Viejo, CA 92691
Now open in Union Market: Milk Box, milk teas and boba;
Diced, build-your-own meal with poke and an array of other fresh ingredients;
Oyu Shabu, a Japanese Shabu-Shabu that offers a fun hot pot (cook-it-yourself) dining experience;
Hummus bowl, a fresh, organic hummus bar;
Dry Society, a full bar serving beer, wine and specialty craft cocktails.
And opening soon:
Portola Coffee Roasters, a specialty coffee bar that was honored as Roaster of the Year 2015;
Market 2 Plate, offering pasta and freshly made salads;
Mole, tacos and beer;
Sweets Choice, with a selection of chocolates from around the world;
R.T.E. (an acronym for “ready to eat”), serving barbecue and yakitori