Sueños opens downtown with a menu that brings together Latin American cuisines with an artistic ambiance.
By Sharon Stello
Inspired by Latin American cultures from Mexico to Peru, a new restaurant called Sueños—in the former Ocean at Main space downtown—brings a lineup of flavorful dishes with bright and bold flavors.
For example, Sueños’ ceviche de mango y jicama features the fish of the day cured in leche de tigre, which is a traditional Peruvian citrus-based marinade. Then there’s duck with blackberry mole, and black risotto with lamb chops, which features the earthy flavor of huitlacoche, fungus-affected corn kernels (sometimes called Mexican truffles or corn smut) that are considered a delicacy in Mexican cuisine. It’s all served against a dreamy backdrop of light pink, purple and blue plus a progressive mural by artist Carlos Rodas.
The restaurant, complete with an expansive patio, is owned by Jose Gutierrez and Kay Ayazi, a husband-and-wife duo who have opened several other eateries in OC together such as Costa, a contemporary Peruvian establishment in Costa Mesa. The name of their Laguna restaurant, Sueños, means “dream” in Spanish and reflects their efforts as first-generation Americans to show their children that it’s possible to achieve your dreams.
Take in the atmosphere—and the occasional live music—while enjoying a cocktail such as La Diabla with tequila blanco, pomegranate syrup, lime juice, fresh ginger and burlesque bitters.
To start the meal, try the ceviche or arepas de birria, which is built atop a thick cornmeal cake. A layer of mashed pinto beans is followed by a generous helping of birria: Here, they use lamb and beef, which are mixed in an adobo base, marinated overnight and slow-cooked for five hours in a steam oven. This savory snack is balanced with the freshness of pico de gallo, onions and cilantro.
For entrees, there are plenty of options. The rib-eye a la parrilla is served with a bright chimichurri sauce as well as herb butter made with black garlic and epazote, sometimes called Mexican tea. A salsa verde-avocado sauce comes on the side as well as a cold black bean salad and handmade blue corn tortillas. Another tasty item is the Cuban sandwich, which combines pork belly and mortadella with provolone cheese on ciabatta bread slathered with sweet-and-spicy sauce. Tucked into the stack are tangy, slightly crunchy house-made pickles that make this dish pure perfection.
And it’s served with thick-cut yuca fries; yuca is another name for the starchy cassava root, not to be confused with yucca, the desert plant with spiky, sword-shaped leaves.
To end the meal, the creative choices continue. For something different—and delicious—order the avocado mousse. While avocados (technically a fruit) may be better known as the main ingredient in guacamole, they also make for a creamy treat. Here, the avocados are mixed with pistachio dacquoise, a kind of meringue, and topped with a sweet and almost citrusy tomatillo jam, with a sprinkling of pistachio nuts and edible flowers. It’s a unique dessert that will have you returning for “just one more bite” again and again.
222 Ocean Ave.; 949-715-8155
5-10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays; closed Mondays