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Tableau Kitchen and Bar: A Fusion of Flavors and Innovation at South Coast Plaza

Tableau Kitchen and Bar may often be overlooked amidst the bustling culinary scene at South Coast Plaza. The plaza boasts a lineup of renowned chefs and popular eateries, including Amar Santana from Bravo’s “Top Chef: All Stars,” award-winning Ross Pangilinan, and Michelin-honored Tony Esnault. Not to mention, it is home to the Collage Culinary Collection and Asian food powerhouses like Din Tai Fung and Miàn Sichuan Gourmet Noodles.

Nestled on the Macy’s Home side of the center, next to Paper Source and the merry-go-round, Tableau Kitchen and Bar offers an array of delectable pastries that immediately catch the attention of passersby. The glass case is filled with irresistible grab-and-go items such as brown butter chocolate chip toffee cookies, croissants filled with gooey brownies, and delicate fruit tarts. Overseeing the pastry department is Chef Holly Sao, while her fiancé Chef Jason Abo runs the savory side of the kitchen.

Tables Kitchen and Bar not only excels in pastries but also offers three menus: brunch, happy hour, and dinner. Although the afternoon tea service is currently on pause, Abo assures that it will eventually make a return. The couple, Jason Abo and Holly Sao, infuse their diverse culinary backgrounds into the menu, drawing inspiration from their Cambodian, Japanese, and Vietnamese heritage.

One of Tableau’s standout dishes is the citrus-cured black cod ceviche, which exemplifies the restaurant’s boundary-crossing collaborations. Abo shares the creative process behind the dish, explaining how the mango-habanero syrup made for a cocktail was transformed into a sorbet to pair with the ceviche. The ceviche is served with crispy rice crackers, a twist on the traditional tortilla chips. Abo emphasizes their approach to reinventing familiar dishes and bringing freshness and innovation to the table.

The restaurant is also known for its brunch menu, with standout items like the Jasmine French Toast and chicken and waffles. The latter presents a playful twist on Japanese-style street food, with fish-shaped “waffles” accompanying garlic soy chicken wings. Inside the taiyaki-shaped waffles is custard flavored with kecap manis, a Southeast Asian sweet soy sauce.

While Abo takes the lead in the kitchen, co-owner Chef John Park also contributes his expertise to some dishes. Their collaborative efforts have resulted in creative fusion dishes like smoked short rib poutine, featuring French onion gravy, melted cheese, and soy-pickled jalapeños, all atop house-cut fries.

Opening Tableau in December 2021 has marked a significant milestone for Sao and Abo, both professionally and personally. The couple got engaged just two months before opening the restaurant, and they credit their strong relationship for their success in tackling the challenges of running a restaurant.

Looking to the future, Sao and Abo are focusing on highlighting the happy hour and dinner menus, with upcoming additions inspired by the fall and winter seasons. Abo takes pride in his carefully prepared duck breast dish, which involves a two-day process to achieve the perfect crispy crust. Moreover, he sees the kitchen as an opportunity to mentor and train the next generation of chefs, encouraging their creativity and growth.

Tableau Kitchen and Bar, located at 3333 Bear Street, Suite 119 in Costa Mesa, offers a dynamic menu that reflects the diverse backgrounds of its chefs. With a blend of Asian, American, and French influences, the restaurant aims to reinvent familiar dishes and create memorable culinary experiences for its patrons.

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