Winter, spring, summer or fall—regardless of season, there’s something wonderfully comforting about soup. We share some of our favorites from South Coast Plaza’s restaurants that are always on the menu.
“Of all the items on the menu, soup is that which exacts the most delicate perfection and the strictest attention.”
— Auguste Escoffier
“I close my eyes when I taste this and I’m back in my mother’s kitchen,” says restaurateur Antonio Cagnolo about his classic minestrone. Mama Pina picked a variety of vegetables from the family garden in Bistagno, Italy, that inspired the flavorful soup, a guest favorite for more than four decades. Carrots, celery, onions, potatoes and zucchini are slow-simmered in vegetarian broth, with cannellini beans and tubetti pasta added towards the end. A gentle drizzle of Ligurian olive oil and a tableside grating of Parmigiano Reggiano finish this fine starter.
BEEF NOODLE SOUP
The rich and hearty traditional Taiwanese beef soup is carefully cooked for hours to bring out mildly spicy and aromatic flavors with notes of five spice. It’s finished with springy house-made egg noodles and blanched baby bok choy for a pop of verdant color and crunch. Tip: The soup travels well for takeout thanks to the individual packing of the ingredients to assemble at home.
DAL (BLACK LENTIL) SOUP
Light and lemony, the signature soup of proprietor Arun Puri combines delicate dal lentils cooked with mild onions and judicious pinches of turmeric, cumin and coriander—resulting in a subtle earthiness. A touch of whipped yogurt is blended in and the masterpiece is finished with fresh chopped cilantro and a lemon crown. “It prepares the palate for a feast of heartier flavors from our authentic tandoori,” Puri remarks.
FRENCH ONION SOUP
When dining at The Capital Grille, you’ll see a non-stop parade of distinguished staff whisking bubbling French Onion Soup to diners. The beloved classic comes in a crock or cup—topped with toasted croutons covered with molten melted cheese. The gratinée cloaks steaming rich broth, with a depth of nutty flavor from a soupçon of sherry and sweet caramelized onions. Intensely satisfying.
It makes perfect sense that the King family, masters of seafood, would serve an exemplary clam chowder. Applewood smoked bacon adds nuance, along with diced potatoes, flecks of carrots and celery, and light cream. The ultimate comfort food is garnished with tender petite clams peeking out of the shell. Old-fashioned oyster crackers can be crumbled on top or enjoyed on the side.
ZUPPA DI VERDURE
Shoppers crowd this perennial favorite for savory pastas and pizzas from its authentic wood-burning Italian oven. But longtime regulars usually start with zuppa di verdure—a vegetal essence of puréed potatoes, carrots, zucchini and tomatoes—its velvety smoothness comes as a surprise since no cream is added. “We could never take it off the menu,” explains restaurateur Domenico Grillo. Quattro’s house-made focaccia, freshly baked several times a day, is the ideal complement for dunking.
HOMEMADE CHICKEN SOUP
Chef Mike Doctulero’s number one seller, homemade chicken soup, transcends all cultures. “It’s a trip to Grandma’s house,” Doctulero explains. Using a master stock recipe he learned years ago in his hometown of San Francisco, broth is enriched by adding grilled vegetables and roasted whole chickens, slowly cooked for hours. The stock is carefully strained and the hand-pulled chicken meat is plentiful in the soulful soup. A unique touch is the Japanese handcrafted wooden ramen spoon, allowing guests to savor every drop from the deep bowl.