Deep in the suburban Orange County community of Rancho Santa Margarita lies the Blind Pig. Humbly perched in a shopping mall overlooking the manmade Lago Santa Margarita, this place could just as easily find itself in the heart of a bumping urban downtown or along a string of posh beach gastropubs steps from the ocean. Part small plates, part gastropub and going 5 years strong with an expansion in the works, The Blind Pig proves that haute cuisine can live outside your traditional haute neighborhoods.
The eclectic, ever-changing menu is purposefully small, with Executive Chef Karl Pfeider laser-focused on executing 18 dishes perfectly rather than doing twice as many half as well. The Blind Pig’s offerings change with the seasons, but consistently feature familiar dishes from across the world with dazzlingly unfamiliar twists woven in.
The Blind Pig’s bold, global flavors are easily explained in their Parisian gnocchi—exceptional pasta pockets flash-fried just enough to make things interesting, beautifully complemented with intense Portuguese sausage and a spicy arribiata sauce that makes your tastebuds dance. The Korean short ribs then take you a few thousand miles east with dense oriental flavor that makes you wander how you’re still in Orange County.
They've got texture down to a science here, accentuating flavors with gems of crispiness to bring out all that’s already rich and filling. The mushroom saltado, a play on the classic Peruvian lamb dish, integrates puffed rice to give four types of wild mushrooms an elegant finish. For dessert, the panna cotta comes topped with sweet granola and paper-thin dark chocolate for multiple layers of sweet indulgence.
The drink menu is just as interesting, with local beers on tap, a solid wine list and a craft cocktail lineup that emphasizes novelty and complexity. The extensive Moscow mule selection is tough to turn down.
The Blind Pig is located at 31431 Santa Margarita Pkwy, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688. Open 3 – 11 p.m. Tue, 3 – midnight Wed/Thu, 3 p.m. – 1 a.m. Fri, 11 – 1 a.m. Sat, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Sun. Closed Mon. Avg. out-the-door price for 2 orders and 1 – 2 drinks is ~$70/person. For more information call 949-888-0072 or visit The Blind Pig online.
Benjamin Brown is a seasoned restaurant writer and hospitality consultant, serving up SoCal's hottest food news and reviews.