Located in a small shopping plaza behind Laguna Hills Mall in Orange County, Break of Dawn is a local gem of a restaurant for breakfast and lunch. With the entrees divided into the two main categories of Traditional and Savory, Chef Dee Nguyen uses bold flavors and Asian influence to take his dishes to the next level at accessible prices. The result is not simply fusion food, but rather a hearty Asian and American meal.
Upon entering the restaurant, patrons are greeted by the warmth of a wood interior and paintings featuring different sayings in brush script, each intimating the close relationship that Chef Nguyen has with food and its importance in our lives. This being Southern California, i.e. perfect weather fairly often in a life’s-not-fair way, there is also outdoor seating available with shade and a pleasant fountain nearby.
Chef Nguyen continues the appreciation for aesthetics from the dining room to the dishes being served in it. A former chef at the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel, Nguyen’s attention to detail is preserved in the presentation. Sauces are distributed in pleasant patterns and the food itself is placed artistically, eliminating the need for garnishes — that is to say, not only will you love how it looks, but you’ll also literally clean your plate.
Standout dishes include the Mac and Cheese, Sausage and Rice, Benedict, Corned Beef and Smoked Salmon. The delightfully subtle scallion puree used in the Sausage and Rice is amazing. If you don’t see a small bottle of the homemade Vietnamese Dragon Chili at your table, make it a point to request it. The French Toast Creme Brulee is quite rich and is best shared. Cocktails, made with soju, are also available, including blood orange mojitos and Asian or Bloody Marys.
Open from 8:00 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, it is easy to make this place a weekly habit. The food is great, the atmosphere is pleasant and relaxed, and dining here won’t break your bank account. The only thing you have to do, which might be difficult for some more than others, is wake up some time before midday. It is called Break of Dawn for a reason, after all.
Note: All photos by Eros David.