Niyaz's Top 5 Meals of 2013!

Umami's Greenbird
Behold the beginning of 2013's ends with our annual critic's roundup of their favorite restaurants and cocktails of the year! Starting today and ending next week, check in each day for a different critic's take on eating and drinking in OC. Enjoy, pass it on, and take it, Niyaz!

5. The Greenbird at Umami Burger

The noble hamburger is sacred food in my book. Nothing beats a large, beefy, medium-rare patty oozing with equal parts blood and meat juice, smothered in American cheese and cradled in a super-soft bun. Nothing beats that beef ... except for "The Greenbird" turkey burger at Umami Burger. Most turkey patties I've come across cook up mealy and dry, but this ground up Shelton Farms bird is seared just right, sealing all of the delicious juices within.

Sprouts, butter lettuce and "crushed avocado" (the ultimate hipster way to say "guacamole") provide a fresh contrast to the savory meat, and house-made green goddess dressing adds an herbaceous kick. Umami's "green cheese," a mix of fresh ricotta and goat cheese, provides a creamy, slightly tart finish to each bite. I quit eating beef about a month ago and this burger was the meal that convinced me I'd be able to enjoy burgers without it. Follow Umami Burger on Twitter @umamiburger

4. House Special Squid at Royal Capital Seafood Restaurant


The best recommendation I had all year led to my current favorite seafood plate. House Special Squid at Royal Capital Seafood is a bountiful plate of steaming, deep-fried squid dressed with splashes of soy and butter. The sauce sticks like a thin syrup to the fried, peppery batter that encapsulates some of the thickest fingers of calamari you've ever seen. Stir-fried jalapeno slices let you flirt with fire, but nothing on the plate leaves you scorched. That every order flies out of the kitchen nearly as fast as it's ordered--and that every order is consistently great--keeps me coming back for more. 10911 Westminster Ave., Garden Grove, (714) 638-8315

3. Milanesa de Pollo con Enchiladas de Papas at Potzol den Cano


The only local restaurant hawking regional specialties from Querétaro makes more than delicious pozole and stunning enfrijoladas. Potzol is also home to some of the meanest milanesa in town. This pounded out, crispy chicken breast can be ordered in a torta, but it's best on the combination plate when paired with a pool of creamy, salty bayo beans and two enchiladas, either cheese or potato. I'd say pick the papas, because the combination of soft potato chunks with Potzol's assertive salsa verde, luscious crema and cooling panela cheese is far superior to their cheesy counterpart. In a city teeming with fantastic Mexican options, this plate is up there on a short list with the Taco Acorazado from Alebrijes, the volcan from Reubens and the asada torta at Taqueria Tapatia. 1003 S. Bristol St., Santa Ana, (714) 664-0558;

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