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ORANGE COUNTY CALENDAR: ARTS, ENTERTAINMENT, LEISURE
| SUNDAY BRUNCH

Orange Hill: Enduring Charm of Continental Cuisine

November 12, 2000|KAREN NEWELL YOUNG

* It's Sunday, and there are so many crepes and omelets from which to choose. Here's a sampler of Sunday Brunch destinations in Orange County, culled from recent articles. Other reviews can be accessed at http://www.calendarlive.com/go/discover.

*

Southern California does not have a lot of traditional restaurants that specialize in continental cuisine and quaint traditions, which is why Orange Hill, a hilltop restaurant that overlooks the horse trails and tract houses of east Orange, is always crowded. Its old-time charm works well for dinner but loses a bit in the translation to brunch. For one thing, there simply isn't enough room surrounding the buffet tables to feel comfortable. The lines that snake around the room require impolite elbowing to survive the ordeal.

Another problem: Although the buffet gets high marks for quantity and variety, many of the dishes suffer from extended sentences in the steam tubs. It's asking too much of a lamb riblet to endure these conditions.

On the other hand, with 100 items, you are sure to find many dishes that can hold up under difficult circumstances.

Orange Hill does a great job with fresh and fat crab legs, boiled shrimp, steamed mussels and raw oysters. Smoked fish--with cream cheese, capers and onions--makes a fine bagel brunch. These can be enjoyed with several cold pasta casseroles or a Caesar salad.

The eggs Benedict are also good, although how the poached eggs stay soft and the English muffin stays crisp is beyond me. These egg dishes are served in a section with French toast, which was delicious but cold.

There's also bacon, sausage and various omelets that are made to order from a wide variety of ingredients.

Several entrees of hot meat and vegetables are available in the middle of the buffet. About half of these items can be recommended: The beef in wine sauce was tasty and tender, and the roasted potatoes and vegetables were delicious. The chicken and lamb, however, were dry and overcooked.

A pleasant twist to this brunch is the stir-fry section that offers California rolls--made while you watch--of salmon and crab. The stir-fry dish of noodles with broccoli and chicken was a hit with the youngsters in our group. But an even bigger hit came later when we muscled our way into the throng around the dessert table.

Selections for mature diners included a huge assortment of delicious cakes and custards. The make-your-own sundaes, however, brought out the kid in all of us as we competed for tallest ice cream tower.

Orange Hill Restaurant, 6410 E. Chapman Ave. (714) 997-2910. $22.95 for adults with unlimited champagne; $14.95 for children 4 to 11. Hours: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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