Facade

Asian Culinary Adventure: Nova

I was originally supposed to go to The Fifth with another friend but the timing did not work out for that day. Luckily after another quick search, I came across Nova Kitchen and Bar which was the perfect halfway point for both of us.

Entrance

The facade alone for Nova is quite impressive and inviting. Anyone passing by would walk by and immediately be drawn in by this restaurant. It sits right next to the Hyatt Regency Orange County so if you happen to find yourself staying at the hotel you have a beautiful restaurant to dine at.

The Restaurant

The modern design of the building combined with touches of the natural world is what really caught my attention. You have this tall looming dark paneled wall with a strip of light as intertangling of gold criss-cross throughout. Plus the fencing around the outdoor dining area mimics this to have a mirror effect. I love the bright green and red neon sign signaling they are open because of the fact it reminds me of Asian Night Markets that invite you in with their bright neon signs. For the natural touch, you have the bright pink Japanese cherry blossom tree, which is unfortunately fake, to offset against the dark facade. To remind you that you haven’t left California you have the palm trees stretching above the restaurant.

Dazzling Light Display

Sure the outside of the restaurant is beautiful but as you step in you see an entirely different world. The restaurant contains many beautiful light fixtures throughout the interior and they are essentially the art pieces of the restaurant. This one looks like the intertwining of branches reaching out to grab onto the light. Since Nova is all about Asian cultures there is a giant pot with sculpted dragons almost as they are trying to escape from the surface.

Sushi Bar

I had to stop in the back so that way I could take a look at the sushi bar. I do have to say this has got to be one of the most beautiful sushi bars that I have ever laid my eyes on. From the ceiling, you can spot the light fixtures mimicking drops of water about to fall. Behind the bar is checkering of bright white lights showcasing drinks and the natural wooden squares.

Twinkling Lights

Once I’m ready for an indoor dining experience this would be the table that I would want to dine at with a group of friends. It is by far my favorite light fixture that can be found in the restaurant. To me it mimics thousands of fireflies soaring above you as they give off a soft glow as you eat your meal.

The Bar

For the most part, the restaurant’s light fixtures are all about a white glow. However, your eyes get drawn to the bar because it emits a purple hue. I feel this is intentional because they want you to go where you plan on spending money.

Main Dining Area

The main attraction of the restaurant is in the main dining area. In here you can spot the giant projector screen as it emits dazzling and sparkling lights against a dark background. Nova truly does a lot to make its restaurant unique because instead of just dining in a simple restaurant you are surrounded by pieces of art and technology to make it an experience.

Outdoor Dining

I know you are probably tired of seeing the restaurant and want to get to the food and drinks. Trust me, this is the last picture of the restaurant. This is Nova’s covered outdoor dining area which on a hot sunny day is very helpful. You can also spot all the heat lamps to help on those cold evenings as well. I have to say the outdoor area is not as mesmerizing as inside but it is still nice. I always love the natural touches so having the greenery spread throughout really makes you feel as if you are dining in the jungle.

Food Menu

Now it is finally time to take a glance at the menu. The prices for the food spread across a $4-$12 range, which is perfect for any type of budget. However, if you are looking for something new and interesting then the $9 and $12 sections are where you want to be looking at.

Drink Menu

Drinks range anywhere from $5-$9 so that is nice that you won’t be paying more than $10 for a single drink. Unfortunately for me, they did not have any specialty cocktails on their Social Hour menu. However, there was one thing that caught my attention and I just had to give it a try. Any guesses?

Hello Kitty Pinot Noir

If you guessed the Hello Kitty Pinot Noir then you have guessed correctly. I had no idea that Hello Kitty had their own wine. So when I saw it on the Happy Hour Menu I just had to give it a try. Since Hello Kitty is from Japan I find it odd that they would work with an Italian Vineyard. I figured since Japan is closer in proximity to California than it is to Italy they would work with a Vineyard in California. This Pinot Noir specifically comes from Provincia Di Pavia which according to my friend is a great region for growing grapes for wine. I haven’t had too many experiences with pinot but I was actually quite impressed. Each sip had a fruity essence of black cherry, strawberry, and raspberry. Our waiter, Calvin, was kind enough to bring the bottle of wine out because when you order Hello Kitty wine you have to see the bottle.

My Go-To

It took a while for Calvin to come and take our final orders because by the time he came back there were only 4 minutes left on Happy Hour so we rushed to put our orders in. I was hoping to try a different type of well drink but I ended up going with my safety, a rum, and pineapple. As you can see by the hue of the drink one can spot that most of the rum was floating at the top. Which I learned is something bartenders tend to do to make you think your drink is strong when in fact they just poured more alcohol on top. After mixing the drink a bit I found it refreshing and tropical as usual.

Pork Belly Bao

First up was the Pork Belly Bao! At first glance, they reminded me of the Korean Fried Tofu Buns from the Country Club. Of course, you have those fluffy pillow-like Bao buns folded over all the tasty items inside. The next thing I spot is all the greens on the plate. The two buns are served on a banana leaf then you have the kaiware sprouts peeking out from the buns. You can also spot shiso which is referred to as a beefsteak plant. Then you have the pepper in its bright red coloring. This almost feels like a call-out to their red and green neon open sign out front. The pork belly is braised for 3 hours so that way when you bite into the delectable meat it just melts into your mouth. The pork belly is smothered in hoisin sauce which is known for being sweet. I did enjoy the crushed peanuts because it offered some great crunchy texture since you have a piece of juicy pork belly and a pillow-like bao.

Spicy Tuna Roll

My friend went traditional and ordered the Spicy Tuna Roll. It had the perfect heat level for each bite. Plus you have the cucumber which acts as both a cooling agent and a crisp texture just in case. One thing I did find unique about this roll was the fact that it had a slightly citrusy taste to the bite. 

Chili Oil Wontons

Calvin told us that Nova has some of the best chili oil he has ever tried. Given that statement, I just had to go for the chili oil wontons. I’m always used to seeing fried wontons so when the bowl came out I was surprised to see them soft from being steamed instead of crispy from the fryer. As you can see every wonton has that warm red coloring from the chili oil that has been used to coat them. As you bite the texture is similar to pasta with its soft texture and then the spice starts to collide with your taste buds. For me, the spice was just perfect since it brought a nice warming feeling to your face. I am someone that can handle spice but after a couple of them, I started getting a tingling sensation on my tongue. I’m not sure if this was because of the spice or something else but it was a different experience. Once you get past the exterior, inside you find a filling of pork and shrimp which I found extremely flavorful.

Seafood Fried Rice

My friend did order one dish that wasn’t on Social Hour but I just had to share it. He ordered the seafood fried rice. I just love the colors from the edible yellow, pink, and orange flower petals scattered across. On top, you can also see all of the fried shallots to give each bite crunch and salt. The fried rice had three types of seafood with scallops, lobster, and shrimp which at times is tough to spot. The rice itself is what made this a winning dish. I know to say the rice is what outshined lobster is saying something. Looking at each rice grain you would think that it just looks like plain rice. However, each bite was packed with flavor. They cook the rice in rice vinegar which is what makes the rice flavorful.

I’ve known Robin for 3 or 4 years I want to say. We first met when we both worked at Disneyland together. They were one of my friends from work that I mainly talked with. Then I ended up leaving Disney but we still kept in touch. They did eventually move into a different department at Disney but they still stayed in the same location because they ended up working the phone cases at Star Wars Launch Bay. So when I did have my Annual Pass I would always stop by to say hi and catch up. A couple of experiences I remember fondly with them is going to the Frida Cinema and seeing Rocky Horror Picture Show. However, this wasn’t just your average showing it was one where they had live actors interacting with you and performing as the movie played. I probably would have never gone if it wasn’t for them. It is sad to say they are moving off to New York so that is why I wanted to meet up with them one last time to enjoy a Happy Hour Adventure together.

Website: Nova

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Since I had Hello Kitty wine I wanted to ask. What is the most unique wine you’ve had that had a celebrity or character on it?

Let me know down below in the comments and be sure to share with friends that would enjoy this Happy Hour.

May the adventures continue! Cheers!

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