OC Review: Ways & Means, Orange

“Where are we going and how should we dress?” asks a friend when I invite her to join me for dinner at Ways & Means Oyster House.

“It’s an oyster bar near downtown Orange,” I say. “It should be pretty casual.”

But when we arrive for that first visit, I’m embarrassed that we haven’t dressed up. An elegant hostess sees us approaching from the sidewalk and steps out from her podium to open the door for us. Behind her, I notice chandeliers and bow ties.

Uh-oh. I naively assumed this was going to be one of those casual, laid-back oyster bars like Shuck in Costa Mesa or Fishing with Dynamite in Manhattan Beach. But it is not…

On my first visit, I have to send back a rib-eye steak that’s cooked beyond medium when it was ordered medium-rare. That’s a pretty big mistake for a steak that costs $52. A young sous-chef comes to the table dragging his head and introduces himself as the guy who screwed up our steak. “I’m so sorry,” he says. “I’ve put another one on the grill for you. It’ll be ready in just a minute.”

On a separate visit, I have to send back a $44 filet mignon for being similarly overcooked. This time, it’s Gallagher himself who reluctantly comes to apologize. And on yet another attempt, when I order the hamburger medium-rare, the burger arrives with a meat patty that’s completely gray throughout, with not even the slightest speckle of pink…

These consistently frustrating missteps aside, every meal here gets off to a great start with a delightful amuse-bouche. One night, it’s a clam ceviche. At brunch once, it’s tiny bowl of muesli with an artful drizzle of vanilla yogurt and a single blackberry. The kitchen clearly has high ambitions – and great potential…

Fortunately, just as every meal starts beautifully with a delicious amuse, it ends with an equally memorable desert, most of which are quite classic…

This is obviously just a synopsis. Want more? You can read my full review and see the star rating along an extensive slide show by photographer Leonard Ortiz in this week’s OC Register. Subscriptions are required to read Register content in the week that it is originally published. If you don’t want to subscribe, you can simply buy a Day Pass — cheaper than a cup of coffee — for 24-hour access to the entire OC Register archive. Or you can be cheap and lazy and wait for a week, at which point the story will be free online. I also invite you to follow me and join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

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