When I think about South Africa, the first thing that comes to mind is aliens (District 9, so awesome). The second is sharks. I love sharks; Shark Week is like my Coachella. Point is: the last thing I think about when I think of South Africa is food. I have some familiarity with the Indian influences on their food culture (being brown myself), but little to none with the indigenous and Dutch aspects of it. Considering the large South African community in Orange County (especially South County), there’s shockingly few places that serve the native food of Charlize Theron, Sydney Brenner, and Dave Matthews (naming names!).
Luckily, after a bit of searching, I was directed to the recently opened Mozambique Peri-Peri, a fast-casual concept of Mozambique in Laguna Beach, in the Bluffs shopping center by UC Irvine.
Stepping inside is to be transported from the beiges and stucco-pink of the Irvine Company to a Moroccan styled cabana, with mirrored walls adding a welcome illusion of airiness and calm. At first glance the menu feels like any other café-style restaurant (Corner Bakery, Pain Du Monde, etc.) with it’s salads, wraps, combos, and grilled items. Upon closer inspection, you’ll notice the South African touches that make each item wholly unique from what you’ll find elsewhere. It relies heavily on the Indian and Dutch mainstays of South African cuisine; grilled meats, spices, curries, and sauces (especially the namesake peri-peri sauce) are pushed to the forefront. Our choices being guided by our enthusiastic cashier, we chose the Samosa Combo, Chicken Curry, and Boerewors Sausage.
The vegetable samosas were definitely a hit. Unlike the thicker dough used in Indian samosas, these use puff pastry to enclose fluffy spiced potatoes and green peas. The delicious cilantro aioli accompanying them was eventually slathered onto every other part of our meal, including the happy little tomato & spinach salad under these puffy pockets of carbs. While the samosas were flavorful, the same cannot be said for the chicken curry, which lacked depth and spice. The curry tasted like a pre-packaged yellow curry mix that someone had dumped into some water with bothering with extra salt or seasonings. The chicken was juicy and cooked well, and the curry was also served with a dry Moroccan rice, which had too much turmeric and little-to-no saffron. The sausage put us back in a good mood: Savory, spicy, and piquant meat-in-a-tube. The hot sambal served with it reminded me of the delicious sausages at the now defunct Valhalla Table (RIP), and while the Portuguese rolls used here are too dry, the sausage at Mozambique are good enough to fill the hole in my cholesterol-filled heart.
Overall, the experience was agreeable. The prices are more than decent and the quick service and surprising ambiance are unparalleled by any other restaurant near UCI. The food needs work, yes. However, but when it’s good, it’s really good. I’m just not going to miss any Shark Week for it.
Mile-High Club First-Class Business Economy
Check ’em out at:
1332 Bison Ave
Newport Beach, CA 92660
11am – 10pm, 7 days a week