Brazilian churros join the offerings at Collage in South Coast Plaza

The smore red velvet, right, and the build your own churros from Churrino at Collage at South Coast Plaza.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

What exactly is the difference between a Brazilian churro and churro from say, Mexico or Cuba?

“That’s a question we get a lot at the store,” said Nicolas Silva, a Brazilian native and co-founder of Churriño Gourmet Churros & Gelato, “and, I usually say ‘the Brazilian churros are the best churros.’”

Churriño opens its first Orange County location on Dec. 4 at Collage Culinary Experience located in the Bloomingdale’s wing at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa.

Silva and his business partner Kelvin Tan started Churriño in 2017, with the intention of bringing the authentic flavors of Brazilian and Latin desserts to America.

Nicolas Silva, left, and Kelvin Tan are the owners of Churrino at Collage at South Coast Plaza.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

“I grew up with churros back in Brazil, but I couldn’t find the Brazilian churro that I grew up with and was used to,” said Silva.

Brazilian churros are crunchy on the outside, and the dough is little more cakey in the middle, Silva explains.

“And we stuff them,” said Silva.

In Brazil, churros are usually filled with a rich caramel called doce de leite, though other fillings like chocolate are a favorite as well. The origin of the churro is difficult to trace with many cultures claiming a version of the fried-dough stick. Some credit Portuguese explorers with bringing a Chinese pastry called youtiao back to the Iberian Peninsula where it evolved and spread to Spain and Rio de Janeiro.

Churriño churros are bite-sized and vegan, and for Silva, the doce de leite-filled churro is the standard. He has a churro on the Churriño menu that is based on that memory.

“My signature churro, the super nuts churro, is inspired by my Brazilian heritage,” Silva said.

Super nuts is filled with caramel leche, drizzled with almond butter and topped with honey-roasted peanuts and coconut flakes.

The treats at Churriño are customizable, with guests choosing their churro fillings and toppings, in three sizes: ChurroLover (three churros), ChurroAddict (seven churros) and ChurroManiac (seven churros served with gelato.)

An assortment of the ChurroLover, three-bite sized churros, from Churriño at Collage at South Coast Plaza.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

“I hope our guests really get to taste a different take on what a street food churro can taste like,” said Silva.

Besides churros, guests will find fruit-flavored gelato, lattes and hot chocolate.

Silva and Tan opened their flagship location in Long Beach in 2019, but Silva said they always had an interest in entering the Orange County market.

“Being around this area was always a dream of mine that I thought was going to be impossible,” said Silva, “but never say never, that is what I have learned through this process.”

Churriño isn’t the only vendor that Collage has helped enter into South Coast Plaza’s affluent market.

The Szechuan xiao long bao or spicy soup dumplings with Kurobuta pork at Paradise Dynasty.
The Szechuan xiao long bao or spicy soup dumplings with Kurobuta pork at Paradise Dynasty at South Coast Plaza in July.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Paradise Dynasty, a soup dumpling concept from Singapore known for its rainbow soup dumplings opened at Collage this summer after initially being passed over for a space at South Coast Plaza.

“I tried to connect to landlords,” said CEO of Paradise Group, Eldwin Chua, “but we always got rejected.”

Chua said his attempts to get Paradise Dynasty into American malls were challenged by concerns Paradise Dynasty was too similar to competitors like Din Tai Fung, which has a location at South Coast.

“All the prominent and good shopping mall already have Din Tai Fung,” Chua said. “It is very difficult for us to go in.”

Morgan Zhang, the Irvine developer who leased the space to create Collage offered Paradise Dynasty a sublease and the restaurant has found success, drawing crowds and long waits since opening.

Outside Collage Culinary Experience at South Coast Plaza.
Outside Collage Culinary Experience at South Coast Plaza.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Churriño is one of several concepts opening at Collage. Le Shrimp Ramen, Egg LXIII and Mah Jong’s by Chef Mike are all currently open. Bruxie, a waffle sandwich concept and Mochinut, which serves mochi donuts, are also coming soon.

“Being able to partner with Collage and things working out, we just couldn’t be more excited,” Silva said, “and we are looking forward to what will coming next.”

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