My assignment: Seek and find the best spots for dinner and drinks in Irvine.
It's a tough job I know, but someone has to do it.
Fortunately, Irvine has three excellent dining destinations that add their own twist to the typical food and beverage combination.
The Winery Restaurant and Wine Bar at the District, Paul Martin's American Grill at The Spectrum and Andrei's Conscious Cuisine and Cocktails near Jamboree Center all enhance their spectacular food with just the right glass of wine or a creative mixologist concoction. Irvine Restaurant Week, Friday January 10 through Thursday January 16, is the perfect time to sip and savor selections from their special prix fixe menus.
My quest for dinner and drinks perfection began at The Winery Restaurant and Wine Bar, since a meal in its cozy and comfortable dining room is like enjoying a visit to the heart of Napa Valley.
The interior is as rich as a hearty cabernet, and its cellar holds over 6,500 bottles of wine. There are also 34 different wines by the glass available for those who want to do a little wine tasting. Chef Yvon Goetz has created a menu of California contemporary entrees that are inspired by the wines that accompany them.
I sampled my way through the special prix fixe menu, beginning with the delightfully complex Winery House Salad that featured fruits and walnuts and finished with the surprising kick of dijon mustard vinaigrette. Then came a mouth watering Zinfandel braised Angus Beef Shortrib served on a bed of carrot-infused pearl couscous and topped with prosciutto-wrapped asparagus. I ended my wine country fantasy with a creme brulee and fresh chocolate cookie that complemented my final sip of Pinot Noir.
Did you know....
The Winery Restaurant and Wine Bar's popular Crush Hour happens all day on Sundays, from 4:30 -10pm. Guests can sample wines, try appetizer specials and enjoy live jazz music in the bar.
Tustin, CA 92782
The alluring decor of Paul Martin's American Grill may fool you into believing that this popular Irvine restaurant is just another pretty face. It's good looks may be stellar, but the food is the star of the show.
Famed restauranteur Paul Fleming opened this farm-to-table eatery in 2011, bringing seasonal and delicious to the Irvine Spectrum. The Ingredient is King at Paul Martin's, where the scratch kitchen produces everything from fresh butter and daily made pastries to homemade ice creams.
It's also the perfect spot to satisfy my search for dinner and drinks. Paul Martin's mixologists offer cocktails also made from scratch, like Bistro Lemonade, with house-infused Meyer lemon vodka and fresh basil or Raspberry Martinis with essence of raspberry infused vodka.
The Irvine Restaurant Week Prix Fix Menu offers a variety of Paul Martin's dinner selections to sample. My meal started beautifully with a bowl of Wild Mushroom Soup; a creamy collection of crimini and porcini mushrooms topped with a medley of wild mushrooms and green onion oil. Next up was the Pitman Family Farms "Brick Chicken" that was flattened and cooked between two cast iron skillets, creating a dish that was both crispy and tender at the same time. I finished with a slice of decadent Devil's Food Cake with amarena cherries on the side. It was made from scratch, naturally.
Did you know....
On Monday nights, Paul Martin's American Grill offers Wine Dinners for $49. The special includes a two course meal for two and a bottle from a list of 20 selections to share.
The popular Taste of Paul Martin's happy hour offers signature appetizers and specialty cocktails from 3-7pm daily.
Irvine, CA 92618
Facebook: Paul Martin's American Grill
No list of Irvine restaurants offering dinner and drinks would be complete without Andrei's Conscious Cuisine and Cocktails. The "Conscious" part of the name comes from the belief that serving food and drinks is not enough. The Olenicoff Family operates Andrei's consciously by choosing the best local and seasonal ingredients as well as intentionally by giving back to the community. The restaurant operates as a non-profit organization and all profits are donated to the Andrei Foundation which supports local and global charities.
I spent a lovely afternoon at Andrei's tasting treats from the Irvine Restaurant Week Menus. First there was the fresh Beet Salad with a collection of roasted beets, blood orange slices and goat cheese arranged on the plate in an explosion of color. Next was the savory Pumpkin Ravioli with house made pasta and a delicate black garlic cream sauce. Finally, I marvelled at Andrei's Signature Carrot Cake topped with walnut brittle that looked more like a piece of stained glass art than a dessert.
At Andrei's, cocktails share equal billing with the cuisine. I tried two drinks, both created by restaurant owner Natalie Olenicoff. The Blackberry Cooler featured Pearl Red Berry Vodka, blackberries and fresh basil leaves. The Red Square cocktail combines three of Olenicoff's favorite drinks; pomegranate juice, red wine, and vodka, finished with a Cinnamon-Sugar rim.
Did you know....
Andrei's will soon start construction on a new patio dining area? The patio is expected to be completed and open in the Summer of 2014; just in time for dinner and drinks al fresco!
Irvine, CA 92614
Irvine Restaurant Week is the perfect time to try a new restaurant in your own backyard or to revisit an old favorite. To see a listing of all participating restaurants click