Monday, February 27, 2012

Cucina Enoteca (Irvine, CA)

Cucina Enoteca is the new restaurant at Irvine Spectrum, the second venture of Cucina Urbana in San Diego. The decor in the large space varied from a rustic patio, a high ceiling with caged bulbs in the dining room, and abstract painting in one section of the wall.

Cucina Enoteca
Cucina Enoteca has an adjoining wine store, where you can pick out wines at retail price and pay minimum corkage (on Sundays, you can get free corkage for any bottle over $20 that you buy here).
The kitchen is now headed by Chef Lauren "Lulu" DeRouen (formerly of Pinot Provence). She wasn't in the kitchen the night I was there so I ordered instead of having the kitchen send out stuff. They did anyway!
The kitchen sent out a trio of vasi : ceci bean hummus with piquillo jam, burrata with roasted garlic confit, and duck rillette with apricot mustard.
All three were great - I also enjoyed combining the burrata with the duck rillette together. The fresh, creamy burrata is made by DiStefano Cheese in Baldwin Park (the same one they have at Stella Rossa Pizza).

I didn't realize they were sending out the burrata vasi, so I had ordered the burrata and speck ‘caprese’ salad, with pickled pear, arugula, candied pecan, fried shallot, and sherry vinaigrette.
Burrata Salad
Well, I didn't really mind more burrata, and this one was great especially with the pear.

We also got the stuffed fried squash blossoms, herb ricotta, purple basil pesto, cured lemon aioli
Squash Blossoms
Crispy batter, creamy ricotta. I don't think I've ever had purple basil before, but I certainly loved the pesto here.

Cotechino sausage stuffed squid, braised escarole, pine nut, golden raisin caponata, spicy tomato brodo
Stuffed Squid
I tasted mostly the sausage rather than the squid, but I liked the dish all the same. It was only a little spicy, and actually had quite a bit of veggies in them, warming me right up.

For our main courses, I had to order the pappardelle pasta (I always do): short rib pappardelle with crimini mushroom and parmigiano
I loved this hearty dish! Plenty of tender short ribs, al dente wide pappardelle pasta, great flavors. I would definitely get this again.

Veal Piccata - spinach, corn, capers, sundried tomatoes
I liked the flavors of this dish but it was overall too salty, especially with the capers. I'd try the osso bucco or something next time.

For dessert, we wanted to share something light, so we got the blueberry saba fregolata with vanilla bean gelato and orange apricot coulis ($9).

They also wanted us to try the zeppoles (Italian style donut holes, vanilla crema, dulce de leche, sugared cinnamon -$7), so they sent out one of those, too!
So full... but I'm glad they sent these out. I liked them better than the fregolata. The zeppoles were light and fluffy, filled with an equally fluffy cream.

I had never been to Cucina Urbana nor did I know much about it. Having been skeptical of the restaurants inside the Irvine Spectrum, I was pleasantly surprised by Cucina Enoteca. Other than one dish, most of our meal was a hit. This would be on my list again next time I'm in the area.

Cucina Enoteca
31 Fortune Dr.
Irvine, CA 92618
(949) 861-2222
Cucina Enoteca on Urbanspoon

Disclosure: this meal was hosted


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