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French 75 Brasserie in Irvine Review (long)

mike g. | Sep 25, 2005 04:11 PM

Last night (saturday) my wife and I went to the recently-opened French 75, in Irvine. It's located at the north end of the Irvine Market, near Jamboree Road and Irvine Blvd. It is in the space formerly occupied by Sens-Asian. They've been open for about 6 weeks now. We did not have reservations - I called at 5 P.M. and asked what our prospects were for getting in that evening. The courteous person at the front desk said that they are generally pretty busy on Friday and Saturday nights so they do encourage resi's on those nights - but they were in fact "fully committed" for the evening so no more reservations were being taken. However, she went on to inform me that they do accept walk-ins and that if we get over there soon - before 6 P.M. - we could probably get in without much of a wait. We live very close by so we were there at around 5:30 and were shown to a nice 4-top immediately.

The management have done a lot of work on the room since the Sens-Asian folks left. The space is now divided into one larger room and several smaller rooms on the sides, decorated in dark woods, leather banquettes and reds, with a large glass-enclosed wine case as one of the focal-points of the main room. Very nice, comfortable and club-like.

The wait-staff and managers are very accomodating, attentive, and professional. The menu has lots of traditional bistro/brasserie fare, with such things as the Foie Gras of the day, lobster bisque, steak frites, moules (mussels), oysters on the half-shell etc. The wine list has a good selection of wines from both the old and the new worlds, with reasonable mark-ups. We ordered a Burgundy from the Cote D'Or at $40.00 which was very nice.

We ordered the Foie Gras of the Day for starters, which was prepared with a sauteed pear and pear gastrique, and which was absolutely delicious.

For our entrees my wife ordered the braised boneless beef short-ribs, which were served with macaroni-and-roquefort cheese, and some lightly-sauteed veggies (baby carrot, squash, haricot vert) on the side. The beef had a wonderful, deep and comforting "beefy" flavor very much in the style of a well-made pot roast done with a nice red-wine reduction. We both loved the beef but agreed that the mac and roquefort was the really brilliant part of the dish.

I ordered the steak frites, with a peppercorn sauce. I ordered the hangar steak, there is a choice of three cuts of beef - filet mignon, hangar, and cotes du bouef IIRC. the hangar steak was cooked to my specification (medium rare), the sauce was very good and the fries were perfect - shoestring-style and nicely seasoned. I felt I "had" to order this dish as it is a mainstay of bistro cuisine, but next time I plan to branch out and try something else. On the other hand, my wife felt that she'd already discovered the perfect dish and would hesitate to order anything else. What a dilemma. Jerry, the General Manager, stopped by our table several times to check in with us and he suggested that next time one of us try their halibut dish, which he said is a big hit.

For dessert, Jerry the GM took the liberty of ordering for us (because it was our first visit), the chocolate souflee. This too was delicious - deeply chocolatey and plenty big for two or even four. When brought to the table, the souflee top is broken, and chocolate syrup is drizzled in and around. Then, whipped cream is added. As this begins to melt and meld with the souflee, the whole thing is served-up. Yummmy and perfect with some coffee !

For the Foie appetizer, bottle of wine and two entrees, the bill for two was $112 before the tip. IMO, for the quality of food and service, this is a good value.

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