Entering Hotel Irvine’s sun-kissed lobby area, the appreciative eye darts from the contemporary free-form bird sculpture to the living herb wall of green and then to the bright, inviting warm red and orange tones and retro modern decor of Red Bar, sexy banquettes curve along the wall beckoning you to lounge, enjoy a handcrafted cocktail and nibble on a few of Chef Jason Montelibano’s creative gastropub fare with an Asian flair.
Fans of Chef Jason’s from his days at Chapter One in Santa Ana, will be happy to know that he has found a new, permanent place to spread his wings and treat guests to his unique Filipino twist on popular American gastro pub favorites as well as more upscale California cuisine and a desire to bring specialty ingredients to the table in a surprising and palate pleasing way. Take for example, his Balsamic Lollipop Kale. Our first time trying kale sprouts – a cross between Brussels sprouts and kale! Roasted and tossed with cherry tomatoes, napped in aged balsamic with a lemon, garlic pesto and a sprinkling of pine nuts and grated manchego – crazy good.
I’m always looking for healthier restaurant dishes and the magic that Chef Montelibano works on vegetables is an area where he is especially talented. I had the Pickle Platter ($4) under Small Bites on another occasion, and it was a study in color and taste with pickled pink and white cauliflower, a beet-infused pickled egg. American’s are not so accustomed to the sweet/sour tartness of pickled foods, but pickled foods have a place at every meal in Asian cultures.
Having dined at EATS on only two occasions – one lunch and a recent small media dinner, I’m impressed with the quality, value, and execution – from the bottles of chilled filtered water with your server’s name hand-written on a medallion, to the incredible Filipino Egg (a perfectly boiled egg wrapped in sweet homemade longanisa sausage, deep-fried and served with a tamarind sweet-sour-spicy sauce), heavenly Foraged Mushrooms alongside soft egg nestled in deliciously creamy polenta spiked with Soledad Farms goat cheese, to the exquisitely light Strawberry Mousse Tart with white chocolate anglaise from pastry chef Maggie Mulcare. If you haven’t been, you should definitely give EATS a try. I know I’ll be returning for more!
Strawberry Mousse Tart with White Chocolate Anglaise
The menu is divided into “Small Bites” (1 for $4, 2 for $7, or 3 for $9), “Greens” ($9.50-$11), “To Share” items include Caramelized Brussels Sprouts, Filipino Egg, Sweet & Spicy Wings, Fried Chicken & Biscuits, Pork Belly Mac & Cheese, Flatbreads, and more ($6 to $12), “Dinner Plates” include three mouthwatering burgers, Carbonara, Confit Fried Chicken, Lamb Gnocchi, Crusted Tuna, Scottish Salmon, Steak Frites, and Jumbo Prawns ($11.50 – $22); and “Sweets” ($4).
After dinner at EATS we were treated to a cocktail demo by Red Bar’s Manager, David Fayette, who shook up one of the most popular cocktails for us. A true SoCal cocktail, the Icy Hot is a lip tingling, cooly refreshing combination of Siete Leguas Silver tequila, St. Germaine Elderflower Liqueur, fresh lime juice, agave nectar, cucumber, and jalapeño.
Friends and Yelp reviewers rave about the incredible value of Red Bar’s Happy Hour: 3pm to 7pm Monday thru Thursday; 2pm to 7pm on Fridays. Offering small bites such as Calle tacos (carne asada street style tacos), shishito peppers, pork belly buns, and Brussels sprout, from the Happy Hour menu for $2 (normally $4), wine by the glass and any cocktail for $4, and a great lineup of draft beers for $3. The bar area melts into EATS Kitchen & Bar restaurant which has their own separate happy hour offered Monday thru Friday between 5pm and 7pm. Working in the Irvine area, it’s a no-brainer to head over to Red Bar to meet friends, wait out traffic or unwind from a busy day.
17900 Jamboree Rd.
Irvine, CA 92614