Cucina Enoteca, is the latest addition to the Irvine Spectrum restaurant line up, and it is all about great food and wine. This is one of the most attractive restaurants I have been to in a long time. It has two large patio-dining areas, and an eclectically decorated dining room and bar. It can easily accommodate large parties as well as intimate small groups. Cucina Enoteca is a little unique because they are also a retail wine store. You will not find the usual 300 percent markup on wine that you may be used to when it comes to purchasing wine at a restaurant. They charge a small corking fee if you have the bottle with your meal but overall you can get some incredible wine at a reasonable prices.
We have been to Cucina Enoteca twice, once for a media tasting event and then we went back again to check out the dining experience at the bar. The food was consistently good. Both times our favorite dish was the Chicken Liver Pate with brown sugar shallots. We loved the presentation of a cutting board with a mason jar filled with yummy goodness and sliced French bread. Seriously, if you are going, order this with your drinks or wine while you are looking at the rest of the menu. You will thank us later!
The creamy mascarpone polenta with meat ragu was another hit. The polenta was buttery and creamy and the ragu robust and rich with enough acid to complement the polenta, so the two played together nicely. They change the meat in their ragu often. On this visit they served veal but I have heard that they also serve rabbit and duck.
Their wine selection is very impressive but on our second visit, we took the opportunity to try a number of their cocktail creations. They use fresh ingredients and juices and also infuse some of their own alcohols such vanilla bean bourbon, apple bourbon, and ginger pear vodka. My favorite was their red jalapeño tequila used in their “Tequila Mule”, along with muddled lime and house made ginger beer. Kim enjoyed their Basil Gimlet” with organic Gin, squeezed lime and muddled basil. Refreshing with a hint of sweet and the gin really heightens the citrus flavors.
They are going to be participating in OC Restaurant Week, Feb 26-March 3, 2012, so go give them a try.
We have tried a number of other dishes. So far we’ve liked everything we’ve tried and look forward to going back again! Here are more photos to make you hungry!