The Winery Restaurant
2647 Park Ave.
Tustin, CA 92782
Oh OC Restaurant Week, you come and go so quick, we barely have enough time to enjoy you. When OC Restaurant Week rolls around the last week of February, it always seems like we always have stuff to do, so we never get to enjoy the reduced prices on three course meals. This year though, we made a point of clearing our schedule, and cross referencing our, "restaurant wish list" for places we wanted to go. OC Restaurant Week is a great time to experience a restaurant that might be a little out of your price range, or maybe is more of a special occasion restaurant. Not that The Winery is crazy expensive, but I would classify it as a special occasion place. It has been on our list for a long time, so we made our first of two OCRW dinners, at The Winery in Tustin.
The Winery has won some major awards since they opened up in 2007. They have been named Restaurant of the Year numerous times, their chef, Yvon Goetz has won a Golden Foodie Award as Chef of the Year, and even their Sommelier, William Lewis has been named Sommelier of the Year. Not only have the awards been plentiful, but they also get high praise from OC food writers and the general public. After over 400 reviews, they still have a four star rating on Yelp, and they have an 81 percent approval rating on Urbanspoon. Very good numbers, so I definitely had high hopes for a great dinner here.
We arrived at The Winery on a recent Wednesday night at 6 PM. I had made reservations, so we were sat right away, adjacent to the very busy bar area. This dark, loud restaurant was a little smaller than I had expected. What I had expected was the large number of wine bottles on display in the space. The Winery naturally has a huge wine list, with over 650 selections, which change weekly, so there is always something new here. Katie and I are not too into wine, but we were both hungry, so let's see if our high expectations will be met at The Winery.
I'm always kind of excited to see what kind of bread we are presented with at fancier restaurants. The bread basket at The Winery was pretty standard for an upscale restaurant. The sourdough like rolls were a little on the doughy side, but served warm. The winner of this basket for me was the Parmesan crisp. I could have eaten more of these crisps, but we had three courses headed our way.
Katie and I always like to get different things off of the OCRW menu, so this way we get to see more of the offerings, and we are both pretty good about letting each other try everything. She selected the Seared Rare Ahi Tuna to start with. This plate had a lot of things going on with it. Joining the tuna on the plate was a cucumber tower, avocado, mango, and a cilantro-orange vinaigrette. Katie praised this starter for the high quality of ingredients, the well executed tuna, and the very good citrus theme presented here. She likes avocado a lot, but kind of felt that the avocado, which was placed inside a lightly fried won ton wrapper, was a little misplaced here. I would never turn down an avocado, even on pancakes. Okay maybe then I would.
Since Katie went with the ahi, that left me with one of the other two choices. After reading the description of the Winery House Salad, it made my decision very easy. This is a salad that my mom would have loved, and I liked it as well. Organic baby greens, candied walnuts, crumbled Roquefort cheese, red grapes, apples, and tomatoes are all included here, with a Dijon mustard vinaigrette. With so much going on with this salad, each bite had a different vibe going on with it. The light dressing really allowed the contents of the salad to steal the show, but I would have liked a little more Roquefort to counteract all the sweetness here. Still a good salad though.
Entree time, and Katie surprisingly veered away from the fish offering, and made a beeline for a restaurant week staple offering, the Zinfandel Braised Short Rib. It always seems like no matter where we eat during any sort of restaurant week, most restaurants always offer a short rib option. The short rib at The Winery was joined alongside a prosciutto wrapped asparagus, carrot infused pearl couscous, and a zinfandel reduction. Katie had nothing but praise for this dish. As it should be, this short rib was fork tender, with no need for the steak knife that came with this plate. All the items on the plate provided different layers of flavor, but the couscous stood out the most for Katie. This was not a heavy meal, but it really satisfied.
Please forgive the washed out pictures here. The restaurant was dark, and I was trying to snap pictures quickly, so as not to disturb the other diners. Even with the sub-par pictures, I look back fondly on this Brandt Cajun Flatiron Steak. This nice sized steak was served with a Bordelaise sauce and black truffle mashed potatoes. The steak was cooked to my desired medium rare specifications. I really liked the sauce, but had wished that there was more of it here. The Cajun feel of the meat came through, but did not overpower the natural flavor of the meat. A very difficult balance to achieve. The mashed potatoes were not overtaken by the presence of truffle, and were very smooth.
Desserts were up next, and Katie had let me pick what I wanted first, so that left her with this Winery Cheesecake. Just like her entree, she was pretty pleased with this dessert. She liked that the cheesecake itself was not overly sweet, and the graham cracker crust provided a lot of the flavor here. The inclusion of the fresh berries were the cherry on top of this, so to speak.
You can never go wrong by ordering creme brulee, and the Tahitian Vanilla Creme Brulee proved this point as well. This was a pretty good sized portion, with a smooth custard inside that was not overly sweet, and the nice candied crust on top. It was then topped with a couple of fresh berries, and a chocolate fleur de sel cookie. I could have eaten tons of these chocolate cookies, they were so good.
The Winery Restaurant really lived up to the hype that we have heard about it, and is totally worthy of all the awards that they have received. We were happy that we got to experience this restaurant during OCRW, so it only cost us $40 a person for our three course dinners, a real bargain. We look forward to coming back again soon, to explore the rest of their menu. The restaurant kind of reminded us of Fleming's. but was a little more vibrant and lively. Our server, Melanie was on top of her game on this night. She was very personable, and made us feel very welcome. The food came out at a leisurely pace, but that's to be expected at nicer restaurants, as it's not really about getting the food out as quick as possible, but it's more about experiencing the food. There's a new location of The Winery opening up in Newport very soon, in the old Villa Nova spot. We are definitely looking forward to checking it out. Glad we did not let OC Restaurant Week pass by without coming to The Winery.
Out of five chess boards, (because the oldest winery in the world has been making wine for 6,000 years, and is located in Armenia, and that country's men's chess team is the current world champs), five being best to zero being worst, The Winery Restaurant gets 3.5 chess boards.
For more information about The Winery Restaurant, go to their website here: http://www.thewineryrestaurant.net/default.aspx