Calivino Wine Pub
2410 E. Katella Ave.
Anaheim, CA 92806
I hear about restaurants in many different ways. I get press releases from PR people letting me know about a restaurant that is opening, or has new menu items. Other times I hear about a place that another food blogger or food writer has written about. I also read the OC Register food section religiously, and sometimes I write down some of their tips. My favorite way to hear about a place is of course to get a tip from one our faithful readers. These tend to be the best restaurants.
I heard about Calivino Wine Pub by all of these methods. I got a press release about nine months ago announcing that they would be opening soon. I then started seeing a lot of my fellow bloggers coming here, and reporting that they had a really good experience at Calivino. The thing that really nudged me towards eating here was a great review of the hamburger by OC Register columnist, Brad Johnson. He really knows his stuff, and his other burger recommendations have been spot on, so it got me excited to try them. I also had an email from a reader requesting that I give this place a shot, so we set up a double date with our friends, and met up here on a recent Friday night.
Calivino is located in the same shopping center as Hooters on Katella, right next to the now departed Zito's Pizza. Not really a high traffic center, and I thought it was going to be a slow night here, but as the evening went on, Calivino filled up. There was music starting up at 7, and the late arriving crowd struggled to find seating as the night went on.
The dining room is not huge, and there's little to no separation between the dining space and the bar area. The decor is subtle, and their tables are made from reclaimed wood that they have found throughout Southern California. The menu is not large either. There's of course a much bigger focus on the wine and craft beers here. Most food items on the menu are meant for sharing, but there's a few burgers and sandwiches, along with some salads that Executive Chef Patrick Dale has put on the menu. Happy hour is almost everyday 3 to 7, with the exception being Saturday when they hold their happy hour later in the night. A dollar off of draft beers, $2 off house wines and selected menu items are all apart of their happy hour pricing. We got here at the tale end of happy hour, but made two quick orders to take advantage of these offers. Let's see what we thought of the food at Calivino Wine Pub.
First up were these Spinach Wontons ($6 during happy hour). These wontons were filled with creamy baby leaf spinach, Parmesan, and garlic. These were pretty average. None of us were really wowed by these. They lacked the pop of flavor I was expecting from the Parmesan or the garlic. They also need more of a sauce than what was smeared across the plate. Their menu states that they proudly do not have ranch dressing, but maybe using some here could have made these better. Not too impressive.
Both Alex and I stay away from olives, but Katie and Jaszlyn are olive fiends, so they wanted to try these Marinated Olives ($7). They are marinated in garlic, chili, and herbs. There were more than plenty here for the girls, and Katie felt remorse later that she did not get the remainder of these to go. They both claim that they were real good, and I'll definitely take their word for it.
Our entrees were out next, and first up is Jaszlyn's selection, the Chicken and Brie ($13). This sandwich starts with free ranged braised chicken, adds cranberry sauce, brie, and a little touch of honey, all on marbled rye. Jaszlyn was not a big fan of this sandwich. The chicken was tender, but she expected a little more to be going on here. She called this, "kind of boring", and did not finish it. She did enjoy the fries though, which you can tell are freshly made, and fried crisp. Some really tasty fries at Calivino.
I barely got two pictures taken before Alex had finished his House Burger ($13). He engulfed this burger rather impressively. The house burger is made up of chuck brisket, and topped with onion jam, Havarti cheese, and fried onion strings, all on a brioche bun. It had been some time since Alex was this impressed with a burger. He'd come back for sure for this burger, but would opt for the hand cut fries, instead of the salad next time.
The Seared Ahi Burger ($16) would be Katie's choice on this night. The ahi came nicely peppered, with Asian slaw, spicy aioli, and a Hoisin sauce. Katie thought the tuna was prepared well, but the Hoisin sauce really overwhelmed everything here. She was also in the minority at our table by saying that the fries were just okay. She would have liked the fries to have been a little crisper. She'd probably get something else next time she was here.
Since Alex had gotten the house burger, I decided to make the sacrifice and get the Pork Belly Burger ($14). On this one they use the same great patty made of ground chuck brisket, but add a good amount of pork belly on top of it, along with some Gouda and garlic. The pork belly was done very well here. It was moist and went well on top of the beef patty. It did need more of a sauce to tie it all together, but I still really enjoyed this burger.
Both Alex and Jaszlyn did not want dessert, but Katie and I wanted to try the Beignets ($8). These balls of dough came with a lemon anglaise for dipping. The beignets were good, but not stellar. They had plenty of cinnamon and sugar on them, but we wished they had a different kind of sauce for dipping. Lemon did not seem to go here. These took so long to come out, that they gave us a Chocolate Lava Cake ($8) to make up for the almost fifteen minute lag time between ordering and getting the beignets. The cake came with a coffee reduction, white chocolate, and whipped cream. Not really a big fan of this dessert either. The cake was not moist, there was not enough chocolate present to call this a chocolate lava cake, and it came out a little overcooked. It was nice that they tried to make up for their mistake though.
After reading this review, you can probably sense that we had conflicting views on Calivino. Some items were pretty solid, (the burgers, the olives and the fries), but the other items we had on this night were misses in our book. Wish they had more sauces involved here. The wontons, the burger, and the lava cake all could have used a sauce to make them more enjoyable. We did not think that the prices here were too out of line for the type of place this is, and the amount of food that you get. Even with the snafu about our dessert, we experienced pretty good service, which was even better when you consider how busy they were near the end of our meal. Would we come back? Yeah, the burgers are good enough that I'd come back, but I might have to smuggle in my own ranch dressing bottle.
Out of five corks, (I know, not original, but I couldn't think of anything else), five being best to zero being worst, Calivino Wine Pub gets 2.5 corks.
For more information about Calivino Wine Pub, go to their website here: http://www.calivinowinepub.com/home