Taps Fish House and Brewery
13390 Jamboree Road
Irvine, CA 92602
A lot of new places have been opening up at the Tustin and Irvine Marketplace recently. These two centers, that are really one, are divided by Jamboree Road, and they have really stepped up their culinary game in the last few months. Opened just recently is a new sushi spot, Mizu Sushi, Inland Empire staple, Miguel's Jr., Class 302, and Piadina Italian Sandwiches are all now in full operation here, and there are more on the way. It's been announced that The Melt, Famous Dave's BBQ, and Wokano, which is erupting like crazy, will be opening here in the coming months. I was excited to try another new restaurant, the one that brought us here on a recent Thursday afternoon, Taps Fish House and Brewery.
Taps is not entirely new though. They have outposts in Brea and Corona, both of which have been wowing people in those areas with their fantastic Sunday brunch, seafood and award winning beers. This move to South OC did not come all of a sudden either. Owner Joe Manzella had been looking for this kind of spot for awhile now. In fact, back when we experienced Taps brunch for the first time in April of 2012, Joe had let Katie and I know that they were scouting out where to put their next Taps restaurant in South OC. Over three years later they are opening up in the old Buca Di Beppo spot, across the street from Lazy Dog Restaurant.
This latest Taps is kind of a mash up of Taps in Brea and Joe's other restaurant, The Catch, next to Anaheim Stadium. There's a very nice patio here, high ceilings, and a huge bar, that brings to mind all that is great about The Catch in Anaheim. The rest of the restaurant is equally grand. Nice comfy booths along the walls, a nice brick archway that separates the two roomed dining area, and nice sight lines which direct your attention into the busy kitchen. There's also an oyster bar that has all their oysters all lined up ready to be consumed.
We were here for a friends and family event, which meant they were still working on staff training, getting the kitchen in working condition, and also testing the fire alarms. If this dry run was any foreshadowing of what to expect when they opened, everything's probably running smoothly right now. To help with training, every table was given a different preset menu. We saw many wonderful dishes coming out of the kitchen to surrounding tables, and were eager to see what was in store for us. Let's take a look.
All meals at Taps start with their very good bread. This was served with some oil and vinegar, which went well with the toned down sourdough. It came out hot, and was great start to our meal.
First up on our preset menu was the Ahi Tartare ($14.99). I'm always a little weary when an item has so much going on with it, especially when that item is ahi, but this was excellent. Ahi tuna is mixed with avocado, red onion, cucumber, scallions, soy chile-emulsion, and is topped with crispy wontons. This was served with gem lettuce cups, but we preferred it without. The lettuce kind of overpowered the very well made ahi mixture. Very tasty.
I really liked this little twist on a regular Caprese salad. The Heirloom Tomato Caprese ($10.99) drew raves from my buddy Joe, who considers himself to be a Caprese connoisseur. On this version, the tomatoes are joined with one of the best burrata's that we have had, a smear of basil and another of vincotto, micro-basil, crisp prosciutto, and toasted pine nuts. Most of you know that I'm not really a big tomato fan, it's a texture thing for me, but this was stellar. The nuts gave this an earthiness, the burrata was creamy, and the tomato added a little sweetness to even out this plate. Joe was very pleased with this.
The first of our two entrees was nothing that I would normally order, but I ended up enjoying this Grilled Alaskan Halibut ($32.99). The fish was joined by some blistered shishito peppers, pork belly, spring veggies, and a citrus herb salad. As I was eating this, it kind of grew on me. At first I thought the vegetables made this more of a salad, and the pork belly and halibut kind of got lost. After we picked away at some of the produce, the freshness of the fish, and the tasty pork belly shined through. I'm still not sold on this for me, but others out there that enjoy vegetables more than myself, might enjoy this entree.
You might not think of trying a burger at Taps Fish House, but you would be missing out. This Taps Burger ($13.99) had it going on. The burger is made up of aged chuck, sharp cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, red onion, tomato, lettuce, pickle, and is sandwiched between a toasted brioche bun. All of this contributed to a very juicy burger. With all the moisture, the bun did a great job keeping its integrity. The beef was fresh and flavorful, and the sharp cheese complimented the beef well. I was also happy the meat was cooked medium, just the way I like it. Excellent burger that could be only made better by adding a few slices of bacon to it. Maybe next time. The fries were also pretty good at Taps also. A subdued garlic and parsley flavor was detected, and these came out of the kitchen scalding hot.
This visit to Taps Fish House really just whetted my appetite for what's to come here. I'm really looking forward to trying their brunch buffet that features lots of breakfast items, seafood, and a chocolate fountain. There's also a few things they had yet to divulge about their brunch, and I look forward to seeing what those things are. Since they opened on June 8th, I have heard all positive things about Taps, which is kind of rare for a new restaurant. Our server, Talya was very sweet, and dealt with us awesomely. It will definitely be nice cutting down on driving time to Brea by having this Taps Fish House open closer to us in Irvine.
We would like to thank all of the staff at the new Taps for all the wonderful service we received during this visit. I'd also like to thank General Manager Masaya Yamazaki for taking the time to chat with us, and give us a little hint of what was to come at this location of Taps. I'd also like to show my appreciation to the wonderful Lee Healy, who offered us this invite to the friends and family event. Thanks for everything Lee. Lastly, I'd like to thank my dining partner on this adventure, my good buddy Joe. Always a good time hanging out with this guy, and he definitely knows his food as well, way more than he knows how to play poker, but that's a story for another day.
For more information about Taps Fish House and Brewery, go to their website here: http://www.tapsfishhouse.com/