Sunday, May 29, 2016

Hoping Taps Will Be The Tops

Taps Fish House and Brewery
13390 Jamboree Road
Irvine, CA 92602

I play it off like I am unemotional, but I can be pretty romantic when I want to be. For weeks leading up to our first anniversary, Katie had been asking me what we should do. I told her, just like with Christmas and our birthdays, we'll just go out for a quick dinner, with no presents. So when it was our anniversary night, I surprised her at work, got her flowers and a card, and even made reservations for dinner. Since she works so close by, and we've always loved our trips to Taps, that's where we headed to celebrate one year of wedded bliss.

This Irvine location of Taps is also celebrating their one year anniversary next month. Founded by the successful Joe Manzella, Taps now has three locations, (this one, Corona, and the original Brea spot). Also under his co-leadership is one of my favorite barbecue restaurants in OC, Lillie's Q. Built on the former Buca Di Beppo site, the interior of this Taps is completely unrecognizable from its last tenant. High ceilings, comfortable booths, and a wonderful brick archway lend an elegance to the space, while the expansive bar area helps even things out with an upscale sports bar theme. The real showcase for this restaurant is the open kitchen, which allows diners a fantastic view of the goings on in this large culinary wonderland.

I had made reservations, but did not really need to on this rather quiet Monday evening in the dining room. During our stay there was a slow procession of customers inhabiting the dining room, but we never encountered anything close to a rush during this early dinner hour. The menu at this location of Taps is a little different from the others. On this menu there are more table side presentations, which I like, and hope they come back in fashion. The rest of the menu is pretty straight forward, with lots of seafood, steaks, and starters. They also feature a prix fixe menu, where for $31.99 you get to create your own three course meal from their selected offerings. This sounded great to both Katie and I, so we quickly ordered from our waiter Greg, and talked about all of the grievances we have experienced with each other from our first year of marriage. Just kidding, wanted to make sure you were still reading along. Here's how everything came out for us.

As is customary with all meals at Taps, they start you out with a Quarter Loaf of Sourdough and some Oil and Vinegar. This bread comes out piping hot, and that makes it even better. We devoured two servings of this before we had to stop ourselves.

You might think these Short Rib Meatballs were my first course, but you'd be wrong. Katie selected these as her appetizer course. I knew I married her for some reason. These tender meatballs were bathed in an arrabiata sauce, and topped with an interesting house made lemon ricotta and gremolata. I learned later that gremolata is an herb condiment made up of lemon zest, garlic, and parsley. It really added to these meatballs. The citrus was evident, but did not overpower, which also could be said for the cheese used here. Both allowed the meatballs to be the star of the show.

I'm always a sucker for a Caesar Salad, and I had an inkling that this one was going to be good, and I was right. On their regular menu this Caesar is prepared table side for two people, but this prix fixe portion was prepared in the kitchen. Romaine hearts, croutons, and pecorino ramono cheese made up this salad, which had a very subtle Caesar dressing with it. I'd like a little more dressing on here, but a very solid, yet simple Caesar.

Katie was torn between a couple of choices, but eventually went with this Harissa Grilled Atlantic Salmon. The salmon was presented on top of a bed of toasted red quinoa, and topped with a toasted almonds, a cucumber bouquet, lemon vinaigrette, and fennel pollen. I'm not going to lie to you, I'd probably never order this, because I've never had a great experience with quinoa, but Katie loved this. She loved the freshness of the fish here, the use of cucumber, and the playful use of textures that they came up with. She would totally get this again on future visits to Taps.

I went simple yet again with my entree selection, the 8 Ounce Prime Top Sirloin. If a restaurant can cook a top sirloin, and make it taste good, then you know they are doing it right. This was done to my desired medium rare, and was more tender than I was expecting. I would have liked a sauce with this, but it was fine when I alternated bites with the very good mashed potatoes. These were some of the best mashed potatoes I've had in awhile. Really tasty. This also came with some asparagus as the seasonal vegetable on this evening.

Dessert time was next, and I had this Classic Creme Brulee. Tahitian vanilla bean custard, which was topped with whipped cream and mixed berries. A strong creme brulee, but nothing that made it stand out. I did enjoy that this was pretty good sized, and it did have a nice caramelized coating covering this.

I have been on a roll with bread pudding lately, but this Salted Caramel Bread Pudding might take the cake as best we have had. The bread pudding was moist and delicious, the salted caramel was plentiful, and this really came alive with the addition of Pop Rocks. I know that they rotate their versions of this dessert, but if this is offered when you are here, order this, you won't be sorry.

Celebrating our anniversary at Taps was a great choice, if I do say so myself. The prix fixe menu was a great value. I added up everything I had, and it would have cost me $45 instead of the $31 that I paid. Katie's meal was an even better deal, as we would have had to shell out $49 for hers, but again, this costs us just $31. Good food, and good for your wallet as well. The food at Taps is very solid, but what I had on this evening was prepared too simply. I'd definitely jazz up my meal on my next visit. As much as I hate to say it, Katie's picks were better than mine on this evening. Our service was on point, and the food made its way out to us in a timely fashion. Taps was a great place for us to celebrate our anniversary, and might just become our anniversary tradition.

Out of five barrels of oil, (because the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, also known as TAPS has carried 16 billion barrels of oil to date), five being best to zero being worst,  Taps Fish House and Brewery gets 3.5 barrels of oil.

For more information about Taps Fish House and Brewery, head to their website here: 

TAPS Fish House & Brewery Irvine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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