Casual dining

Irvine: Brio Tuscan Grille

Brio Tuscan Grille is a Columbus based restaurant group, serving Northern Italian cuisine. They have locations throughout the United States, currently with 2 locations in California: Irvine and Rancho Cucamonga, and one opening soon in Torrance.

On June 28, Brio Tuscan Grille launched a new menu designed for sharing. For dinner, their menu consists of an array of small plates, from Mezza Beef Carpaccio to White Bean Dip, created for two, three or four people to experience together. In addition, they have a value menu consisting of 3 course for $27.95.   To view the full menu and for a list of locations, go to www.BrioItalian.com.

I stopped by the Irvine location with Karen for dinner. For a Tuesday night, the place was packed. This is definitely a place to come if you have a large group. I saw a lot of parties, celebrating birthdays or some other special occasion. We had a 7 o’clock reservation. Even though we arrived early, they were able to get us seated. We had a great table and our server, Eva got us started quickly with drinks. It was a Pepsi place, so Karen opted for the strawberry lemonade, while I just went for the original lemonade. The drinks came out quickly along with house bread and flatbread.

Eva suggested the calamari as a starter, but we’re not really in the mood for seafood, so we chose something lighter and more refreshing like the Chefs Selection Bruschetta. The bruschetta was wonderful. It was 6 pieces of cheese toast topped with fresh mozzarella, basil, grape tomatoes, all drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It’s simple. Refreshing. And a great appetizer.img_5737

For our entrée, I decided to stick with the Signature Grilled item, and chose the double pork chops,  Yukon mashed potatoes as my side, an add on of the jumbo shrimp  for $3 extra. Karen chose the Chicken Limone, which came with haricot vert (French green beans) and mashed potatoes.

The pork chops were definitely huge, and thick. Perhaps, maybe not the biggest pork chop I’ve ever seen, but it was generous. Unfortunately it was a bit over season, salty and a tad over cooked. Wasn’t completely dry, but because the pork chops were more on the lean side, and not much fat, it wasn’t a juicy pork chop. For the price, I was a bit disappointed in the outcome of this potentially great piece of meat.

The side of Yukon potatoes were delicious, but it could’ve used a little more milk and butter. It was more like smashed potatoes instead of mashed. It wasn’t very creamy and very dense. It made the pork chops seem even heavier. Next time I think I’ll stick to vegetables as my side dish. Underwhelmed is probably the word I used for this pork chop, which is surprising, since they were really trying to promote their Grilled menu.

img_5745Karen’s Chicken Limone, however, was ah-maz-ing!

She got three tender pieces of chicken breast, which not only had great flavor, they were moist, where you could use a butter knife to cut it. The sauce was not overly lemony, and it went very well with the other two side dishes. Like my Yukon potatoes, her potatoes were very dense as well. Fortunately for her, she had the sauce to thin out the potatoes. I would totally order her entree again, and inquire if I could substitute the potatoes for pasta, or something lighter.

Finally, for dessert, Eva brought out a tray of desserts. There was the trio: small servings of a roasted strawberry shortcake crumble, crème brûlée, and a caramel mascarpone cheesecake. Then there was a sliced chocolate cake, and a chocolate tart. We decided to go with something light, which ended up being the strawberry shortcake crumble.

The strawberry shortcake came in a glass mason or jelly jar, and it was a deconstructed version of the classic dessert. On the bottom was the  strawberries and glaze, with the next layer of the buttermilk gelato, repeat layer, and then followed by the a crumbled vanilla bean scone, resembling a crushed pie crust. It really was enough for one person, or two very full people, who just wanted a bite to cleanse their pallet.

The dinner for two, with two soft drinks and a dessert came to $75 before tip. This was definitely not the cheapest meal in town. We did end up taking home half of my pork chop, my potatoes, and one piece of Karen’s chicken and her remaining potatoes, making it 2 lunches for the next day.

You can easily share an entrée, and pick up an appetizer or small dish to accompany the meal. Their value menu was a good deal, which consisted of three courses for $27.95. You get a protein, a side dish, and a dessert. The portion seem more reasonable, and probably still a lot of food.

Overall a very good restaurant to come for casual dining, or to celebrate a special occasion. Reservations highly recommended, even during the week. It’s located at the Irvine Spectrum,adjacent to the parking structure and valet, and just down the walkway from the carousel.

Brio Tuscan Grille Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato