Thursday, July 25, 2013

Bistango, Irvine

It sounded too good to be true.  Happy hour from 4 pm until closing Monday-Friday and 530 to closing on Saturday?  Who does that?  Well, apparently Bistango in Irvine does.  And they do it very well.

So they tack on Martini to the Bistango’s Manhattan Martini for no apparent reason ($11).  Who cares?  It’s Woodford Reserve, sweet vermouth, Peychauds Bitters (yes, they included the bitters in the description!) and a Luxardo Marachino Cherry.  Steve, the very personable bartender in his mid-fifties, asked if I wanted it stirred or shaken.  Really, he asked me!  My friend gets vodka martini and, sorry, but I can’t remember the brand but she was very impressed they offered it at happy hour prices.

Happy hours tapas are offered from 4-9 pm.  I got the lovely pan seared diver scallop, lemon giner risotto, asparagus, and balsamic ($8).  This was lick the plate good.  Perfectly seared scallop; crunchy asparagus and tangy almost perfectly cooked risotto. The tiny puddle of liquid that formed around the edges was probably not supposed to be there but that didn’t prevent the guy next to me from ordering the same dish once he saw mine (his buddy ordered the manhattan after he saw mine too).

My friend got either Sashimi of Yellow Fin Tuna, ginger cucumber salad, hass avocado, spicy soy vinaigrette ($17.50) or Tartare of Sashimi Grade Yellow Fin Tuna, cucumber, scallions, avocado, chili vinaigrette ($15.75) Too raw and icky for me but she loved it. 
Duo playing 60s, 70’s 80’s softish but not too soft rock in the background adds a nice touch to the lovely vibe at this place.  It's a very friendly crowd.

Steve is busy when leave but he comes out from behind the bar when we leave and jokes about us not even saying good bye and gives us each a hug.  All night long this guy is reminding me of someone but, luckily, it’s not until I get home that I realized it was an ex-boss who done me wrong.  I will have to force myself to overlook this because Bistango does it right all the way around – attentive and charming service, quality cocktail for a decent price, good food.  

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Anqi, Costa Mesa

I arrive at Anqi around 630 on a recent Thursday evening and got a seat at the bar.  Bartender is calmly walking up and down the length of the bar of approximately 15 stools.  Passes me several times without acknowledging me, he does not appear to be very busy.  No eye contact; no I’ll be with you in a minute, nothing.  What is this?  If I pretend I don’t see you, maybe you’ll go away?  Single woman to my left has her menus and tries to get bartender’s attention.  Nothing.  About 10 minutes after I’m seated, he stands in front of me and says nothing.  I ask for a menu.  My neighbor asks for a full menu.  It’s tossed at her somewhat disgruntledly.  Food is coming out in droves for the man to my right.  All smelling delicious.  Finally a second bartender comes over and we talk about my options. Jim Beam is the house bourbon and I pass on that.  Selections are pretty standard but I notice that one of the Knob Creek bottles is a rye so I ask for perfect manhattan with that ($13).  He makes the drink to my specifications and even gives me three shakes of bitters which, of course, I have forgotten to ask for.  It smells a little fruity and little sweet; tastes slightly less so but it’s got a nice wallop on the first sip and a hint of mind spiciness.  Cinnamon?  If you check out their website, you'll find out that it's oak and vanilla.  This rye is the newest addition to to the Knob Creek line.  It was voted the "Best Rye" and double gold at the 2012 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.  It's 100 proof.  Set back, or some of the mash from the previous batch, is added a two steps in the process - mashing and fermentation.  

The gentleman next to me offers me a taste of the salt and pepper fried calamari ($12).  Very tasty but I ask for the pot stickers ($6) and am told by Mr. Standoffish that they are only offered until 6 pm.  Why put something on the happy hour menu that is not available during happy hour?  I get the
chicken crispy rice roll ($6 ).

So here’s the literal fly in the ointment.  Woman to my left lifts up her salad plate (she had returned the original they brought her because of some mistake with the chicken) and leans over towards me and points.  It’s something black.  Whoa!  It’s something black with moving legs.  Mr. Standoffish is summoned and, again, doesn’t speak.  He takes the plate and walks away.  About 10 minutes later a manager arrives, apologizes and tells her he’s taking one beverage and two of her menu items off her bill.  Really?  The freaking thing’s legs were moving!  Isn’t that immediate zeroing out of the bill?  Guess not. 

My food was decent (and thank goodness I had finished before I saw the bug), drink was decent if a bit pricey.  Based on service alone, this place flunks big time.