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The Gossiping Gourmet: Enjoy the unusual at Andrei's in Irvine

July 02, 2012|By Elle Harrow and Terry Markowitz
(Courtesy Elle Harrow…)

Andrei's Conscious Cuisine is unusual in several ways.

For starters, it is a not-for-profit restaurant that donates funds to the Andrei Foundation, named after Andrei Olenicoff, the owner's brother, who died in a car accident at age 32. The foundation supports research in eye disease as well as other charities.

It is also a seriously green establishment committed to local, sustainable, natural and organic ingredients. It is in the semi-final competition for the greenest restaurant in the Los Angeles area. And last but not least, we think it's gorgeous.

The Olen Co. in Newport Beach is one of the largest commercial real estate companies in the U.S. Natalia Olenicoff, has designed and built this restaurant on one of their properties in memory of her brother.

The entrance is dazzling with its two-story waterfall cascading down a wall of stone, creating moiré patterns that change with the light. The first floor has large rooms for meetings and events. On the second floor at the top of the staircase you are greeted by an imposing wood fish sculpture.

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The spacious dining room has a large central bar and lounge. On one side is a more formal dining area with white tablecloths and at the other end is a smaller area with capacious booths. The floor is made of beautiful pecan wood with interwoven patterns of light and dark.

We opened with the Mediterranean tasting platter, a four-dip arrangement of olive, eggplant, hummus and tzatziki, served with wedges of plain pita and toasted sesame pita brushed with olive oil. These were much more delicate than the usual offerings.

At first we were expecting bolder flavors but quickly readjusted our palates to their more subtle pleasures. The toasted sesame triangles were especially tasty, and the platter would easily have served four people.

A delicious grilled octopus salad, tossed in lemon vinaigrette, with charred, tender tentacles seasoned with smoked paprika was intensely flavored. Rounds of thinly sliced Spanish chorizo sausage added salt and heat, while little creamy potatoes and bell peppers, both yellow and red, finished the dish with a mellow contrast.

We specifically requested our grilled mahi-mahi to be moist or slightly undercooked but what arrived was unfortunately overdone, leaving the fish somewhat dry. The mango salsa that accompanied it had very little fruit flavor.

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