When I started working in Irvine almost two years ago, I felt lost at lunchtime. I didn’t have co-workers that I felt close enough to go food venturing with, and the only sight to see within a mile of the office was more office parks and housing. I wasn’t super impressed with the selections at the Irvine Spectrum, which is disappointing given its proximity, until I found BRIO tuscan grille. Even though some new businesses have moved in to the center and improved the space, BRIO has remained a constant, and a shining one at that. It’s a solid lunch choice, whether business or with friends, post-work dinner treat, or a source of sustenance after a long day of shopping.
I was delighted to see that they recently updated their menu, and I couldn’t wait to try some of the new options! Their new menu features 13 new entrees, small plates, two-course lunch plates, and a renewed drink selection. While I had my eye on some of their new entrees, their two-course lunch plates interested me the most, since I turn to the Spectrum weekly for a much needed dose of the outside world in the middle of a work day.
First, we enjoyed the new Burrata & Ciabatta appetizer. Everything tasted so fresh and healthy, despite two-thirds of the dish being carbs and creamy cheese. Our waiter noted the presence of chili flakes in the roasted tomato spread, but we didn’t find there to be a spice factor. I’m definitely going to request for them to up the ante on chili flakes next time, but this was a great start to the meal.
The first half of my lunch combo consisted of some greens. I’m a sucker for a good Caesar Salad, and this was the perfect portion size, not to mention the most delicious brioche croutons.
My coworker enjoyed a salad and the Pasta Brio as her lunch combination. The pasta is served al dente and had the perfect ratio of pasta to chicken to mushrooms to roasted red pepper sauce. For a pasta lover like myself, this portion size is what dreams are made of. Instead of a giant bowl that is impossible to finish, but tempting to do so, this is where portion control and taste come together to form a great mid-day meal.
For the second half of my combo, I chose the Prosciutto & Burrata Sandwich. Clearly, I didn’t have enough burrata at the start of my meal, I had to order more in another form! In all seriousness though, good cheese is one of my main food groups. Another example of perfect portion control, this sandwich is tiny, but mighty. The rich prosciutto packs a ton of flavor into the sandwich and the sprinkling of grilled peppers and arugula are the perfect garnish to each bite. Potatoes, in almost any form, are also a weakness of mine – so, these chips hit the spot as the side to my sandwich.
At this point, I was feeling great about my lunch decisions. I was happy that I wouldn’t be suffering from a post-lunch food coma back at my desk. That’s when they surprised us with this Flourless Chocolate Torte. They assured me that it was gluten-free, which basically meant I burned calories chewing it. Served with almonds, olive oil gelato, and strawberries, the key to this dish was to get a bit of every ingredient in each bite. The torte was very rich on it’s own, and the ice cream too distinctive to grace your spoon alone, but altogether with a bit of strawberry and a crunch of almond = heaven in my mouth!
This experience only made me want to come back for more! A post-work dinner is next on the to-do list!
For more information, visit BRIOitalian.com