Drunk After Work: Andrei's Conscious Cuisine
The Place: Andrei's Conscious Cuisine, 2607 Main St., Irvine, (949) 387-8887; andreisrestaurant.com.
The Hours: Mon.-Fri., 3-7 p.m.
The Deal: Draught beer, $4; well drinks, $5; a few wines at $6; and $2 off speciality cocktails; plus a small menu of $6 happy-hour snacks.
The Scene: The restaurant belies the oh-so-corporate look of the surrounding area. The valet is actually not near the front door, and self-parking is across a plaza. The main bar is upstairs. The inside is dark and indirectly lit. There are many low tables around the walls that will seat eight people without a problem. The crowd is mixed, but surprisingly nicely dressed given OC's reputation for casual sartorial choices.
The Sauce: Very good, very creative cocktails. Usually when restaurants invent cocktails, they use flavored vodkas and fruit juices and liqueurs. Not at Andrei's; they have whisky drinks, gin drinks and Champagne drinks, and some of them are not sweet. There's a spicy orange cocktail with a blood orange garnish that's excellent, as well as a simple Hendrick's gin shaken with puréed cucumber--a great cooler on a hot day. Good wine list; decent beer selection.
The Food: Six for $6 is the name of the happy-hour menu at Andrei's, and $6 seems a little pricey for a snack until you see the size of the portions. You could do as we did and make a whole dinner out of a couple of them. Kurobuta pork ribs rubbed with harissa and served with cantaloupe chutney and lemon-mint yogurt was the favorite; the meat was soft and the cantaloupe a surprisingly good counterpoint to the heat of the harissa. Vegetable arancini were also excellent, with veggie-studded risotto formed into balls and deep-fried; the sun-dried-tomato sauce was not terribly interesting, though. Spiced chicken kebabs with cilantro pesto and tzatziki were a better choice than a huge pile of flat-tasting hummus; the babaghannoush was chunky, but much richer tasting.
The Verdict: A nice place to have a quiet drink and wrap up business discussions; excellent service, good food, great drinks and decent prices.
The Grade: A-
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