I was at Irvine Spectrum recently in search of a private dining room for an upcoming small gathering of friends. I considered Paul Martin's and Capital as options, but then I realized Brio Tuscan Grille and Del Frisco's Grille, the two brand new restaurants where there was previously parking lot, just opened.
I walked into Brio first, asked the hostess about what they had in terms of private dining. She said they had a private room in the back, but had to confirm with the managers on its availability. I followed her into the main dining area where a few of the managers were standing. I was next to her when she spoke with this group of tie-wearing men. Without making eye contact with me, or acknowledging my presence, one of them told her that the room wasn't ready yet. She turned to me and repeated what he said. I thanked her for her time, then walked a few yards to Del Frisco where I would ask their hostess the same thing.
"Yes, we have a private dining room!" she chirped immediately. "I'll get the manager to tell you more." Scarcely seconds later, Katie the manager bounded in, a brunette who was already smiling before she shook my hand. She whisked me to the back, showed me the room, which had windows that opened up to the kitchen. It was perfect. I booked it right away. Then I stayed for dinner. My server was just as warm as the manager. I ordered the special of the night--a humongous chicken pot pie that had the circumference of a hubcap--and also the drink he recommended, a drink that would sum up why I decided to stay. It was called the VIP.
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It turns out the VIP is their signature cocktail, made by immersing Hawaiian pineapples in the Svedka Clementine Vodka for days. Served in a martini glass and topped with a creamy head of foam that kept it cold, it went down sweet and easy as though it were the alcoholic cousin of a Disneyland Dole Whip--probably the best cocktail I've had this year.
The private room gathering turned out splendidly, by the way. Our party ordered more VIPs with our brunch that day. The service was top-notch. We tipped generously, which is what you do when you're treated like VIPs.
620 Spectrum Center Drive, Irvine, CA 92618, (949) 341-0376; http://delfriscosgrille.com