Saturday, April 5, 2008

Wilhelm's Chophouse - Irvine

Searching Open Table for a dinner close to home, this caught my eye. I recalled a co-worker mention how she had planned to dine at French 75 on her birthday, but discovered they were closed for a changeover. It clicked. I phoned to inquire about Friday night reservations and was informed they were supposed to open on Thursday. However, Saturday would be opening night instead. Fabulous.

The style theme remained intact. Shaded chandeliers cast moody lighting and deep reds draped the interior. The crowd was mixed with couples and families casually dressed. A denim clad blonde bounded out the passenger side of her BMW and cut us off as we approached the host stand (manners, anyone?). She did not have a reservation, but found there was no wait. My 6:30 seating was intact, and we spotted David (Wilhelm) himself making the rounds.

Our corner was in the side dining room. Once seated, we realized our seats were uncomfortably far from the table. Sliding the table closer boxed us in. What to do? A creative moment took over as I motioned towards the pile of beaded throw cushions adjacent to us. A few back rests later and crisis was averted.

Another couple seated close by commented to our server about the lighting, or lack of. Reminds me of Habana at the Lab. If you can get past this obstacle, then it's all about menu selection. Upscale comfort food is one of my major weaknesses, and I was prepared to fall off the wagon. While their greens were standard fare, the stars of this show were the Chophouse Fav's. Our usual family-style ordering began with slow smoked baby back ribs. The tender meat was coated in a chipotle-honey barbeque sauce. We requested sides to be switched to their thyme-parmesan-garlic french fries (enough spice?) and some honey roasted peanut slaw. The matchstick potatoes were beat by the quiet crunch of mayo induced slaw.

Our second selection manifested into their Southern honey (is this a trend?) -buttermilk fried chicken. Boneless breasts crunchy and smothered in thyme cream gravy ran into a barrier of creamy mashed potatoes. It was so rich I could barely finish half. I'm guessing the third entree also contributed to my rapidly decreasing appetite. Part of 'Wilhelm's Local Economic Stimulus Package' options, we rounded out our dining tour with a barbeque spiced salmon. I swapped the creamed corn for spinach. A modest portion, it was a perfect addition to our mini buffet.

Wines by the glass were plentiful, say over 30 including sparkling with six and nine ounce options. I reckon there were also a dozen different starters and sides to mull over. The infamous souffle still requires over 20 minutes to rise, but it did not disappoint. Poufy and steaming, it was a ramekin of chocolaty bliss. I wouldn't recommend any other (the banana cream & white chocolate pie did little for us).

Service was eager to please that night, and we are already thinking about the next excuse to make a repeat performance.

Wilhelm's Chophouse ~ formerly French 75 Brasserie
13290 Jamboree Road (at the Market Place)

Labels: , ,