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Review- The Winery Restaurant, The District, Tustin

  • k

Had lunch at the new restaurant by Yvon Goetz, who was the chef at the Dining Room of the RItz Carlton, Laguna Niguel in its heday. It's a freestanding building in the new shopping area by the old blimp hangars in Tustin. There's the usual assortment of stores, including the recently discussed Whole Foods, a Costco, and Lowes.

Room itself is fairly open in design, mixture of tan colors and dark woods, but still with an airy feel. Chairs are fairly comfortable, but booths feel somewhat cramped. Weird sign behind the hostess station states "Dress Code Enforced" but I'm assuming that's for night, as there were people there in shorts / scrubs / tshirts in addition to the usual business lunch crowd.

Service was friendly but uneven, with problems replacing silverware. My dining companion had to twice end up having to reach over to the next booth to get it herself.

Bread basket had an assortment of warm herb rolls (good) and olive breadsticks and a flat cheese crisp (the last two incredibly stale and awful)

Apps were a warm corn bisque with scallops (very good, except for one scallop that tasted off (bay scallops)) and the lump crabmeat ravioli which came out on the raw side of al dente with cold crabmeat inside that was closer to a seafood salad than "lump". Sent this back, and it came out again with the plate itself searing hot, one of the ravioli lukewarm, and the rest still cold in the center. Oh well, we are in Tustin, so we just moved on.

Mains were the pan seared halibut with manila clams in a white wine sauce and the prime NY steak frites. The halibut was fine, cooked correctly, but the clams were missing in action, and the sauce was strangely bland. The steak was fine, cooked MR as requested, and had good flavor, but didn't quite seem "prime" to me. Shoestring herbed fries were very good. Portion sizes were quite large for lunch.

Dessert was the warm apple tart tartin, and this had to be the worst I have ever had. Normally I am the least picky when it comes to dessert, but this came out looking like a dark brown mush of applesauce sitting on top of a half baked wafer, and tasted not tart (which I'm fine with), but sour and bitter. It was also cold in the middle, which seems to be a recurring problem. The ice cream was the only edible part.

I also had a glass of Provenance cab with my steak, which was fine. However, for a place that bills itself as "The Winery" it's list of wines by the glass is truly pitiful- something like 6-7 reds, and 6-7 whites. The wine list itself, which is presented with a little fanfare, consists pretty much of your standard suspects- far niente, ferrari carrano, caymus, etc. and seems somewhat unispired. Markup seems to be around the standard 2.5x.

Total for lunch was 100- including tip, with the tart removed. Decent, nothing special.

Also, there is construction going on, and the access points in and out of the area were very congested and choked up. Hopefully this improves.

All in all, won't be rushing back anytime soon. Maybe some of the service and food issues will get ironed out and I'll try again in a few months. They do have a nice website, though.


The Winery Restaurant
Park Pl, Irvine, CA 92620

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  1. Thanks for the review. Yeah, I think I'll just chow at Whole Foods if there's that much inconsistency.

    1. Thanks for the review! The resto is less than two weeks old...the paint hasn't even dried yet. I've driven by the place when it was under construction. That view of Costco must be somethin' else! I'm very cautious about this place and may wait a few months for things to click. But your review makes me ask the same questions you had. Why does a place which calls itself "The Winery" not focus more on wine and food pairings and offer a more stand-out wine list? I think the menu appears to condescend to perceived local tastes, hence you end up with glorified Black Angus rather than something really different. Time will tell if it is going to be taken seriously or dismissed as a pretender.

      1. I went there on their opening night so I expected things to be a bit off.... They were. I just went to the wine bar rather than try their restaurant just yet. It was crowded, noisy (bad acoustics), and impersonal.

        There were only two options for flights (Red or White). Very few wines by the glass to be considered a wine bar. We ordered two flights and the glasses were placed in front of us. There were no tasting notes and neither of us could hear the bar tender who was running around so we have no idea what we sampled.

        We tried two bar appetizers. The "Crispy Lobster-Red Wine Risotto Lollipops with Black Truffle Sauce" while plated well was just BLAND and the texture was that of a tater tot on a stick. The "Herb Pommes Frites Cone with Dipping Sauces" was average at best and as for the two dipping sauces... one was ketchup and the other was a runny white mess.

        We had high hopes for this place but were dreadfully disappointed. So glad we didn't try dinner! Maybe if they do a major overhaul, we'll consider it again in six months. Until then, we'll stick to Symposium for a wine bar and Pinot Provence for dinner.

        p.s. The other poster was correct. It's an overpriced, glorified Black Angus.

        1 Reply
        1. re: ChewToy

          I wish, I had read you reviews before going there for lunch yesterday. What a big waste of money. The shrimp caesar salad consisted of couple of leaves of lettuce and three overcooked shrimp at $16.50. The steak sandwich was overcooked and the fries was average. The beer was overpriced. Actually we couldn't wait to get out of there. Another disappointing new place.

        2. William Lewis (one of the managing partners and former sommelier at Morton's) knows too much about wine to have an uninspired wine list. Could be they're just ironing things out at this point though I do wonder why a resto would hold back given the impact of first impressions.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Midlife

            As someone who spent a few years in the wine business, I can say that sometimes even seasoned 'wine experts' are occasionally compelled to make commercially-viable decisions when it comes to creating a wine list. I'm not a marketing guy, but 'The District' seems to me to be positioned toward the semi-affluent OC yuppie shopping crowd--a seasoned wine professional like Mr. Lewis would be well-advised to choose selections that would sell in that kind of an environment. It's true, this kind of wine list may strike some as 'uninspired,' but unfortunately these are the kind of selections that sell (themselves). (Read: Silver Oak, Rombauer, Opus One, et al, or the aforementioned Ferrari-Carrano, etc.)

            I do agree, however, that they should pepper the list with some more interesting/esoteric stuff, but that may come later, and that requires their staff to sell it.

            Most restaurants without a full-time sommelier have pretty quotidian wine lists. And in cases where an expert is hired to help them create a wine-list initially, as a one-shot deal, they're usually forced to pick high-production, commerically available wines that can be obtained dependably.


            1. re: georgempavlov

              I agree with you, but really, it doesn't need to be this way. One of the reasons I give a lot of respect to Houston's / Bandera is that they have taken the care and attention it takes to put together a truly interesting and eclectic yet reasonably priced (hence, accessible) wine list. I love that they offer Tantara by the glass, at a reasonable price point ! Why can't more restaurants do the same kind of thing ?

              I haven't eaten at this new place, but my wife and I did walk in just to check it out on our way to Whole Foods, and I checked out their wine list. I was surprised how "safe" they were playing it, and while the markups weren't completely outrageous, they generally seemed a bit higher than average. All in all, I wasn't excited to come back. I guess we'll see how this place progresses...

              1. re: georgempavlov

                Agree with all of this. Also, I have noticed that restaurants are all too eager to capitalize on the recent interest in wine (and calling their restaurant The Winery), while they couldn't give a crap about wine and just want to buy everything off one distributor (read Southern or Youngs).

            2. Thanks for the review - one more reason to avoid the District. Your meal sounded lacklustre.
              I went to Borders, Whole Foods yesterday. Bad mistake...the traffic was so congested that it was stressful to get into and out of the place, not to mention avoid getting run over while you try to get from store to store. Whole Foods was a crazy crush. I think that I'll stick to Bristol Farms in NB even if it's a little further away.

              1 Reply
              1. re: cqt

                The District At Tustin Legacy.

                The name of the place is just to pretentious for me to get past it! One visit (Auld Dubliner) was enough for me to know I never want to go back there.

              2. I appreciate the review, thank you. The only comment I found offending was when you mentioned that we are in Tustin, so we moved on. I am not sure what that was supossed to mean, but I happen to live in Tustin and think its a fabulous place to live. I think every city has a lot of not so fabulous restaurants and I am willing to not judge this restaurant until it has a chance to get its feet wet. Thank you.

                3 Replies
                1. re: reneet77

                  I heard a bunch of pro baseball players own The Winery. Anyone know if this is true?

                  1. re: reneet77

                    Hee - I also wondered about that, though I thought maybe OP meant because it is not West LA etc hence lower expectations. I like Tustin (live in Long Beach), and recently had a really nice meal at Black Sheep Bistro.

                    1. re: reneet77

                      Great post, Reneet. Tustin is a great city that has a great character (Honda-Ya in Old Town) and nice, non-chain restaurants like The Winery.

                      Several of the Angels baseball players are investors in the restaurant. Head Chef YG is a great guy and I enjoy the food he prepares.

                    2. Hi kdoc,

                      Thanks for the thorough review! I saw it the other day and was thinking of trying it, but you've just saved me some money. :)

                      1. We were there a few days after it opened and thought it was terrible. Overpriced, mediocre food. Annoying service. Boring decor and horrid website. Save your money for Marche Moderne.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: emily

                          Wow, thanks for the reviews. I was already skeptical about this place based on the architecture alone, but after reading your reviews and browsing their web-site... Wow, I can only laugh at the cheesiness of it all. Did they really need to incorporate bad, smooth jazz on the site, AND add a simulated wine-pouring sound? Come on... If Alexander Payne were to direct SIDEWAYS, PART II, Paul Giamatti's character would have to pay The Winery a visit. I think he'd be even more annoyed with it than he was with "Frass Canyon."

                          1. re: emily

                            I have been there several times and have only experienced good things, the service was off a little on opening night but all the other times food and service were right on. Maybe you should give it a try.

                          2. Didn't read these reviews until after I had made a reservation, but I always like to get my own opinion.
                            Good things: service (very good and attentive), salad, and desert
                            Bad things: completely raw/cold steak ordered as medium rare; very very salty side potatoes; boring side asparagus; out of the wine I wanted, and so another bottle was suggested that was not at all comparable to my original request; less innovative than the name/image suggests; way overpriced.
                            Sorry, but this place just doesn't cut it. There are a lot of WAY better places for less money (and I really don't think it being new is a good excuse).

                            1. My girlfriend and I visited the Winery for the first time this evening. (At the time of this writing, the restaurant has been in operation for 10 weeks.)

                              Pros: Nice lighting and overall atmosphere. Clean and new. Nice desserts.
                              Cons: Unremarkable food. Unpleasant wine experience. Spotty service. Severely overpriced!

                              Our visit to the Winery was disappointing. While the interior architecture and ambiance were very pleasant (warm, calm, and simple -- somewhat like Napa Rose), the dining experience was itself unsatisfactory.

                              First, the wine. I was looking forward to a couple of nice glasses of wine to complement my meal. However, after trying two different wines from the "by the glass" menu and one half bottle, I wished I hadn't attempted to order wine at all! Our server was polite, but knew very little about the wine menu, and was therefore unable to answer basic questions about it. Nevertheless, at his suggestion, I ordered one of the cabernets. My glass was very stale -- flat and sour, like vinegar. To replace it, I ordered one of the more expensive reds, a meritage priced at $25 per glass. Again, stale and sour!

                              At this point, a manager or sommelier (I don't know which -- he didn't introduce himself) approached us, to help me find something that would work better. Sadly, he was condescending, suggesting that I should have enjoyed the two (stale) glasses I had received. Further, he, like our server, was unwilling or unable to provide much information about the characteristics of the other wines on the menu. Since I did not want to get another stale glass, I asked him to suggest one of the half-bottles. He recommended a particular pinot noir as "elegant" and "complex." It was fresh, of course, but unspectacular, and certainly not particularly complex. Tired of what had become a stressful selection process, I kept this bottle and gave up on trying any others.

                              For obvious reasons, I was quite disappointed by the wine experience. Perhaps the restaurant takes its selection of full bottles more seriously; I can't say. I can say that I routinely order wines by the glass, and I don't recall having these difficulties elsewhere.

                              As for the food, we ordered an appetizer pizza which was quite tasty -- but FYI -- also quite greasy. We were tempted by some of the more interesting entrees, but both chose steaks, since we were in a carnivorous mood. My girlfriend did not care for her New York strip. I enjoyed my filet mignon, but I can't say it was any better than the steaks I've had at less expensive chain restaurants.

                              The Winery offers a black truffle sauce for steaks, for an additional $3. I was excited to try this, but it too was disappointing -- it seemed to be a plain red wine reduction with a bit of truffle oil floating on top. Fine, but not worth the extra fee.

                              The one bright spot in the evening was dessert. We ordered both the pineapple/coconut crepes and the "chocolate decadence." The latter consists of a "chocolate mousse creme brulee" along with a brownie a la mode, and a chocolate tarte with mousse inside. Both of our desserts were delicious, and we ate every bite of them.

                              In sum, I don't expect to be returning to the Winery anytime soon. Our bill was quite high, and the quality of the food, wine, and service simply didn't match up with comparably priced restaurants.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: modena

                                As a New Yorker, finding an open restaurant after 10 pm is fairly easy. However, after watching the fireworks at Disney on a recent trip to L.A., the kids were hungry and there wasn't an open place except for fast food. Luckily, the staff at The Winery were extremely friendly and accommodating. We were able to order bar appetizers - mini gourmet burgers, flat bread pizza, fondue, etc. The food was excellent and i cannot say enough about the staff - the manager, the wait staff, the servers - even though it's not a kids type of place, they made everyone feel at ease, comfortable and welcomed. I read the past reviews on The Winery posted last year. I feel that the staff definitely have got their act together now. I highly recommend giving The Winery a try. They made our West Coast visit quite memorable.As a New Yorker, finding an open restaurant after 10 pm is fairly easy. However, after watching the fireworks at Disney on a recent trip to L.A., the kids were hungry and there wasn't an open place except for fast food. Luckily, the staff at The Winery were extremely friendly and accommodating. We were able to order bar appetizers - mini gourmet burgers, flat bread pizza, fondue, etc. The food was excellent and i cannot say enough about the staff - the manager, the wait staff, the servers - even though it's not a kids type of place, they made everyone feel at ease, comfortable and welcomed. I read the past reviews on The Winery posted last year. I feel that the staff definitely have got their act together now. I highly recommend giving The Winery a try. They made our West Coast visit quite memorable.