Orange County's Prime Cut Café
Emphasis on quality and value anchors bold newcomer to OC's dining scene. Affordable luxury with a modern American flavor is the mark of the newest landmark on the restaurat scene. Industry veteran Mo Iqbal is the mind behind the 233 seat independent enterprise that blends three potent trends; spring, enlightened American comfort, and extensive wine offerings in a casual setting. The 4685 square=foot site is located adjacent to the cinema multiplex in the stadium promenade entertainment center.
“I’m confident this restaurant will appeal on many levels to diners, that are hungry for top-notch food and wine in relaxed, neighborhood surroundings,” said Iqbal." “Some might say this is a tough time to launch a new concept, but what's being delivered is unexpected sophisticated cuisine at really attractive prices. The initial feedback from guests has been outstanding.”
Consulting chef Mullarney spent over a year developing lunch and dinner fare that he describes as “comfortable and contemporary American dishes.” Much of the food is made from scratch such as house-smoked salmon, house-brined pork, and burgers made from certified Angus beef ground daily. Underpinning the menu are first-rate ingredients from top suppliers. In keeping with its quality-meats and casual style, the menu is a single page of well-edited choices that range from wine-friendly starters to hearty entrees and luscious sides. Several shareable starters are clearly designed to pair appealingly with wine: mini grilled-Gruyere and prosciutto sandwiches, a petite pot of cheese fondue with roasted garlic, or assorted olives marinated on-site with preserved lemon and herbs. A rotation of five farm house cheeses is accompanied with honeycomb, candied nuts and artisan breads.
Classic first courses include a changing roster of house-smoked salmon with fennel slaw and fresh horseradish cream, baby iceberg wedge salad with applewood-smoked bacon and Point Reyes blue cheese dressing, also fritto misto featuring flash-fried calamari, rock shrimp, haricot vert and olives. For a novel choice, there's The BLT salad, a stack of toasted rustic bread, sliced prosciutto, wild arugula and fresh burrata cheese strewn with juicy heirloom tomatoes.
Slow-roasted Prime rib and aged steaks are the centerpiece of the dinner menu. For traditionalists, three Prime rib cuts (8 oz., 14 oz. and 20 oz.) come with Yorkshire pudding and creamed spinach. The Chef’s Cut Prime rib is 20 oz. on the bone, seasoned and seared in cast iron for maximum texture and flavor. Four signature steaks–Prime sirloin, filet mignon, New York strip and bone-in rib eye cuts–include potato gratin and a head of roasted garlic. For market price, an 8 oz. Maine lobster tail can be added to any beef cut to customize a surf & turf combo.
Additional dinner entrees include Shelton Farms Chicken, roasted to order, or braised beef short ribs with mascarpone polenta and root vegetables. At lunch, burgers, sandwiches and large salads are spotlighted, and several are served at dinner as well, such as the bacon-blue burger and the seared tuna ‘Nicoise’ salad.
Savory dinner sides are large enough to share. They include favorites like sautéed Burgundy mushrooms, roasted beets, crispy fried onion strings and fresh cut fries with sea salt. At lunch, look for honey cider slaw and warm potato salad.
All desserts are prepared or baked to order and feature a whiff of nostalgia. There are warm cookies and cold milk for kids of every age, a seasonal fruit cobbler topped with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream, and a whimsical take on French doughnuts with pots of varied jams for dipping.
A modern approach to wine is another inventive way that Prime Cut Café & Wine Bar elevates casual dining. Over 75 labels are offered by the taste, flight, glass or bottle (though a handful of iconic wines like Napa’s Dominus Estate are sold only by the bottle). Spanning producers from the old and new world, the dynamic list is exciting for novices and aficionados. Yes, there is Pinot Noir from Sonoma, but also discoveries like Cariñena from Spain.
Wine service is a step above the typical café model. Flights are supplied in a wooden tray that displays notes for each wine behind a trio of Riedel crystal glasses. Varietal-specific Stolz stemware accompanies wines by the glass or bottle. Weekly tastings and daily specials are slated to begin in the weeks ahead.
Though wine has a starring role at Prime Cut Café, the bar is fully stocked for those in the mood for a cold Hoegaarden ale or a cocktail made from the well’s premium spirits.
Upon entry, the west dining room opens to a tree-studded patio; while the east dining room leads to a VIP room for private parties that can accommodate from 12 to 18. An exhibition kitchen, subtly placed to the rear of the dining areas, features cooks busily working away.
Surroundings are stylish but decidedly casual with a palette of rich browns and warm neutrals. Booths and banquettes are tastefully upholstered in subtle, silky striped fabrics or handsome leather. And oversize framed mirrors add sparkle and dimension; with grand, showpiece wine bottles and modern art; also photography adds visual interest. The feel is comfortable, understated, and pleasing to the eye.
Ronnie Arnold, executive chef, after beginning his career at Partner’s Bistro, a Laguna Beach landmark, he worked at the Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton in Laguna Niguel. Most recently he was executive chef at hush in Laguna Beach and chef de cuisine at Motif restaurant in the highly acclaimed St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort.
Prime Cut Café is located at 1547 W. Katella Avenue in Orange. The phone number is 714-532-4300. Menus and more information may be found at www.primecutcafe.com