A little over a decade ago, Paul Fleming moved to Napa Valley. And it was there that he fell in love with the farm-to-fork movement.
He used his new passion as the inspiration behind Paul Martin’s American Grill Irvine Spectrum Center.
“Once I tasted the difference in eating fresh, unadulterated food straight from the land, allowing the flavor of the ingredients to shine through, there was no going back,” says Fleming, who used his middle name, Martin, for the new restaurant.
Fleming was already a restaurant icon, having founded P.F. Chang’s (he’s the P.F.) in the early ’90s and later that same decade Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, the first of which was at Fashion Island (there are now 64 across the country).
He viewed his new Spectrum Center restaurant as a blank canvas to create the classic American bistro featuring locally sourced produce and sustainable seafood and meat.
It immediately resonated with diners and continues to do so today as Paul Martin’s celebrates its 10th anniversary at Spectrum Center this year.
With brick walls and dark wood, the restaurant has an elegant, rustic feel. The service here is top-notch, but in a convivial way. There is a variety of seating that encourages connection – from private tables to a cocktail lounge to a bar known for its energetic happy hour. You can also dine al fresco on the heated patio.
The menu is full of surprises, such as Mesquite Grilled Steak & Bacon Tacos and pan-seared Brick Chicken with crispy skin and a savory au jus. A popular starter is the Hoisin Glazed Ribs. And the Braised Short Ribs are so tender you don’t need a knife.
Of course, nothing compares to a steak cooked over live fire. Try the Blackened Ribeye and for a sidekick the mashed potatoes topped with a little pool of melted butter. It pairs well with the Manhattan, made with Maker’s Mark, Noilly Prat Rouge Sweet Vermouth and Fernet-Branca rinse. For dessert, try the Warm Butter Cake with berries.
If you’re celebrating a special occasion, like Father’s Day or graduation, you can book the restaurant’s semi-private wine cellar table, which seats 14 guests.
TWO MORE GRILLS TO CELEBRATE DADS AND GRADS THIS JUNE
Del Frisco’s Grille
Irvine Spectrum Center
This is a classic American steakhouse. It’s comfortable but stylish; classy, but not stuffy. The menu is creative. Think handcrafted cocktails and upscale comfort food. Starters range from Cheesesteak Eggrolls to Sweet Corn Bisque.
But the steaks are the stars.
Del Frisco’s uses only USDA Prime beef – less than 2% of all U.S. beef is graded prime. Popular at lunch is the double Grille Cheeseburger with butcher-cut bacon and Shaved Prime Steak Sandwich.
The menu also features a few fish entrees and a Roasted Cauliflower Steak with black garlic aioli for the vegans in your life.
Texas De Brazil
The Market Place
It’s a steakhouse modeled after a Brazilian churrascaria, which means the meat is barbecued rotisserie-style over an open flame using wood charcoal instead of gas, giving it a deeper flavor with just the right amount of smokiness.
The recipes are from the gauchos (cowboys) of southern Brazil, where the churrasco culture originates.
But you better come hungry. You don’t just pick one item off the menu. Instead, it’s a veritable parade of filet mignon, lamb chops, pork tenderloin, chicken and Brazilian sausage (with veggies, charcuterie, imported cheeses and other authentic sides, too).