>ECCO — the new kid shows huge promise

>I kick-started OC Restaurant Week off with a visit to ECCO, a restaurant I’d been wanting to try out for a few months now, since it opened at The Camp. The 3-course menu had some interesting items which I wanted to try and at a mere $10 for lunch and $20 for dinner, it was a no-brainer that it was on my list of ‘to-tries’.

The restaurant sits right next door to Old Vine Cafe and consists of both indoor and outdoor seating. We opted for the patio hoping to catch the last remnants of natural lighting for the purpose of photography. We were seated by someone who introduced himself as Danny — incidentally, the owner — who was more than happy to comply with our seating request.

After perusing the menus: a la carte dinner menu, Restaurant Week prix fixe, happy hour menu, I noticed that most of the items on the prix fixe were selected from the regular a la carte, which made it all the more enticing to me knowing that what I sampled today would continue to be on the menu should I return at a later date.

A basket of foccacia was placed on our table with a pot of pesto and after we ordered, it seemed that was the only thing edible to grace our table for a very long time. When two appetizers went to the table next to us — the same two items we had ordered — I thought perhaps everything was coming out at the same time for both our tables, but sadly, that was not to be. Our neighboring table received two appetizers for the four diners while we had none. It took another 15 minutes before our appetizers arrived, by then it had been close to an hour after we’d stepped foot through the doors.

calamari fries

The long wait was definitely an issue, but I’d have to say despite the length in time for food to arrive, when it actually hit the table, it was well executed. The calamari fries were strips of calamari coated with bread crumbs and fried to perfection! The calamari strips were so tender and were tossed in some sprigs of fried rosemary. The flavors of the rosemary were there, but did not overpower the calamari making it nice and aromatic without being offensive. An accompanying arrabbiata sauce was served alongside and added an extra kick of flavor.

Minestrone soup — at least that was what our server introduced it to us as — was a vegetable soup without the traditional tomato base if a minestrone was absolutely delightful. Zucchini, potatoes, white beans were all brought together so subtly yet so flavorful and was reminiscent of what a good lentil soup tasted like but with a myriad of vegetables. I was very impressed by this and would definitely order again!

Our server was very sweet and attentive, filling our water glasses whenever it was low and checking back with us from time to time. I understand that the timing of the food was not something within her control and thus did not begrudge her when the entrees took yet another 20 minutes to hit our table. We noticed that we were not the only ones experiencing the long wait and all I’d hoped for was that the entrees were as agreeable as our appetizers had been.

Wood grilled natural chicken was a very generous portion of a chicken breast served with braised cavolo nero kale, cannellini beans and au jus. The chicken was served in two pieces, one was cooked to perfection tender and moist, while the other, the piece attached to the drummette was a little dry. The flavors were there, well seasoned, however, I would’ve liked more au jus on my plate just to counter-balance the slightly dry meat. The two accompanying sides were excellent choices, the beans were flavorful and perfectly cooked, while the kale was absolutely divine! I would’ve loved more of this on my plate!

tiramisu

Orecchiette Salsiccia was a pasta dish of little pasta discs (little ears) with swiss chard, crimini mushrooms and sausage. While the crimini mushrooms did little for the dish, the swiss chard was an ideal choice to the fennel-flavored sausage. This dish could’ve used a little bit of sauce because it was on the dry side, but taste-wise I found absolutely no fault with it.

The portions were extremely generous and by now we were very full, but we still found room to taste the desserts — which incidentally were served in a timely fashion. Ricotta orange pound cake wasn’t very exciting and I wasn’t particularly keen on the strawberry accompaniment. The cake itself was unimpressive, but when combined with the sweet cream, changed the whole aura of this dish. My advice? Make sure you spoon everything presented in one mouthful for that complete effect.

Chef Kris Kirk

Tiramisu was the other dessert option and while I have never been a huge fan of tiramisu, a very close friend of mine is a tiramisu-fiend and whenever we’re at a restaurant and tiramisu is on the dessert menu, you can be sure we’ll be having that. So even though I wouldn’t ordinarily order tiramisu myself, I’ve had my share of tiramisu — more than I’d like that’s for sure — so I’d like to think I know a thing or two about tiramisu. The one here is good, in fact, it tasted better than it looked. The top layer of lady fingers was a little too hard causing the end product to lose that airy and light texture so required of tiramisu. Still, putting that aside, it was still very respectable and I thought it good enough to eat more than one spoonful of — and you know that says a lot!

Putting the hiccups from the kitchen aside, I still feel ECCO deserves a pat on the back being the new kid on the block and for the quality of fare it offers to diners. If you haven’t given ECCO a try yet I highly recommend you do so this week because the deal is second to none and you will not walk away disappointed — not by the food that’s the sure! For whatever reasons the kitchen was having trouble churning out the dishes, I hope that it was just a one-off thing and that it is resolved soon. As for me, I will definitely return to ECCO in the future to try out some other things on the menu. For now, ECCO is definitely a keeper in my book!

*** Photography by Mahesh ***

ECCO at The Camp, 2937 Bristol Street, Costa Mesa, CA 92626. Tel: 714-444-3226

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2 thoughts on “>ECCO — the new kid shows huge promise

  1. >I think Ecco has a ways to go – I was there yesterday and stupidly had pizza instead of the three course price fixe. While the crust was good, there just wasn't enough topping to give it that taste of wonderful. I had the signature vegetable and my guest had the mushroom. Unlike you, the service was really good. Waitstaff was all outstanding! I probably would not go back simply because it was so noisy, We were unable to have a conversation due to the noise. You probably did not experience it since you were outside.

  2. >@Marilyn, We didn't try the pizza, but our 3-course was good except for the dessert which could've been better. I didn't say service wasn't good, the waitstaff were great, it was only the kitchen who couldn't get its act together to get the food out on time. If you do find it in your heart to give them another chance, perhaps you could try something else. If you do, please let me know what you think.

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