Well, we’re going to ’fess up. We are far from expert when it comes to authentic Chinese cuisine. We’re fans of Capital Seafood at the Spectrum and love Din Tai Fung at South Coast Plaza, and aren’t ashamed to admit affection for P.F. Chang’s. But we’ll freely admit to being intimidated by the scene at what many say is Irvine’s best, most authentic Chinese restaurant, Chong Qing Mei Wei Szechuan. On our few visits there we’ve felt out of place and a bit unwelcome, finding little patience shown to those still new to the nuances of the menu, and without a word of the language beyond hello.
And you know, we’re okay with that. We love living in a city so diverse that there are experiences that come easily only to those who speak the language or are from the culture involved, or those who take the time to learn enough to show respect for it.
Which brings us to Irvine’s newest, grandest and most beautiful Chinese restaurant, Meizhou Dongpo, at Culver Plaza. Oh, let’s not quibble. This is one of the most well-appointed and lovely restaurants of any kind in the city.
If you, like us, have wondered where all the young and wealthy Chinese émigrés paying millions in cash for Irvine houses hang out, wonder no longer.
On our several visits to the Irvine Meizhou Dongpo (it’s one of 120 locations across China, as well as L.A. and Las Vegas), we’ve seen more luxury brands worn by guests at the restaurant than any place this side of Chanel or Dior at South Coast Plaza. This may be the best-dressed crowd in all of Irvine, and it’s also a place that clearly welcomes families, as we’ve seen large groups happily enjoying the many choices on the large menu.
We’ll leave opinions about the authenticity of that menu to those more expert, but we can speak to its accessibility. Every dish listed has a photograph, and its name listed in English as well as Chinese. We found the same accessibility in the service. The servers and their managers have been attentive, fast, friendly, and fully fluent in English, as well as Mandarin, Cantonese, Shanghainese and other dialects, or so our Chinese-proficient friends inform us.
All the dishes we’ve tried have been delicious, from the simplest noodle, vegetable and dumpling dishes to the signature roast duck. Watching chefs prepare the duck behind the glass of the stunning display kitchen is not to be missed. The vegetable sides like pea sprouts and string beans have been a hit with vegetarians and meat eaters alike. We’re in love with the simple avocado with roasted chili appetizer dish: it’s instantly one of our favorite ways to eat avocado, and we’re sort of addicted to it. We haven’t been terribly adventurous with the menu, though we did share the Royal Hot Pot, which our dinner partner ordered on the spicy side. Once our mouths went totally numb, we enjoyed the endorphin-inducing experience.
Meizhou Dongpo is on the pricey side, but one can also order a few sides and appetizers to share so as to experience the fine dining restaurant at a comparative bargain, and be richer for the experience.
15363 Culver Dr., 949.433.5686