10 Great Restaurants To Try In Irvine, California

Signature Branzino with sugo puttanesca, spiced rapini, grilled house-made focaccia | Image courtesy of Lake Road Restaurant
Signature Branzino with sugo puttanesca, spiced rapini, grilled house-made focaccia | Image courtesy of Lake Road Restaurant
Photo of Angela Lee
9 February 2017

Irvine, California is one of the most culturally diverse suburban cities in the United States and one of its main attractions is the vast availability of exotic cuisines on offer. Here are our favorite dining experiences in Irvine.

Interior of Agora Churrascaria | Couresty Agora Churrascaria

Agora Churrascaria

Continuing the traditional Brazilian way of cooking, Agora Churrascaria, a popular Brazilian steakhouse known to be the best steakhouse in Orange County that won multiple awards in 2014, provides delectable, meticulously cut assortments of meat, including pork, beef, lamb as well as poultry. As customers sit and make their orders, the meat is slowly roasted over charcoal grills to ensure that the juices as well as flavours emerge. Once meat has finished roasting, it’s seasoned with rock salt to augment the flavours. Once the meat is prepared, waiters dressed in gaucho attire carry skewers of luscious meat in the ‘Rodizio’ (all-you-can-eat) way of service, consistently moving from table-to-table to provide a slice of Brazil to each customer.

Agora Churrascaria, 1830 Main St., Irvine, CA, USA, +1 949 222 9910

Exterior of Agora Churrascaria | Courtesy Agora Churrascaria
Exterior of Agora Churrascaria | Courtesy Agora Churrascaria

Urban Seoul

Restaurant, Korean, Mexican, $$$
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A Korean-Mexican fusion restaurant, Urban Seoul embraces the idea of Asian fusion, a growing trend in the culinary world. Inspired by Irvine’s melting pot of multiple ethnicities, Chef Kacy Jun and her business partner Bronnie Lee decided to serve food that represents the community. The restaurant’s menu blends tastes of South Korea with those of Mexico, neither overemphasising the other. You can see this in the kimchi pancake quesadilla, a Korean-Mexican innovation that is considered one of the best in the Asian fusion world since Kogi’s Blue Moon Mulita.


Restaurant, French, $$$
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Gaufree, Irvine
Gaufree, Irvine | © Roland Tanglao/Flickr
Named after gaufre, the French term for waffle, Gaüfreé is a rare restaurant that enwraps the body of an American sandwich with artisan waffles instead of typical hamburger buns or bread. For example, one of the restaurant’s specialties is the grass fed burger, which consists of port wine caramelized onions, Gorgonzola cheese and Gaüfreé sauce bound by artisan waffles. By using waffles, particularly those that are malt based, as the bread, Gaüfreé creates a new form of a sandwich; one that utilises multi-purpose dough with a vast range of ingredients, thus exposing an array of alien and unexplored flavours. Though the restaurant ventures to evolve its menu even further, it continues to maintain several customary items such as McConnell’s ice cream, a local tradition since 1949, hand crafted Belgian beer, and Boylan artisan soft drinks, which the restaurant has offered since 1891.


Restaurant, Japanese
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Praised for having the best noodles in Orange County, Fukada is a popular restaurant that serves authentic Japanese cuisine, mainly soba and udon noodles. Chef Fukada, who has worked with soba and udon noodles for over 20 years, makes his own buckwheat noodles as well as fresh soup every morning. He also ensures that he uses only organic products, brown rice, and all natural beef to provide healthy options and the best quality for his customers. Owing to Chef Fukada’s daily arduous preparations, clients are able to taste a bit of Japan through the noodles, which can be transformed into several traditional Japanese variations with an exceptional dashi that is flavoured with dried bonito flakes, kelp and soy sauce.

Andrei’s Conscious Cuisine & Cocktails

Cocktail Bar, Restaurant, American, $$$
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An advocate of sustainability as well as healthy eating, Andrei’s Conscious Cuisine & Cocktails upholds its golden rule; to serve only fresh, local, and organic produce, as well as naturally grown meat and sustainably harvested seafood. Even outside opening hours, the restaurant continues to dedicate itself to sustainability by connecting with local artisans and family owned businesses, recycling oil and using biodegradable chemicals. The restaurant has even won the Nature’s Plate People’s Choice Award for Los Angeles. In addition to its sustainability efforts, Andrei’s is also acknowledged for its unique culinary style that integrates California cuisine with Mediterranean flavors, while incorporating certain aspects of the slow food movement.

Miyabi Shabu Shabu & Grill

Restaurant, Japanese, Seafood
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An authentic Japanese restaurant that specializes in shabu shabu, a dish of thinly sliced meat and vegetables boiled in a pot of broth, Miyabi Shabu Shabu & Grill uses only high quality meat, fresh vegetables and seafood. The staff uses original ingredients for shabu shabu, such as Jidori chicken, Juraburta pork, Angus beef, and Wagyu beef. Additionally Miyabi serves the pot of boiled meat, vegetables and seafood with steamed white rice and two traditional sauces known as ponzu (citrus infused soy sauce for dipping the meat/seafood) and goma-dare (sesame/peanut sauce for dipping vegetables). After consuming the main meal, customers use the leftover soup to cook udon (Japanese noodle), to eat as soup; thus completing the full experience of Japanese shabu shabu.


Cafe, Restaurant, Mediterranean, Italian, French, Greek, $$$
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Known for its interior design similar to that of a restaurant in a metropolitan city, LUCCA Café has simple yet elegant tables, sizeable banquet, gas-burning fireplace, and curved structures, all of which are common attributes of a cosmopolitan café. In addition to its décor, LUCCA is famous for its unique dinner menu of exquisite European-type small plates, cheese, charcuterie, and wine. What inspired Executive Chef Cathy Pavlos to create such a menu was her childhood. Thanks to her grandmother’s influence, Executive Chef Pavlos grew a liking to cooking and collected many recipes from European countries, such as Italy, France, and Greece. She then modified these recipes to use healthy ingredients and to include a touch of California culture, giving birth to the innovation of LUCCA’s unparalleled menu.

Caspian Restaurant

Restaurant, Middle Eastern, Halal, $$$
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With an intricately designed and complex interior filled with picturesque paintings and dimmed lighting, the Caspian Restaurant emits a warm sense of comfort and relaxation as the room fills with an overflowing aroma of Persian cuisine. What contributes to the fragrance is a mysterious concoction of multiple native ingredients in the homemade vegetarian soups, traditional vegetarian rice medley dishes, homemade specialty stews, and kabobs. In the midst of all the serving and eating, the restaurant’s staff provide various forms of entertainment ranging from Persian belly dancing to live music. Additionally, the restaurant prepares a Hookah lounge, where guests can surround themselves with incense of smoking exotic Caspian hookahs of fruity or coffee flavours and fall into deep tranquillity.

The Wheel of Life

Restaurant, Thai
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One of the few non-chain vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Irvine, The Wheel of Life adds a slice of vegan Thai cuisine to Irvine’s community of mixed cultures. Using mostly traditional cooking methods from Thailand, the staff members create soy dishes using their own recipes to ascertain the absence of animal products as well as the usage of only the best ingredients. Furthermore, they meticulously formulate their dishes to ensure that no MSG is present and everything is completely vegan. The Wheel of Life’s combination of careful yet swift preparations with gentle and generous services has brought satisfaction and gratitude to many people, an accomplishment worthy of being nominated the best vegetarian restaurant in Orange County in 2014.