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Foodoofus Special Issue Arc: Intertwining Moments at Itriya Cafe: Temporarily Closed (Foodoofus SoCal Finale part 1)

“Don’t do it man, I know what you’re thinking… just whatever you do, know that everything will be fine…”

That final evening, so many events went down I literally didn’t know where to begin. My chapter of Foodoofus (in So Cal) briefly ended at a place known for Spaghetti and Ssam. This place would have marked a milestone for what I was planning to accomplish… and yet it all went down to the drain shortly after.

However before I continue on with the story, I’ll briefly give you a back log of how I came about this said place…

It was roughly about four months ago, I had a lunch with an old brother (best friend) of mine that I hadn’t seen in age. He just flew from Australia and he kept his word to have lunch with me (taking time out of his busy entertainment schedule). I realized I never tried Itriya Cafe so I figured why not? We arrived and were promptly greeted by Howard (the owner of the establishment who had a great history of developing The Cheesecake Factory brand).

The Decor, is very chic and most certainly with a Fashionista’s touch (his wife Jenny, knew a thing or two on Interior design). Perusing the menu, we finally decided on some items:

A Delicous Flatbread (which can only be described as simple and Italian), Arugula, Mozzarella, mushrooms and a thin crust easy enough to serve as two.**

And my choice which was the likely option to explore the fusion between the two cuisines:

Kimchi Bacon Pasta, the holy grail and accurate representation of this cuisine

Everything about this dish got my praises, especially coming from living in a traditional Korean-American Household for sometime. You got the nice crunch and spice of the kimchi, harmoniously balancing itself with the smoke of the bacon. Then you got the chew of the noodle (the silky strands of pasta kept the flavors in a neat little package).

Although it was somewhat oily (after seeing underneath the pile of korean pork noodle heaven). I believe that’s what makes the dish approachable, straight forward and yet all the flavors have depth as you consume every fork full.

All of the other dishes (and drinks) also served their supporting roles and this was over a course of two more visits. One during a special occasion and another after dropping in last-minute for a wedding/business meeting during a different weekend. In no particular order of importance:

Samgyeopsal Ssam (aka Korean tacos of savory pork and pickled vegetables, wrapped in a lettuce shell)

Beverage Option #1: Strawberry, Lemon and bits of Blueberry Cooler. Virgin cocktail approval number one, down the esophagus

Beverage Option #2: A straight forward Pear Cooler. Clean, Crisp with an air of pear

Fried Calamari (staple in Italian Cuisine), a nice breading makes for a crunchy outside texture with a warm moist Calamari core. Accompanied with an aioli and some onions, any seafood lover would appreciate. **As a side note, there’s the last piece of flat bread I mentioned earlier.

In-House Tiramisu, it has all the right flavors. Well balanced, with the coffee, cake and fluff of the mousse and chocolate.

Off-Menu Item #1: Valentine’s Day Ceviche, courtesy of Chef Austin. A straight forward ceviche, with no bells and whistles. Kind of an ode to his appreciation of Mexican cuisine after interviewing the Chef briefly about his background.

Off-Menu Item #2: Valentine’s Day Caprese, courtesy of Chef Austin. A romantic appetizer set off in a wine glass. The tomatoes, mozzarella and pesto oil came together quite nicely.

Off-Menu Item #3: Sous-Vide Asian Chicken Salad. Forget P.F. Chang’s, Trader Joe’s and all the other brands. This is the good stuff, crispy, moist and full of healthy flavors and ingredients.

Off-Menu Item #4: Chicken and Mushroom melted with a variety of Cheeses. Warm ingredients with a depth of earthy flavors.

Overall, I really miss this place and before I said bon voyage to So Cal. Paying my gratitude to the friends and family that made it out, the wonderful night before I left my post-college home. The birthplace of Foodoofus and the gateway deeper into a world I didn’t expect to join until now. Itriya Cafe, Thank you for everything. Allowing me to indulge in all of those moments intertwining intimacy and innovation, fueled with a passion for developing two conflicting cuisines into one.***

***Author’s note: Since the publication of this article, sadly this place has moved from its original corner in the Irvine Diamond Jamboree Plaza. I wish I could have written this article sooner, however as mentioned in a previous post a lot of things happened at the same time. Preventing me from providing an immediate highlight of this under appreciated place. Thankfully, my good friend and associate Food Writer Anne M. wrote up a nice three part interview regarding the new blood that allowed Itriya redemption before it’s complete departure.

Despite the pessimism expressed by some Orange County users. I believe Gordon, Austin and the rest of the Itriya crew can regroup and come back stronger than ever. Learning from the missteps they had the first time around. I wish them great success and hope they will thrive at their new location where ever that may be.

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I eat, dance, listen, write, and live.

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