Bistro Champagne Lemonade at Paul Martin's, Our Drink of the Week
The Paul behind Paul Martin's American Bistro is the same as the "P" in P.F. Chang's. He is Paul Fleming, the restaurateur who first struck gold with Fleming's Prime Steakhouse. Instead of mass-marketed Chinese food or steak, the angle for this newest venture is localvore cuisine, but truth is, it still looks like a steakhouse. The newest of three Paul Martin's, the Irvine Spectrum branch has a vast and sprawling room with curvy booths, candle-lit bare tables, and a bar that seems to glow.
Service here is as genuine and precise as the food. The steak (yes, you should still order the steak) is served as char-burnished slabs with just one side dish, usually a swirl of smooth-as-cream mashed potatoes. The rest of the menu doesn't stray from what's been tested as crowd-pleasers. Paul Martin's closest peer is Houston's--a corporate eatery whose restraint means a classy, no-nonsense way of operating a restaurant. This is reflected most in Paul Martin's specialty cocktails. There are exactly seven priced at $9 each ranging from a very legitimate mojito which would've pleased even the mojito-loving Ernest Hemingway, to a drink actually named after the author with vanila rum, marachino cherry and ruby red juice.
The best drink, though, has to be the bistro champagne lemonade, which seems the only house libation that the restaurant takes two lines to describe. It starts with a house-infused meyer lemon vodka, which is mixed with lemon juice, fresh basil and then topped off with a pour of Gloria Ferrer champagne. In the sipping, it tastes and fizzes very much like other hard lemonades you've had at backyard barbecues, though not as cloyingly sweet. And then there's the refreshing herbal notes of the basil, which makes it a nice chaser to that rich and bloody steak you should've also ordered.