The Dish List: Market Café

Courtesy of Amber Chao

Courtesy of Amber Chao

’Eaters, we don’t get bored Yelping. In Irvine, we’re lucky to have a number of new restaurants open every month; restaurant hunting is probably a common interest among many of us. As a student, I’m constantly looking for a good café to offer me a fresh cup of coffee or tea, my best companion to lift up my tired soul from all the studying and a nice, cozy environment that always has enough seating and the right atmosphere.

One thing that worries me is the gap between classes. You have a class that ends at 10 a.m. and another at 2 p.m. You are already more than qualified to review all restaurants and shops close by campus, so you don’t want to settle for Subway or Wendy’s. If your taste buds have grown immune to all there is to taste on campus, look no further than Park Place.

Located in the middle of the business complex on Michelson Drive in Irvine, Market Café of the Patina Group, a company that owns more than 50 fine dining restaurants on the West and East Coast, recently opened to serve workday deliciousness for the hungry professionals.

Unlike crowded food courts, Market Café has a clean, spacious dining area with lustrous glass windows surrounding the cafeteria, providing a nice wide view to the open space outside. The indoor and outdoor seating altogether boasts an accommodation of 50 people, but there is ample space all around me even during busy lunch hours. The polished white tables and light wooden chairs contribute to the overall modern look of the cafe. Stepping in, I immediately feel the air conditioning gently cooling me down. The luxury of spending my leisure time in the noiseless and neatly designed cafeteria doesn’t end here.

I can’t decide. Three vendors await me with their own special recipes and cuisines. From Asian to traditional American to vegan, each station uses fresh and seasonal ingredients to create dishes that are sure to satisfy any craving you might have.

Take Cucina & Co., from which I tried the delicious, creamy wild mushroom beef fettuccine. The mushrooms, the tender beef chunks and the firm fettuccine strands all have different textures that I truly appreciate because they challenge me to chew slowly and taste carefully.

The blue cheese shoestring fries from N+S’s Express Grill have generous bits of blue cheese spread out and melted cheese on top. The burgers are prepared with a health-conscious, creative mind, like the house-made legume patty in the veggie burger and the grilled lemon herb chicken breast in the chicken sandwich.

Ginger Trail’s health-conscious menu is appealing to not only busy professionals who dine here between meetings, but also us Anteaters who want to eat healthily once in a while. With vendors like Ginger Trail, I sometimes  get to live by the you-are-what-you-eat cliché without sacrificing my desire for flavorful quality food. Options include  veggie, teriyaki chicken or salmon with your choice of brown or jasmine rice. It also offers reasonably-priced bánh mì, which is a baguette with grilled meat, for those who want a quick grab-and-go lunch, and pho for under $7. As I finally made my decision on what to order and was about to head to the cashier, I noticed the colorful fountain drinks and filled up my cup with their refreshing, iced kiwi cantaloupe juice. After studying all menus, I found that I could easily pay less than $9 for a meal combo with drink in this upscale cafeteria.

But I regret not building my own sandwich at the deli section. If I had a bigger appetite, I would have chosen my bread, spread, cheese, meat and veggies to make the ideal sandwich I had been craving. Some of the interesting spreads include cranberry tarragon mayonnaise, spicy mustard and remoulade, a popular sauce that tastes like tartar with aioli or mayonnaise base and often flavored with curry, spices or herbs.

The best part about Market Café is that it’s also a place for coffee lovers — C+M brews coffee between 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. C+M, which is short for Coffee and Milk, woke me up with its quality intelligentsia coffee and espresso selection. Holding a cup of warm cappuccino in hand, I sat relaxed in my newly-found secret spot sipping, studying and seeing well-dressed professionals come and go.