It's an odd, but true, fact that although I dated a number of women before I met Cat, she was the first girlfriend with whom I ever celebrated Valentine's Day. She's a sweet, patient, and wonderful woman, and she makes me a very happy man. I'm constantly thankful to be with her after all these years, which I demonstrate by teasing her unmercifully. Did I mention that she's patient?
Our first Valentine's Day was a fiasco. My family was visiting and, in the chaos, I completely forgot about the holiday. It wasn't until I found a loving note from Cat on the windshield of my car that I remembered. After I saw my family off, I returned home to find a bouquet of irises that she'd bought for me. What did I have for her? Empty hands and a lame excuse. I still consider myself lucky that she didn't break up with me. I mentioned that she's patient, right?
I've learned many things since my "freshman" Valentine's Day, not the least of which has been how to treat a lady on this special occasion. Cat is not a demanding Valentine. She values the emotion the holiday is supposed to honor, not the trappings that normally surround it. Through the years, we've settled on a formula that works well for us. We exchange flowers and small gifts, then have a nice dinner out. This year, we chose the prix fixe Valentine's Day menu at 6ix Park Grill.
Nestled inside of the Hyatt Regency Irvine, 6ix Park Grill is home to Yves Fournier, a French chef with a strong focus on contemporary California cuisine and a pedigree that includes the Rockefeller Center's famed Rainbow Room in New York City. Chef Fournier's creations highlight the freshness and quality of his ingredients. His sophisticated preparations present each key component with breathtaking boldness. When you take a bite of one of his buffalo steaks, you know you're eating grass-fed American plains bovine. You can taste the primal goodness as each and every one of the raised bumps on your tongue shimmy with delight. The seasonings and sauces used are designed to elevate each star ingredient to new heights, not mask it in a wash of conflicting sensations. Chef Fournier's pride and joy is his applewood-fired oven/grill, which he uses for a majority of his dishes. The pure flavors of the food are further highlighted by the aromatic, smoky flavor of the wood, creating a result that never fails to captivate me.
Cat has always been very fond of the Snuffles line of Gund bears. Her very first baby toy was a dark brown Snuffles, and she's been collecting them ever since. As a surprise for this Valentine's Day, I bought a pair of white Snuffles bears and dropped them off at the restaurant a few hours early so that they'd be waiting for her at the table when we arrived.
As you can see, she absolutely hated this idea; so much so that she hugged her bear immediately. She later named it "Parsnip Clark". I named mine "Squash Veloute", for reasons that will become apparent later in this review.
Although the menu listed an Amuse Bouche, none was presented, which disappointed me. However, complimentary red roses and champagne Aperitifs were provided. The champagne was dry and quite palatable.
(When Cat and I order prix fixe menus, we usually choose different ones so we can taste each other's dishes. This night, though, we ended up wanting the exact same dishes. Please keep in mind that we got two of every dish you see below except the dessert.)
We started off with a First Course of Wood Grilled Shrimp and Humboldt Fog Crostini with pomegranate chili sauce and tomato jam. 6ix Park Grill is known for serving Pacific white shrimp a delicacy whose fine flesh and subtle sweetness often escape the average diner. The grilled white shrimp in this appetizer was sublime. The seasoning had permeated throughout the meat, with just enough saltiness to accentuate the white shrimp's natural flavor. The pomegranate chili sauce didn't have much of an impact, but I was already more than happy with my Pacific white shrimp.
Humboldt Fog is a mold-ripened goat cheese made in Humboldt County, California by Cypress Grove Chervre. Melted on top of the toasted crostini, it had a rich, complex flavor reminiscent of a cross between classic Chervre and Cambozola. However, the real star of the plate was the mildly sweet tomato jam, which was simply amazing when paired with the crostini. I had no idea tomatoes and sugar could taste so good. A big jar of that tomato jam and a baguette is now my dream dinner after a long day's work.
Our appetites thus awakened, we were more than ready for the Kuri Squash and Parsnip Veloute with crème fraiche that we'd selected as out Second Course. A generous helping of robust squash veloute shared a dish with an equally voluminous, yet softer parsnip veloute. This deliciously metaphoric medley created a palate pleasing, yin-yang harmony in our mouths. The poetic similarities between the soup and relationships were not lost on us, which was why we named our teddy bears "Parsnip Clark" and "Squash Veloute".
While we waited for the Third Course, we were served small plates of 6ix Park Grill's much touted artisan breads. The crisp, cheese-covered lavash on the right was pleasantly flavorful, although a little hard to chew. The crusty garlic focaccia on the left was airy and chewy, with soft cloves of roasted garlic baked right into the bread. Neither bread needed any butter, although I really wanted some more tomato jam.
For our Third Course, we selected the Coq au Vin with pearl onions, winter mushrooms, and a Burgundy wine sauce. Chef Yves Fournier's talent at contemporary California cuisine really shone through in this dish. Traditional coq au vin is a slowly braised dish made with chicken, salt pork, red wine, and mushrooms, and is typically served over egg noodles with generous helpings of the resulting gravy. Chef Fournier's version stepped away from the almost overpowering presence of wine in the classic coq au vin. Instead, half a small chicken was deboned, marinated, and roasted in his applewood-fired oven. The chicken was then glazed with a red wine reduction sauce and served on a bed of olive oil sautéed greens, winter mushrooms, and seasonal vegetables. All of the traditional flavor elements were present, but presented in an entirely new way that emphasized the natural flavors of each ingredient. Absolutely delicious.
Our Fourth Course was billed as Chocolate Mousse Napoleon with white chocolate ganache. What we received wasn't quite the same, but was just as good. The heart on the left was white chocolate ganache filled with a white chocolate mousse over vanilla genoise. The heart on the right was a layered berry napoleon with berry gelatin, berry cream, and berry mousse over berry genoise. The desserts were a little sweet for my taste, but Cat really enjoyed them. My favorite was the berry napoleon, with its different textures and berry flavors.
Sleepy after our feast and barely able to move, we sipped our complementary Digestifs silently and enjoyed just being with one another. It was a pleasant ending to a perfect evening.
6ix Park Grill - The clean, crisp flavors of contemporary California cuisine with a decidedly French twist. The portions are a good size, the ambience is inviting, the wait staff is friendly and knowledgeable, and the food is excellent. The ROI for the Valentine's Day prix fixe was about average for a high-end restaurant, but not every place can offer value like Opus. I was quite satisfied.
Bill (prix fixe for two)
Prix Fixe - 150.00
Tax - 11.63
Tip - 30.00
Total - 191.63
6ix Park Grill
17900 Jamboree Rd
Irvine, CA 92614