It was easy at first. Scour yelp and the rest of the internet to find an Orange County restaurant that had some happy hour deals. Initially…we had some rules, like avoid big chains such as “El Torito” or “Black Angus” and find a place where the three of us could get out for around $25 bucks each. Needless to say…those rules are long gone (BTW – Black Angus happy hour isn’t half bad)! After more than two years, what started out as an excuse to get together and drink once a month has become a challenging exercise to find something new, exciting and affordable. It was my turn in the selection rotation so I was pleased when I discovered EMC Seafood and Raw Bar in Irvine.
EMC Irvine opened in May of 2016 and resides in what used to be the Elephant Bar in the Heritage Shopping Center on Culver Drive. We….the foodforyall gang (comprised of myself….my brother Robert and my father Bud)…arrived at EMC around 4PM on a sunny Monday afternoon. With only a few patrons in the lounge….we easily found a table by the window just across from the bar. To my relief….the same small happy hour menu that I saw on yelp was sitting on top of the dinner menu. There is no mention of happy hour on the EMC website….so I was relieved they still offered some deals.
We were greeted shortly thereafter by a less than enthusiastic server and we put our drink order in. Robert ordered a craft Ale on draft and Pops and I both ordered Stella Artois ($5 for all draft beers). We perused the happy hour menu while we waited for our drinks. When our beers arrived….Robert’s looked more like a porter than an Ale….but he said nothing (Robert hasn’t met a beer he wouldn’t drink!). We started out by ordering the Zucchini Fries with Yogurt Ranch Dressing ($4) and the Crispy Garlic Jalapeño Chicken Wings (6 for $6).
The Zucchini Fries came first and were right out of the deep fryer. They were cut rather thin to replicate french fries…..but the heat of the deep fryer basically vaporized the squash. The only thing you could really taste was the batter. We dipped our batter fries into the ranch sauce…sipped our beers…and waited for our chicken wings. Our luck improved when they delivered the wings and we all dove in. These wings were extremely crunchy and Pops wondered how they achieved the evenly golden color. I believe they were tossed with raw garlic and chopped jalapenos right out of the oven so they smelled great. Probably wouldn’t be the best idea if you’re on a date however.
We made quick work of the wings and zucchini….and put in our next order. We all opted for Stella’s this time…Robert having had enough of his Ale…..Porter… or whatever it was. This round we got an order of both Fish Tacos (2 for $5) and Shrimp Tacos (2 for $5). These were small but fat little tacos and both orders featured a fennel salad which added a sweetness to the taste. I had the Shrimp which were plump and cooked perfectly but was just a little too sweet for my palate. The rest of the gang concurred that it needed some heat for balance. The gang leans to the savory, spicy side of the taste spectrum and unfortunately there was no hot sauce or salt to be had on the table (my mother told me I was Irish but my stomach tells me I’m Mexican!).
Still unsatisfied and looking for some substance….I ventured off the happy hour menu and ordered the Braised Garlic Pork Belly as our last item (5 pieces for $8). I should have quit while I was ahead. I’ve been in enough Asian supermarkets to know that Pork Belly comes in a multitude of shapes and sizes. However, every time I’ve ordered it as an appetizer it came as thick cut chunks with some crispy skin on top. We all kinda laughed under our breaths when this arrived at the table. It looked like nothing more than a thick slice of bacon cut into five small piece and floating in a soy/garlic sauce. Avoid this item unless you like to waste your money.
Needless to say….the gang was disappointed with our visit to EMC Seafood and Raw Bar. Even a dinner review in OC Weekly said that EMC Seafood & Raw Bar’s chefs seem to perform exceeding well when they do as little as possible to the seafood. Not exactly a resounding endorsement unless you only want oysters on the half shell. Out of five stars…..I give EMC only 2 stars for their happy hour efforts. A much better option in Irvine would be Taps Fish House and Brewery on Jamboree.
Until next time….y’all!