I have always passed by Ecco whenever I'm walking around The Camp, constantly peering at the menus displayed on stands right outside the door. Everything always sounded delicious but rarely did I pass by with the intention to eat anywhere. However, I got the chance to finally try out this place which had always looked so appealing once it was Orange County Restaurant Week. So, yesterday, after spending quite a time looking for parking, I had lunch there with the awesome ladies of Moxxe PR.
As tempting as it looks from the outside, you don't really get the vibe of the place until you take a step inside and check out the wooden, cozy feel that they are able to portray despite having a wall of ceiling-to-floor windows. Brightly lit yet intimate, it reminded me of some restaurants I had been to in Italy and with good reason - its cuisine is Italian. I've known the word "ecco" to be an exclamation of "HERE!" in an excited, joyous way, a "check this out!" or a "behold!" (the Latin root is more of the "behold" variety). Random fun fact: I've studied both languages.
So while the menu was very much tempting and the smells tantalizing, we still decided that we would stick to the Restaurant Week menu as planned; it was for a $20 per person lunch. With the three of us, almost every option was tried. The starter choices were the Eggplant Caviar (Fontina, Grana Padano, and roasted eggplant served alongside wood-fired flatbread) and Bruschetta (Burrata, tomatoes, and basil). I have noticed that I tend to have a tinge of an allergic reaction when I eat too much eggplant (at least, I think that's what it is - what's an itchy tongue, lips, and throat mean?) so I just tried a smidgeon on the flatbread. The cheesiness helped balance out any overwhelming vegetal taste resulting from a whole roasted eggplant, and the flatbread had just the perfect amount of savory from the garlic and salty from the seasoning. Lovely. As for the bruschetta, it was quite the daunting piece as the soft toast, crisp around the edges, was piled high with slighty-melted cheese and freshly diced tomatoes. The flavors were so bright, and the burrata shone through with its subtle and light flavor - an appetizer not to miss.
For Restaurant Week, there were four choices for entrees of which we chose three. The outlier was their baked rigatoni which I honestly had wished we had a fourth person there for; yes, just to order the pasta. So anyhow, we got the Guido Pizza (smoked Mozzarella, wood-roasted peppers, caramelized onions, garlic, fennel sausage, and olive oil), Chopped Chicken Salad (garbanzo beans, red onions, salami, tomatoes, olives, pepperoncinis, and Mozzarella in a white wine vinaigrette), and the Ecco Burger (Fontina, pancetta, arugula, pickled onions, basil aioli, pickle, and house fries). With so much in the first course, it was hard for us to finish our entrees! Nevertheless, we powered on and had our tastes of each. The pizza had a pleasantly smoky feel highlighted by the fenneled meat and roasted peppers; the aroma just about filled our stomachs itself! Their salad had everything you needed in a salad and was executed well. We all really liked it. Lastly, the large burger had a slightly dry patty (blame us for saying medium on its doneness) but all the rest helped smooth out that kink as the aioli coated each bite in umami. As for the house fries, I can't stop putting the leftover ones in my mouth straight from the to-go box because they are that delicious. Think well-done fries with plenty of salty, garlicky, and herby goodness.
While we thought that no more could be had, the pretty third course came out and was finished easily. Ecco's tiramisu with espresso sauce and chocolate shavings was drenched enough in its own sauces but separated by dry enough layers that a perfection of forkfuls was achieved. Heavy in flavor but light in feeling, it was a good end to the meal, especially if you're a fan of the pleasant buzz following some alcohol-soaked ladyfingers. Yum!
Photography by Minerva Thai.
Looking for other bloggers chowing down during OC Restaurant Week 2013? See who's writing at http://www.orangecountyrestaurantweek.com/OC_Food_Blogs_That_Rock.html!