Event - Encore Dinner Theatre Presents Henry Prego Sings Frank Sinatra (and Giveaway!)

Tucked away in the El Camino Plaza in Old Town Tustin is a gem of a place striving to keep the passion of live music and theatre alive. Who would have suspected that Encore Dinner Theatre, home of multiple star-class shows, would be outfitted with such a humble exterior? A mark of the times, perhaps. The near floor-to-ceiling windowed front with grand announcements of upcoming shows looked typical of those theaters you'd spot in film and walking in, you experience that atmosphere as well. We were alerted of the unique venue and its offerings and came out on invitation. Built in 1959, Encore is undoubtedly a historic landmark of the area but let's not let it fall to the wayside as just a historic memory. We decided to indulge in the Henry Prego Sings Frank Sinatra show for our love of the music, and we came away feeling like we'd been flown to the moon.

The theatre had actually gone through a renovation in 2011 to more aptly and appropriately bring the grandeur and caliber of its shows to the seated experience. It felt more like those dinner-and-a-show evening clubs you've only heard about as a relic of the "old days," a popular 1940s watering hole for the classy and well-monied. Perhaps we've seen such interpretations on film as well but we did not fathom finding such a wonderful and rare place in Orange County. This was just our impression upon walking inside though; the best was yet to come.

Despite this post's intermixed pictures of Henry Prego being an amazing Sinatra for our evening entertainment, know that dinner in the "dinner and a show" concept comes first and we were seated in our section with service as if in any other restaurant. There just happened to also be an impressive stage at the front of the dining room, waiting to be used. We admired the tiered dining levels that would allow for all patrons to view the entertainment and still dine in privacy at their tables beneath ornate chandeliers. To start from their menu of libations, we opted for glasses from their cocktail offerings of Maker's Old Fashion (8.50 - Maker's Mark bourbon, fresh muddled fruit, and a splash of bitters) and Straight Up Martini (10.50 - choice of Ketel One vodka or Tanqueray Gin and a choice of lemon twist or olives). These cocktails are no joke when it comes to alcohol content though, and we experienced reasons to sip gently after a bite or two as each was strong.

Every table received a basket of French baguette with their signature butter, and though the menu consisted of dinner menu items already covered in the cost of a ticket, there were additional a la carte add-ons that tempted guests. The descriptions on the menus were highly detailed, even going as far as to note the preparation method nearly step-by-step. From what we understood, Executive Chef Cristophe Jardillier has a steady menu but also tries to match the feel of each show. The tempting appetizers were Lobster Bisque (8.95 - made with creme fraiche and Sherry, served with a baguette), La Bruschetta alla Siciliana (7.95 - fresh diced tomatoes marinated in extra virgin olive oil, lemon, and pesto all atop bread and baked with cheese), Encore's Stuffed Portobello Mushroom (10.95 - giant Portobello stuffed with Gorgonzola cheese, bacon bits, sundried tomatoes, and herbs topped with a Parmesan crust and baked in a tangy marinara sauce), and Asian Black Pepper Shrimp (10.95 - sauteed white shrimp glazed with Asian black pepper sauce). We tried out the first three. Duc was a vocal fan of the bisque which was thick and bounteous though I found the sherry a tad on the strong side; it matched the experience had with the cocktails for me. The bruschetta had a pleasant twist with the baked cheese which was almost necessary considering the acidic nature of the tomatoes used. It was difficult to finish the entire enormous stuffed Portobello but we managed to get our bites in of the thick and juicy fungus.

The dining room is open 90 minutes before each show to allow others time to enjoy their dinner before the show starts. We were cognizant of this but did not start our choosing until possibly too close to our cut-off time so did not manage to get pictures of everything. Every ticket holder gets a choice of salads: House Spring Mix Salad (with white balsamic basil vinaigrette) or Classic Caesar Salad (with creamy Caesar dressing and homemade croutons). Then they also each choose an entree from the list of Butcher's Reserve Beef Brisket Sauerbraten, Roasted Free Range Lemon Pepper Chicken, Blackened White Roughy Filet, and Gourmet Ravioli Aurora - Piedmont Region (combination of two fillings - one with wild mushroom and shallot blend, other with Ricotta, Parmesan, Cheddar, and basil; both served with aurora sauce and seasonal vegetables). An upgrade of entree by $5.95 gave the Encore Surf & Turf Fettuccine or by $10.95 for USDA Choice Filet Mignon (6 oz. filet topped with roasted garlic and tomato Gorgonzola crust with a Portobello mushroom sauce, served with pommes pont neuf confts and seasonal vegetables). We had the filet and the ravioli. The filet I had looked actually nearly nothing like the one we had seen other guests receive so I am not quite sure what happened there; the one received was overdone based on my request, very flat, and disappointing. However, I did enjoy the pommes it came with and the style. For the ravioli, Duc enjoyed the mushroom better than the cheese-stuffed one for the obvious reason of loving mushrooms more. I found the sauce pleasant and the mushroom the better of the two as well.

Because of our self-inflicted lateness, we didn't start on dessert until the show was nearly half over. Keep in mind that dessert is not part of the normal ticket holder's dinner but if you feel so inclined to indulge, they are just $7.95 each. Your options are the 1000 Chocolate Chip Cake, New York Cheesecake, and World's Best Carrot Cake on the normal menu with a "Chef's Special of the Day" choice as well. We had the cheesecake and found it quite divine actually, finishing out the evening with a savory sweet that was creamy on top and crumbly below in the crust.

As much as I talked about the food, I would be remiss not to talk about the highlight of our evening which was the show itself. Vegas star and well-known entertainer Henry Prego not only possessed a praiseworthy voice but also commanded a stage presence that transported the entire audience back to Rat Pack days. His demeanor and body language adopted all the iconic idiosyncrasies of the tributed blue-eyed crooner, and this true-to-life personality easily stole the hearts of the nostalgic older guests in the room (and our young ones too!). Several came up just for a chance to touch his hand and even get a twirl during the act - women of course who were mere strangers in the night. It was a magical evening indeed befitting of the glamour and ritz, I'm sure, of old New York, New York. We were fortunate to catch his show which only goes for two-day runs at a time at Encore. However, you're in luck yourself because his upcoming Sinatra Christmas show is happening soon from 11/29 to 12/29 alongside film star Elijah Rock and comedian Frances Dilorinzo. Maybe you'll bring a loved one there. All shows and their information are available by clicking here.

If the $60-$80 tickets seem daunting at first, keep in mind that this theatre is truly one of a kind. Where else can you get a big band to play like that or Broadway shows at an affordable price? There aren't establishments like these around anymore so make sure to support the local business. If you are still thinking about it, you can get a taste for all the future excitement Encore Theatre has to offer by entering my giveaway. Encore has graciously donated Two VIP Diamond Tickets to one lucky winner to any show of his/her choosing. Check the widget below for more details. Our BIG thanks go out to Peter, Patty, and Chef Cristophe. Readers, put in your entries today and hope that the random picker only has eyes for you!

Photography by Duc Duong. More photos available on Facebook here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The giveaway will run until 11/13/13 at 11:59pm PST. Winner will be contacted upon winning and has 48 hours to respond before another winner is drawn.

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  1. I will get the Filet if I win :)

  2. Same here, Grease or Legally Blonde. Thanks for the giveaway, Minerva!

  3. The contest ends just in time to see Fiddler on the Roof!

  4. I would love to see Fiddler on the Roof - a classic!