[Note: There's a giveaway included at the bottom of this post for Orange County area readers.]
“Food is first eaten with the eyes,” says Christophe Jardillier.
It’s fitting, then, that the chef’s current post is at Tustin’s Encore Dinner Theater, a venue that is reminiscent of a 1940′s old time supper club, complete with big velvet curtains and oversized and bejeweled chandeliers that were modeled after the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.
It’s all about what you see.
So here, the food is theatrical. Beautifully presented. Sophisticated, classical, and traditional. Perfect for a theater crowd.
The menu at the theater is very small, however.
If you’re a wine drinker, you are limited to the very predictable basics, like pinot grigio, chardonnay, pinot noir, and and cabernet sauvignon. The beer list isn’t expansive either, but it’s manageable with selections like New Castle, Fat Tire, or Hofbrau. And then there are cocktails, which were thirst-quenching and satisfying.
Once you turn to the food portion, it gets a bit more expansive. Appetizers aren’t included with the meal, but are worth it, especially if you enjoy the lobster bisque. With creme fraiche and sherry wine, it was thick, flavorful, and well seasoned. To be honest, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it.
Dinner entrees included roasted lemon pepper chicken, herb-crusted white roughy, a ravioli sampler, or a tender braised beef short rib. For an additional fee, you could upgrade to either a shrimp scampi, or 6 ounce filet mignon.
Chef Christophe developed much of his culinary skills in Southern France, and it shows. (Christophe studied the culinary arts for five years in Vichy, France and trained with three-star chefs in the finest restaurants to perfect and offer the best in the innovative tastes of the French Riviera.) I haven’t had a meal like this since Black Sheep Bistro, which used to be located across the street from the dinner theater until it closed down a couple of years ago. The Chef’s offerings also reminded me of past meals at The Hobbit and Orange Hill Restaurant, both in nearby Orange.
While the meal itself was well executed and timely presented, the menu was so limited that I’m not sure folks with dietary restrictions (vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, dairy free, nut free, etc.) would have much to choose from. Since the Chef is new, I’m hoping that over time, he’ll expand this menu to put more of his French-inspired twist on American classics “stamp” on it.
Every chef has a signature. If you dined at Chef Christophe’s restaurant in Upland before it closed, you’ll recognize quickly that his signature herb garnishes (mostly rosemary) are still vertically plunged into many dishes here at Encore.
If you’re a fan of live theater and performing arts in general, you’ll likely find Fiddler on the Roof to be an enjoyable production; I did, especially once I learned that the husband and wife onstage were also “husband and wife offstage.” A synopsis from the Encore website:
In the little village of Anatevka, Tevye, a poor dairyman, tries to instill in his five daughters the traditions of his tight-knit Jewish community in the face of changing social mores and the growing anti-Semitism of Czarist Russia. Rich in historical and ethnic detail, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF has touched audiences around the world with its humor, warmth and honesty.
The universal theme of tradition cuts across barriers of race, class, nationality and religion, leaving audiences crying tears of laughter, joy and sadness. The show features a star turn in Tevye, among the most memorable roles in musical theatre. Original director/choreographer Jerome Robbins’ staging is legendary. Its celebrated score by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, features songs loved the world over: ‘Sunrise, Sunset,’ ‘If I Were A Rich Man’ and ‘Matchmaker,’ to name a few.
FIDDLER ON THE ROOF is simply Broadway at its very best!
*Gourmet Dinner included in show price. Show starts at 8:00pm Friday and Saturday nights, 2:00pm Sunday. Seating for dinner 90 minutes prior to curtain.
If you haven’t been to a dinner theater in awhile, I highly recommend this one. Live performances aren’t easy to come by anymore, and I’m thrilled that this one’s located in my hometown.
A note to Orange County friends:
Encore Dinner Theater was kind enough to give me a pair of VIP Diamond tickets to pass along to local readers. These tickets are good for any show (please check the website for details) and includes a gourmet dinner valued at $160. (Fiddler on the Roof ends it’s run on November 17th.) If you’d like to be considered for this giveaway, please leave me a comment below to say so with your full name and email (note: your email isn’t published and will not be shared). I’ll select a random winner on Monday, November 11th at 12:00 PM and contact you then if it’s you. Thanks!