Al Fresco Summer Dining Made Better at Bistango
The gilded red awning that greets diners at Bistango in Irvine feels more Park Avenue, New York than Von Karman Avenue, Orange County, which sets the tone for an unrivaled OC dining experience yet to be matched in its thirty-one-year tenure. No other restaurant in Orange County combines art, music and food quite like Bistango, where the Ghoukassian Family have tapped into a unique formula of longevity and success that somehow combines an elegant, timeless feeling, with a modern, curated display of gallery-quality art, live music and seasonal dishes.
Summer months are meant for dining al fresco on Bistango’s patio where every Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. guests enjoy the En Plein Air Summer Jazz Series in support of the Saddleback Jazz Program. Joey Sellers, director of jazz studies at Saddleback, leads students through Thelonious Monk riffs, punctuated by the consistent melody from the water fountain in the center of the patio. With a sweet breeze and large glass of St. Francis cab, it’s easy to sit back under the umbrella shade and let the day melt away.
Under Chef Javier Montoya’s helm, Bistango continues its legacy of artfully executed international dishes. Over the years, chefs from all parts of the globe have graced Bistango’s kitchen, each contributing their take on refined cuisine, but no story quite matches Chef Javier’s. He rose through the kitchen brigade — from dishwasher now to Executive Chef. Having worked at various high-end restaurants throughout Orange County, it’s only fitting that Chef Javier now leads the kitchen at Bistango today. It just happens to be where he got his start, thirty years ago under Austrian chef, Paul Gstrein’s tutelage.
Now, he lends his own style to the menu with dishes like the yellowfin tuna crudo with ginger cucumber salad, avocado, sweet jalapeños, daikon and spicy kabayaki sauce. Washed down with a generous vodka martini, it tastes light and bright. The grilled galician style octopus hits spicy, salty, charred notes that pair well with the tender octopus tendrils, toned-down by the base flavor of baby new potatoes that satisfy a sauce that begs for crusty bread … which is provided and further serves as a vehicle for the charcuterie and cheese plate that follows.
In the background, Joey Sellers ensemble sets the mood with a little Miles, John and Charlie—a perfect compliment to golden-hour at Bistango. Although known for its “power-lunch” crowd, En Plein Air Summer Jazz Series at Bistango invites a diverse mix of jazz and food-lovers, privy to Bistango’s reputation for celebrating food and art in good taste. Never been? Look for the Manhattan-style red awning that graces the front entrance and be prepared to enter a place wholly unique — where food, wine, art and music marry in a way that just can’t be copied.