Yes, I am safely behind the curtain. It's really not that bad in a suburban sprawl sort of way. If I hadn't grown up here (yes, I do admit it), then I may find it actually, well, no, nevermind, it is not charming at all. As a matter of fact, strip malls, indoor malls, and huge outdoor malls, like the one I went to last night to have dinner at Javier's, an upscale Mexican restaurant.
After a hotter than hot run on the exercise path along Huntington beach, I navigated the freeways and toll roads (at least my fasttrak works here!) out to Rancho Santa Margarita to pick up my oldest and dearest friend, Amy, who just so happened to be visiting from NY. I had stopped by earlier to see another dear friend, Phil, at the firehouse in HB (not code word, he is really a Fire Captain) and he suggested I take Amy to Javier's for dinner. Javier's (there are a couple of locations) is an upscale Mexican restaurant started by a former popular waiter at the old, and closed, restaurant, Tortilla Flats, in Laguna Beach. Tortilla Flats was a neighborhood institution, so I'm glad Javier had the wherewithall (and investors!) to open his own spot. (and if my memory serves me correctly, I don't think it was a very tidy break up with the "Flats".)
We made our way back out of Santa Margarita to the Irvine Spectrum Center, a Megaplex movie theater, shopping center and restaurant destination spot nestled in the elbow of where the 405 and the 5 freeways intersect. This "mall" felt a bit like a mini Disneyland, and even dressed up characters were strolling around waving (which characters? i'm not hip enough to know).
Javier's is filled with Dark wood, dark lighting, and a chain waterfall in the foyer outside the bathrooms (a chain what???). This sculptural wall installation reminded me of the rain catchers that the Japanese put along the corners of their house, to catch rain streams off the gutter in a cascade of drips instead of a steady stream. The sculpture/waterfall consisted of about a dozen heavy, rusted chains with small streams of water flowing in from the top. The chains caught the stream and diffused it to a small drip at the bottom. Why am I going into the sculpture in such detail, well, I have to talk about something cool here, and that was the coolest thing I found at Javier's.
I apologize in advance for being disappointing. Not gushing about food is not my forte'!
After laboring over the menu which included very exotic sounding items like Maine Lobster enchiladas ($40), and a build your own taco platter for two ($35), we settled on the Prawn Fajitas ($30) and Steak Fajitas ($18) to share.
Fajitas usually come on a sizzling plate. There must have been fear of a lawsuit or maybe I'm just behind the times, but the last few times I've ordered Fajitas at a Mexican restaurant, there was no sizzling plate in site!. At Javier's it was no different. My prawns were 5 large U-10 prawns, fresh from Mexico (the menu boasted), butterflied and then grilled, and laying on a bed of crunchy julienned poblano chiles, onions, button mushrooms and corn. The "white" rice (apparently served with this dish instead of spanish style rice), was just that: plain white rice. I had asked for refried beans (instead of black), as I was concerned about keeping the calorie count up! (ha, just kidding, I have a thing for refried pinto beans, what can I say?). The prawns were well cooked, a bit chewy (in the way prawns are chewy and crunchy at the same time) but they had absolutely no seasoning on them whatsoever, no salt, lime, no oil, butter or anything to enhance their succulence. Amy's steak Fajitas were a bit more flavorful, having been sauteed with the same vegetable combination and a few seasonings. Hers also came with a generous dollop of guacamole and sour cream. The requisite tortillas on the side were small, thin flour tortillas. They were good, but I was a little surprised (and Amy disappointed) that they weren't the corn variety.
A few Javier Margaritas later (Cointreau, Sauza and Grand Marnier with fresh lime juice) made it all not really matter. The thing is, the food was average, not spectacular, not bad. The company was great, as Amy and I never run out of things to talk about. It was my fault that I had expected so much more finesse with the attentive server, the chic surroundings, and the prices. I had been tempted to order the crab enchiladas, but remembered that I would be sporting a bikini the next day. Maybe next time...