By Benjamin Epstein, adapted from the 2019 Where Orange County magazine winter issue.
The world’s first Hello Kitty Grand Cafe has opened at Irvine Spectrum Center, going beyond the rose-gold bow headbands and hot mini matcha doughnuts out front to reservations-only experiences in the super-cute pink Bow Room. One is devoted to afternoon tea, the other to superb themed cocktails such as Hello Kit-Tea, Whisker Sour and You Had Me at Hello.
Grand Cafe: M-Th 11 a.m.-9 p.m., F 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m., Sa 10 a.m.-10:30 p.m., Su 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Afternoon tea: W-F 11 a.m.-4 p.m., Sa-Su 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Cocktail service: W-Th 5-9 p.m., F-Sa 5-11 p.m. Irvine Spectrum Center, 860 Irvine Center Drive, 949.536.5357. sanrio.com
Stylish Robata Wasa, at the same center, offers heavenly salmon-belly robata, eye-popping sashimi, the elaborate When Uni Meets Crab (lump blue crab, uni, tobiko and minced shallots and shiso with yuzu horseradish aioli), tasty tempura Brie cheese and excellent cocktails such as “7’s and 8’s.” A wall of plates collectively depicts Hokusai’s “The Great Wave” and Mt. Fuji.
M-F 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m., Sa noon-11 p.m., Su noon-10 p.m. Irvine Spectrum Center, 926 Irvine Center Drive, 949.536.5064. robatawasa.com
East Coast concept Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse, with locations from New York City to Atlanta, opens in a striking, high-ceilinged spot at Irvine Towers, featuring handmade pasta, fresh seafood and Prime aged Brandt Beef—and a bustling bar. Menu highlights include Reuben spring rolls, squid-ink conchiglie with Maine lobster, and a 30-ounce Prime porterhouse.
Lunch: M-F 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.; Bar Menu: M-Tu 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m., W-F 11:30 a.m.-midnight, Sa 5 p.m.-midnight, Su 5-11 p.m.; Dinner: Su-Tu 5-10 p.m., W-Sa 5-11 p.m. 18420 Von Karmen Ave., Irvine, 949.477.4810. davios.com