(I forgot to take a picture of the restaurant, so I put up a picture of an Iris, the English translation of "Ayame")
3923 Portola Parkway
Irvine, CA 92602
I recently went down to Ayame in the Orchard Hills shopping center in Irvine. Ayame is the little sibling of Zipangu in Costa Mesa. They call themselves a Japanese fusion restaurant. Since it was a Friday night, and we had a party of 5, we had called ahead to make a reservation for 6:30 PM. When we arrived it didn't really look like we needed a reservation. The restaurant had plenty of people in it, but it wasn't full.
We were seated immediately and handed menus. When I dine at a Japanese restaurant with R, we usually split a large order of hot sake. I am used to the large order being anywhere from $6.00-$9.00. When I asked about hot sake at Ayame, I was handed a sake list. She told me that they could heat up any sake. The cheapest sake on the list was $20 for a small order. I decided to pass. R and I decided to share a large bottle of Sapporo instead ($8 I think).
When the waitress came to take our dinner order, R and I both decided to order the New York Steak ($19.00). I also decided to start with their Hamachi Jalapeno appetizer ($9.50). V and J both decided to order the Miso Seabass ($26.00). S decided to have sushi for dinner and ordered a California Roll ($5.50) and a Philly Roll ($9.00). V ordered a Spicy Tuna Roll ($6.00) and J ordered some Hamachi Nigiri ($4.50).
A few minutes later, everyone that had ordered an entree got a salad and some miso soup. There was nothing special about either of these. The salad dressing was pretty flavorless and the miso soup was generic.
A few minutes later they brought out my Hamachi Jalapeno appetizer. The menu said that the dish was made with Yellowtail sashimi covered with a jalapeno tomato salsa. I took one bite and regretted it. I did not like this at all. The fish tasted old to me and everything else was just blah. I offered the dish around the table so everyone else could try it. No one seemed to really like it, they felt it was just ok.
Next up were out entrees. The New York steaks were served with a side of horseradish ponzu and teriyaki sauce. The steak was sitting on top of a tiny mound of mashed potatoes that was covered in some sauteed mushrooms and steamed vegetables. the steak was a little tough and completely unseasoned. I don't even think that any salt or pepper was added to the steak before cooking. R agreed that the steak had no flavor. The ponzu sauce was pretty good but I didn't taste any horseradish in it. R felt that since this was a Japanese restaurant that provided chopsticks only, and no knife or fork, that they should have cut the steak into smaller pieces. I have a big mouth though, so I didn't really care. The mashed potatoes and vegetables were forgettable. The mushrooms though were quite good. There were 3 or 4 different types of mushrooms. They were my favorite part of the dish.
The miso seabass was broiled and served with a black truffle sauce. The menu said that it would be topped with "string fried potato" but it wasn't. The fish was on top of a teeny tiny mound of mashed potatoes with some green beans, snow peas and cauliflower. J and V both liked their seabass very much. V said that it was really buttery and almost melted in her mouth.
Everyone seemed to enjoy their sushi, but nobody thought it was anything special. Everyone seemed to agree that the sushi was just average. Not great, but not bad. V said that the sushi at Koki's is much better. Everyone also thought that the Philly roll was a little overpriced at $9.00. The prices on the California Roll ($5.50) and Spicy Tuna Roll ($6.00) were much more reasonable. I'll probably go back here for sushi since it's close to my house and just make sure not to order any of the overpriced rolls.
Overall this restaurant was pretty good. I think it needs a little work though if it wants to get away with charging the high prices that it does. If a restaurant wants to charge high prices, they need to make their food taste really good in addition to presenting it nicely.