A Better Bacchus in Irvine

Photograph by Benjamin Epstein

The once-upon-a-time Bacchus Wine Bar has acquired a spirits license, undergone significant renovations, lifted its vision in the kitchen, and emerged as the more elevated Bacchus Bar + Bistro in Irvine. The genesis of owner Danny Choi’s involvement makes the metamorphosis even more impressive. “When I purchased this business five years ago, I wasn’t a wine drinker and I hadn’t been in the restaurant business—somebody else was supposed to run it,” Choi says. “That didn’t work out. I ended up running a wine bar without knowing anything about wine. … I’m sure I was the only wine bar owner in the U.S. who hadn’t been to a winery. I still haven’t been to a winery.” Transitioning to a full bar didn’t help: “I know even less about cocktails than about wine,” Choi says. “I drink Michelob Ultras.” But Choi surrounds himself with an ace staff. The beer list also includes Iceland’s Einstock White Ale, there’s a standout Tiger’s Eye Old-Fashioned with mezcal and smoke, and the wine inventory has been streamlined. New chef Eric Mendoza brings a Mary’s Farm chicken-liver mousse with red wine gelee, pear jam, and garlic confit as well as a braised beef agnolotti with fried parsnips and parsnip purée. Mendoza and new general manager Tony Ghosn both spent time at Broadway in Laguna Beach. 6735 Quail Hill Pkwy, Irvine, (949) 502-4600

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