Best New Restaurants 2023: INI Ristorante Dazzles With Japanese-Italian Flavors

INI stands out in a sprawling Fountain Valley plaza with worthy appetizers, strong signature drinks, and more.

INI Ristorante

16129 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley, 714-277-4046

Ini weaves Japanese flavors and ingredients into classic Italian cuisine—an atypical mashup for diners weary of unoriginal menus. The latest production from Kei Concepts, Ini joins siblings Vox Kitchen, Kin Izakaya, and Rol in sprawling Fountain Valley Town Center. Truffle cheese bread is a worthy, shareable starter. The mountain of toasted bread cubes mortared with fluffy truffle-scented ricotta isn’t its best self without a drizzling of the hot honey served on the side. Beef carpaccio’s Japanese cue is squiggles of truffle cream and onion ponzu to play up those see-through slices of wagyu. Super-ripe melons reveal the kitchen pays attention to the precisely adorned salad of luscious fruit with prosciutto ribbons, yuzu crème fraîche, and crushed hazelnuts. The mini skillet of soft, piquant meatballs in rich marinara rivals that of your favorite Italian joint. Pasta options include a bacon-flecked udon carbonara and a moreish duck ragu over house-made pappardelle. Signature drinks are a strength—try the house Negroni with fig-infused gin. Desserts are fierce—don’t miss butter corn bread, a tricked-out warm butter cake with popcorn ice cream. No surprise the expansive dining room is booked tight every night.

Photograph by Emily J. Davis

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