As Irvine is purely a business district filled with tall office buildings, Newport has a different vibe. With huge houses and lush greeneries, it definitely looks and feel like this is the upscale part of the Orange Country.
Fashion Mall is HUGE! I'm simply amazed that major retailers would really acquire a huge piece of real estate as most shops in this part of town is almost of the same size as our average supermarket back home. This, I'm talking about the likes of Macy's, Forever 21, etc. One big brand taking a huge space. Luckily, most shops are having a sale right now so I exactly know what I'd be doing for the rest of my stay here.
After walking around Fashion Island and checking some of the stores out, we began our search on where to have dinner. Thanks to Junjun who has been our ever-reliable guide for the past three days, we headed out to Cheesecake Factory, a restaurant that I've been hearing a lot about and boy, am I excited to finally be able to give it a try.
Initially I thought that Cheesecake Factory is simply a dessert place but I was immediately corrected as it actually serves what I'd call "real food". Entering the store, I was greeted by the huge chillers that contains all of their cakes. What a mouthwatering sight!!!
We were immediately led to our table and were handed their thick menu. They have a very expansive list of items from tacos to burritos, from steak to fish. I had to carefully read through every single item until I finally made my choice.
Service was superb as with most of the restaurants that we've dined in here so far. Our server patiently gave us all the time that we need to browse through the menu. He openly gave suggestions and were very attentive to our needs. How I wish service can be consistently this good back home too. Servers here obviously take their jobs seriously and they really do give a lot of importance to customer service.
On the Table
Knowing how huge a normal-sized plate is here in the US, Paul and I know better now and agreed to just share our meal as we always do anyway. Here's what we got:
Crispy Artichoke Hearts ($4.50)
This item caught my eye the moment I opened the menu. I'm such a fan of artichokes and I was actually choosing between this or the fire-roasted artichoke platter. I went for this one as it comes in a smaller serving which was perfect since we're actually getting something big for our main dish.
One order had 9 bite-sized deep fried artichokes hearts and a saucer of lemon-garlic dip. I've never had deep-fried artichokes alone as I normally would have them on my salad or as part of a dip but never eaten alone. I love the mix of the strong lemon-garlic dip with the veggie. It actually didn't taste like vegetable at all! Something the kids will definitely love I'm sure. :)
Herb- Crusted Salmon with Steak Diane Combo ($19.95)
For our main dish, we had one of Cheesecake Factory's signature combinations. It's a smaller serving of their specialties with a generous amount of creamy mashed potatoes. Paul and I were glad that when we specified that we wanted our steak -- medium well, thankfully it came specifically as requested. No more chewy meat, no red bloody cuts, just perfect tender beef that's covered with black pepper and caramelized onions.
The salmon was also delicious, I love it that although they have added a bit of cream into the sauce, the fish wasn't swimming in oil and butter. It has a very light taste that I truly enjoyed. This was a perfect choice for us as Paul enjoyed the steak while I was a happy camper with my salmon. Surprisingly though, we really couldn't finish the mashed potatoes as it was very filling and we were consciously saving space for dessert.
Ultimate Red Velvet Cheesecake ($7.95)
While choosing for dessert, we asked the help of our server who gave us two recommendations: The Ultimate Red Velvet Cheesecake and the Reeses Peanut Butter Chocolate Cheesecake. He however stressed that the Red Velvet is the ultimate best-seller in the house. We just took his word and ordered a slice of cheesecake to share among the four of us. Once again, a slice if HUGE! We all each had a good piece and there were more left for those who wants seconds.
How I died and went to cheesecake heaven?
I really don't know.
What I remembered was I took a slice of my piece of Red Velvet Cheesecake and I was totally won over by the rich, velvety layers of cheesecake alternating with the moist red velvet. It was soooo delicious that I just had this starry look in my eye as I just kept on having one bite after the other. No icing was present in this cake as it had all of the whipped cream at the side.
I was literally swooning after enjoying such a delicious dessert. I'm actually considering of going back soon to be able to have another piece of cake before flying back home. Yes, this is me, the moderate dessert lover talking non-stop about a piece of heavenly cheesecake.
Only Cheesecake Factory has that magic and I hope it never fades away.
*photo credit: Paul Ang
Cheesecake Factory has more than 150 branches all over the USA. Click here to visit their official website.