Either you get lucky, exploring in Enderle Center in Tustin, or you have heard about Zov's Bistro beforehand. Otherwise, you might never find it. Fortunately I'd heard (and tasted Zov's excellent catering), so I did find it, behind a large chain restaurant.
Zov's appeals immediately, with the fresh, clean look of black and white tile floors, room accents of rose and blue, a cold case displaying salads and desserts and an open kitchen.
Our service was warm and knowledgeable, and complimentary humus and pita bread was served promptly.
Of the seven entrees, which change weekly, the rack of lamb with rosemary won raves at our table. I found the veal with apple, mushrooms and Cognac lightly sauced and tender. Salmon with tomato and basil came forth beautifully cooked and seasoned. Only the swordfish garnished with exemplary puff pastry was disappointing, though I think its toughness at either end was the fish's fault, not the chef's.
A Bouquet of Vegetables
Different vegetables accompanied each entree--cucumber with the lamb and a bouquet of several vegetables with the veal.
Another week the swordfish might be done with mushrooms, lemon and capers, the salmon grilled with creme fraiche and whole grain mustard served with tomato coulis with cilantro. Pasta favorites include angel hair with shrimp, scallops, greenlip mussels, clams, shallots, tomatoes and basil.
Appetizers vary from baked brie with almonds en croute, to a Middle Eastern steak tartare resting on walnut caviar.
With a choice of soup or salad, the richly flavorful soup may be lentil, black bean, minestrone, or summer vegetable. I would have liked the green salad better with a less highly salted vinaigrette.
Desserts are too pretty to resist, and a raspberry-almond tart made a beautiful finale one evening, while the rum cake would have been great, I suspect, while still moist. A chocolate pate with Frangelico and rum resting on pistachio sauce captivated my guest, who'd insisted she was too full for dessert.
Reflects Armenian Heritage
The menu, which owner Zov Karamardian describes as Mediterranean with California touches, reflects Zov's Armenian ancestry and her dozen years of catering experience. She opened the Bistro last January because clients wanted a "place to come to."
Zov prepares all salads, while chef Dudley Rich handles the specials. Everything, including hot, crusty bread and desserts, is made on the premises.
When I first read Zov's menu, I thought dinners a bit pricey, at $14.95 to $19.95. But that was before I appreciated the caliber of this pretty little restaurant.
Lunch is more reasonable--especially the generous sandwiches and salads at $4.25 to $5.95. Go for the Aram sandwich--roast beef, cream cheese, lettuce, tomato, rolled up in a soft cracker bread and cut into colorful pinwheels. Or try marinated, freshly grilled breast of chicken served warm with tomatoes, cilantro and green onions in pita.
Zov's salad medley offers an opportunity to sample three different salads from eight varying daily offerings. Standouts: a Greek salad with feta, olives, cucumber, fresh mint, lemon juice and cold press olive oil; a zesty ratatouille with fresh sweet red peppers; tart grape leaves (picked by Zov's mother in Fresno) filled with rice, tomatoes, garlic, mint, dill and lemon.
Also there is a small but nicely chosen selection of wines.
Zov's Bistro, 17440 East 17 St., Enderle Center, Tustin; (714) 838-8855. Lot parking. All major credit cards. Full dinner from $14.95 to $19.95, lunch from $4.95 to $7.95. All menu items are available for take-out. Reservations recommended. Lunch from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday; dinner from 5 to 9 p.m., Thursday, Friday and Saturday.