TLT Food – Steak Fries
TLT Food @ Irvine Spectrum Center
705 Spectrum Center Dr. · Irvine, CA 92618
The Irvine Spectrum Center is an interesting culinary spot for food lovers. Of course, there are omnipresent chain restaurants like Chipotle, Johnny Rockets, and Red Robin – safe, familiar places to enjoy a simple meal. There are also more higher end dining spots like Del Frisco’s to celebrate an occasion. Then there are trendy, fusion locations like Urban Seoul. TLT Food, based on the famous The Lime Truck food truck, enters the foray and dabbles in a similarly modern approach to food, combining elements of Asian with Latin American into a Californian cuisine concept. Their steak fries is a prime example of this ideology.
Featuring strips of sweet and spicy steak, a colorful Asian slaw, wonton strips, chimichurri sauce, and a duo of black and brown sesame seeds all over a bed of fries, TLT Food’s steak fries have a predominantly Asian flair and an Argentinian kick. The Golden State is home to the carne asada fries, and these steak fries are a unique variant on the Californian food, incorporating some Asian flavors.
Steak is plentiful and tastes more spicy than sweet. But the heat factor is barely there and only offers a subtle nudge. Consider it a second burn rather than a lingering scorcher. A serrano for a second rather than a habanero for an hour. The steak is decently cooked, though some pieces are tougher than others.
Chimichurri and steak go hand in hand like mustard on a hot dog. Elements that work. But on the same token, the garlicky sauce feels sort of out of place. The dish leans heavily towards elements of Asian cuisine – Asian slaw, wontons, sesame seeds – but with an Argentinian/South American parsley cilantro sauce thrown into the mix. The herb blend is barely noticeable to even have a pronounced effect.
The crunch factor in this is off the charts; you’ll find more crisp here than in any bag of Lay’s potato chips. Piled high on top of the fries is a handful of chopped fresh red and green cabbage and julienne carrots, followed by a generous helping of fried wonton strips. It is like an entirely separate Asian salad side dish. These elements offer more crunch than the fries themselves, which end up being limper being buried under the scrum. In fact, the bottom of the pile becomes a dull and uninspiring spot like the basement of someone’s house.
All things considered, the $10 steak fries seems lacking and incomplete. The creative juices are there, but the dish feels sort of on the dry side. Maybe there is just not enough chimichurri going on or the marinade is not really coming through. Some melted cheese or a fatty, creamy component would really save this dish (the chipotle-honey aioli and Cotija cheese combination on the roasted corn side goes incredibly well with fries). Keeping with the Asian theme of the dish, a simple drizzle of teriyaki would do wonders to give it a boost. Wontons and a sweet n sour sauce pair well as well, another idea for a dribble over the surface. Or to go even further with the modern twist, a Sriracha crema combo might work. Anything saucy to break up the arid monotony and liven up the fries (ketchup does not really work here)!
As is, TLT Food steak fries feel like a Tinder date whose profile sounds attractive and photos stunningly exotic, but things just simply do not click and there is not enough substance. It leaves you wondering why you chose to swipe right with the fries, when you could have easily left with the tacos or burritos.