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Jimmy Z Is at Head of Class

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

If its Sunday brunch is any indication, the newly opened Jimmy Z Grill might be on to something big.

The classy restaurant in Irvine’s Campus Plaza is the kind of quality restaurant the Turtle Rock-UCI area has yearned for. Until Jimmy Z opened recently, the Campus Plaza had always been a convenient place for campus workers, students and nearby residents to shop for food, rent a movie, bank and grab a cup of Starbucks coffee, but it lacked a good place to dine.

The “Jimmy” in the name refers to owner Jimmy Parvin, who’s known for his two South Coast Plaza restaurants, Forty Carrots and the Garden Bistro, both of which no longer exist. With his new place, he’s taken the upscale American grill concept and added some Persian touches in addition to a lunch menu featuring an interesting mix of salads, sandwiches and pastas.

All in all, this is good stuff. But I happen to really like the Sunday brunch. While word has gotten out about Jimmy Z, it hasn’t spread yet to the brunch. When I arrived with some friends on a recent Sunday, the sunny dining room--resplendent in blond wood floors, white tablecloths and saffron walls--was empty. Considering this was in the heart of the Christmas shopping season, I could understand why.

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There are worse things than having your choice of table on the sunny side of the room and a personal waiter.

The Jimmy Z brunch menu is somewhat limited, but it includes three courses and unlimited champagne for $15.95. In addition, items off the regular menu are available, choices such as an alluring Caesar salad with grilled shrimp and scallops and a barbecued salmon sandwich with spinach, capers and tomato stuffed into a pita.

I’d recommend sticking with the brunch, though, if nothing else than for the diversity of what’s offered. The first course is a fresh fruit platter of sliced cantaloupe, apple, orange and strawberry covered by a smooth apricot sauce and shredded coconut. It’s light and sweet and freshens up your palate for what’s to come.

The second course features seafood, with choices of grilled prawns with either poached salmon or sea scallops. Both are excellent--I particularly like the spongy, fresh scallops coupled with the large prawns. You won’t go wrong with the salmon, either, as it’s cooked just right to bring out a rich flavor. A small salad comes to the side.

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That devoured, it’s on to the third and main course, a selection from three standard breakfast items. The most basic of these is the grilled French toast with scrambled eggs and bacon. Pretty regular, but this is about as good as French toast comes, with soft bread within a crispy shell and topped with powdered sugar and syrup.

The Florentine omelet looks more like an egg scramble, but the combination of chives, cheese, bacon and tomato within it make for a savory egg dish.

I couldn’t help but try the classic poached eggs Benedict, with a thick cut of Canadian bacon and steamed spinach on a crisp English muffin. The all-important hollandaise sauce was a bit sour for my taste, but I’m incredibly picky about these things.

Finally dessert: The strawberry crepes were not available, so I tried the raspberry chocolate cake, which was so rich and decadent, I could only take a few bites. The rest went home with me for late-night scarfing.

The Jimmy Z brunch is a well-paced, sociable, mostly delicious experience. Adding to the pleasure is the continued pouring of Tott’s champagne--pretty good stuff for a free-flow brunch--and fresh-squeezed orange juice.

Time passes quickly during such brunches, and before you know it, dinner time will be soon arriving. And by the looks of Jimmy Z’s menu, it might be worth it to stay for that too.

* Jimmy Z Grill, 4715 Campus Drive, Irvine. (949) 737-6700. Sunday brunch, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. $15.95.

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