Bristol Farms’ latest concept, Newfound Market, has opened at Irvine Spectrum Center. Located in the middle of the Spectrum by Pho Saigon Pearl, Newfound Market is a vast 34,000 square foot supermarket and food hall all in one.
What makes this Bristol Farms location stand out from others is its beautiful and delicious-looking selection of restaurants including: a bakery, a sandwich shop, a pizzeria, a hot food section, a hot chicken fast food spot, a plant-based restaurant, a seafood spot, a café, a build-your-own salad store, and a poke and sushi restaurant. Since everything looked enticing when I visited on opening day, I was torn between the multitude of options, wanting to try everything.
A part of me wanted to try the poke and sushi spot, PikaPika, because unlike other poke places, where you choose each ingredient that goes into your bowl and have it shaken together in one sauce, PikaPika allows guests to choose from a selection of poke options for your bowl and you pay by weight. It felt much more like the poke spots I grew up eating at during my trips to visit family in Oahu in that they already created the poke selections. You just choose from their selection of chef-created pokes. This means that instead of sticking to one sauce for all your poke, you can get one soy sauce flavored poke, one spicy one, and so on to allow you a wider palette of flavors. The other nice feature of PikaPika is that if you’re not a fan of raw fish, they do have eggplant, tofu, and watermelon pokes and musubis you can choose from.
However, Rooted, a plant-based restaurant, and Heart and Hand, a café, ended up winning me over during my first visit to Newfound Market.
Rooted features an international mix of flavors from cuisines like Japanese, Mexican, and Filipino to create unique-sounding vegetarian dishes. I went back and forth on what to try since so much of it sounded delicious. I narrowed down my order to the mushroom adobo burrito and spicy mazemen soba. Based on these two dishes, I was less than impressed with Rooted. For menu items that boasted of bold flavors like adobo, both dishes lacked flavor. For example, if it weren’t for the cilantro sauce that came with the burrito, the burrito would only have had a vague mushroom flavor to it. The spicy mazemen soba was especially underwhelming. It claimed to be spicy and to come with almond butter, so I was expecting a flavor similar to Thai peanut sauce. However, it lacked both spiciness and nuttiness, resulting in a bland bowl of noodles. Even worse though, since the noodles had clearly been cooked in advance, they were clumped together by the time I received them. The only upside to these dishes was that the grilled tempeh on the spicy mazemen soba was tasty and reminiscent of Indonesian grilled tempeh satay.
Heart and Hand on the other hand was wonderful. The café is a chic and cute spot for coffee, smoothies, juices, and pastries. While it does lean on the expensive side, I was pleased with the matcha dew smoothie and citrus olive oil cake I bought. The matcha dew smoothie featured a fresh and creamy mix of matcha, honeydew, and coconut, while the citrus olive oil cake was moist and delivered a slightly tart lemon aftertaste. A huge bonus for office workers near the Spectrum is that this spot is friendly and extremely quick.
After testing out Rooted and Heart and Hand, I went back into Newfound Market to explore the supermarket area. Everything is beautifully laid out and the shelves are filled to the brim with delicious options. The cheese, vegan meats, and juice sections were especially impressive, boasting a wide range of brands and varieties. The cheese section was especially well done in that each cheese had a small sign next to it, providing a flavor profile, to make choosing the perfect cheese easy.
Considering that Bristol Farms is a luxury supermarket, I was pleased to see that there were quite a few affordable options in store like $5 frozen Korean meals, Lays chips, and Pop Tarts. This mix of affordable and high-end makes shopping at Bristol Farms easier for people who want to get all their family’s favorites in one place.
Overall, I was and still am excited to have a Bristol Farms in Irvine. The wide selection of foods and brands is perfect for Irvine’s increasingly diverse population and the food hall is fun for diners of all kinds.
Bristol Farms’ Newfound Market is open daily from 7:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.