Off the Menu: Burgers, Pastas and ‘Phantoms’

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Zov Chicken burger

Everyone loves a good burger, which explains the popularity of Orange County Burger Week. Nearly 60 restaurants around the county, including 11 in Newport Beach, are offering special burger menus, but hurry — they end Saturday. Fortunately, most of the burgers are on the restaurants’ regular menus, so you can still enjoy them all summer, and beyond.

That’s good news for fans of Zov’s in Newport Coast, which has a $15 dual burger menu: A classic burger or a crispy chicken burger, served with a choice of sides and a draft beer. There is also a $25 luxe burger menu with drunken surf & turf with cajun whiskey marinated shrimp, Angus prime beef, maker’s mark sweet BBQ glaze, smoked gouda, house-dill pickles, tangy remoulade, crispy onion, on a seasoned brioche bun. Served with choice of sides and a glass of Patz & Hall pinot noir.

Those were enough to lure NB Indy Calendar Editor Laura Wise and I to dine at Zov’s last Monday — plus the fact that they have a dog-friendly patio, so I could bring my pooch, Spencer.

Zov classic burger

Laura ordered the classic burger with Angus beef, brie cheese, Dijon aioli, on a signature bun. I was looking forward to the surf and turf burger, but was told that it’s only available during dinner service, so I had the crispy chicken burger with Moroccan breaded chicken breast, roasted red pepper mayo, house-dill pickles, Greek herb coleslaw, ripe tomato slices, on a butter brioche bun. Our choice of sides was french fries, mainly because our server did not know there were other options.

Laura ordered her burger medium, but it came out closer to medium-rare, juicy and tasty.

The crispy chicken burger turned out to be an excellent choice. The chicken was tender, the coleslaw was a nice touch for the topping, and I savored every bite.

We agreed the fries were perfect, and the server gladly substituted iced tea for the beer.

Truffled deviled eggs and cauliflower soup

The next day, we tried the burger menu at Great Maple in Fashion Island. Their Burger Week menu is $20 and includes two courses. First course is choice of seasonal soup, mini Caesar salad, or truffled deviled eggs. Laura chose the truffled eggs, while I had the cauliflower soup. We swapped tastes and agreed they were both excellent starters — the soup was a perfect puree while the truffle taste on the eggs kicked the flavor up a notch.

For burgers, you’ve got a choice of three: Steakhouse burger with aged white cheddar, arugula, tomato, pickled red onions, and aioli; turkey burger with melted brie, arugula, caramelized onion marmalade, and aioli; and La Jolla veggie burger with ancient grains, almond and mushroom patty, smashed avocado, arugula, tomato, pickled red onions, and aioli.

Great Maple burger

Laura’s steakhouse burger was a generous and juicy patty that took two hands to eat, while my turkey burger was elevated beyond the commonplace thanks to the brie. The fries reminded us of McDonald’s fries, meaning they were addicting and satisfying.

For a complete list of Burger Week restaurants and menus, visit

Pasta and Phantom

“The Phantom of the Opera” ends its run at Segerstrom Center this weekend, and it’s well worth the effort to nab last minute tickets — provided you’re not a die-hard “Phantom” fan who expects to see the original Broadway production.

This “Phantom” tour is the same terrific show, but with a new staging that makes it easier to tour. “Phantom” fans will notice the differences, but the glorious voices delivering Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classic songs more than make up for the new (not improved) staging.

Ortica olives

Fellow foodie and “Phantom” fan Della Lisi and I caught a performance of “The Phantom of the Opera” last weekend and dined at Pizzeria Ortica before the show. Ortica is a terrific option — it’s a short stroll to Segerstrom Center, and parking in the adjoining Westin parking structure is validated.

We began our Ortica dinner with two shared plates: Prosciutto & melon with summer cantaloupe, blueberry salsa and burrata, and, something I’ve never seen on a menu before, country fried olives with spicy lemon aioli. The prosciutto and melon plate was a perfect and refreshing summer dish, while the olives dipped in the aioli were an atypical treat.

Ortica prosciutto and melon

For entrees, Della had the asparagus cannelloni with ricotta, asparagus, bechamel, goat gouda, herbs and lemon zest, while I had the tortellini in brodo (broth) with truffle cheese filled pasta, leeks, chives, and parmesan brood. My dish was perfect, with tasty tortellini surrounded by an aromatic broth. Dell’s dish was heavier yet not dense, with a tantalizing taste of lemon zest in every bite.

Ortica pasta

For dessert, we shared a sensational budino: Chocolate crème layered with caramel crème, salted caramel sauce, and whipped cream.

For tickets to “Phantom of the Opera,” visit

For Pizzeria Ortica reservations and menus, visit

Tavern House

Several weeks ago I talked to restaurateur David Wilhelm about his decision to sell his share of Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern, purchase the classic 3-Thirty-3 restaurant on Coast Highway in Newport Beach, and turn it into his latest concept, Tavern House Kitchen + Bar.

Good news: Tavern House is now officially open. The restaurant serves dinner nightly, features an extensive happy hour menu Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m., and serves weekend brunch featuring organic Bloody Marys, bottomless champagne, and a variety of signature dishes including fried chicken and waffles, prime rib benedict, and huevos rancheros.

I’ll be dining there soon and will report back in an upcoming column. In the meantime, check out the impressive menus and photos on the Tavern House website:

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