It’s always exciting when a new restaurant opens, but this year has been particularly prolific for the Newport Beach dining scene. Among the notable newcomers this year: CdM Restaurants (from the guys behind A Restaurant), Helmsman Ale House, Arc Butcher & Baker, Tavern House (from noted restaurateur David Wilhelm), Guac Amigos, Mama’s, and Fable & Spirit.
That’s an impressive list, and all could have competed for Best New Restaurant at the annual Golden Foodie Awards held last September. One of them did indeed capture that coveted title: Fable & Spirit, which opened in June in the Lido Marina Village area of the Balboa Peninsula.
The restaurant has been on my culinary radar for several months, especially after being named Best New Restaurant — and after seeing fellow foodies post photos and descriptions of the dishes on Facebook.
Fable & Spirit is the third restaurant in Orange County for husband-and-wife team Darren and Jean Coyle, and the first in Newport Beach (their other restaurants, Dublin 4 Gastropub and Wineworks for Everyone, are in south OC).
When I first heard that Fable & Spirit was coming to Newport Beach, I learned that the restaurant intended to celebrate the heritage of Ireland, with a menu by Executive Chef David Shofner, who got his start at legendary OC restaurants Troquet and Aubergine. He later opened Opah Restaurant at The Tustin Marketplace with Chef Marc Cohen, and worked at Chat Noir and French 75 with David Wilhelm’s Culinary Adventures.
In a statement when the restaurant first opened, co-owner Darren Coyle, who grew up in County Mayo and Dublin 4 in Ireland, said he dreamed for the restaurant to become a local favorite “known for its imaginative, progressive and delicious from-scratch signature food and drink creations.”
“When our guests pass through the Georgian gold-colored Dublin Door, they will be warmly welcomed and introduced to some of the best of food, drink and good times that Orange County has to offer,” he said in the prepared statement. “While our kitchen and bar take a serious approach to all things culinary and craft, we want to share the spirit and magic of our rich Irish heritage.”
According to Shofner, the menu at Fable & Spirit is the culmination of his career to date, reflecting his experience and style uses classic French technique as a jumping-off point to more creative yet meticulous dishes.
As expected, the scratch kitchen makes everything from pastas and breads to bacon and pickles in house. The Fable & Spirit menu offers dishes cooked on a wood-fire grill.
I finally made it to Fable & Spirit for lunch last weekend, and immediately loved the restaurant. The vibe was classy yet comfortable, with an interesting menu that mixed small bites with larger dishes. And this statement on the bottom of the menu caught my eye: “Our family promise is that Fable & Spirit will create everything on your plate from scratch, sourcing sustainable and organic ingredients from caring purveyors, and we will source locally when it’s best and practical. Our planet and our health really matters.”
Having done my research, I knew what I wanted to try first: the Guinness brown bread ($8) with oats, served with Kerrygold butter (from grass-fed Irish cows) mixed with clover honey and sea salt.
The bread came out warm and, once I slathered butter on the bread and took a large bite, I smiled and quickly polished off several more slices.
Because it was not quite noon and my palate was lingering between breakfast and lunch, I ordered the avocado shrimp toast ($17) with a basil pesto spread, onion petals, watermelon radish, and smoked tomato. The dish was lovely, and the ingredients blended perfectly. I noted that the toast has a nice char from the wood-fired grill.
I’m always on the hunt for a good burger, and I had heard that Fable & Spirit had one of the best. Two are listed on the menu: a classic burger ($18), and a Fable burger ($23) with pork belly and a duck fat fried egg. Both burgers are accompanied by truffle fries.
I opted for the exotic Fable burger cooked medium, and was glad I did. The burger came out open faced, with the burger patty and port belly on one half of a brioche bun, and the fried egg on the other half. Putting them together, I took a bite, then another and another. The burger was beautifully messy, with sauce dripping on my hands. I didn’t care—this was one excellent burger. The thin-cut fries were perfectly seasoned with herbs and truffle flavors.
I decided to skip the dessert but vowed to return for dinner so I could try more dishes, including the grilled octopus and handmade pastas.
I also want to sample some of the cocktails and peruse the wine list. Anticipation of things to come.
Fable & Spirit is located at 3441 Via Lido, a couple of doors down from the Lido Theater.
For more information, visit fableandspirit.com.