Newport Restaurants are Ready for OC Restaurant

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Julio Hawkins of Fly ‘N’ Fish with two of his entrees. — Photo by Christopher Trela ©

Orange County Restaurant Week is here!

Yes, we celebrated Newport Beach Restaurant Week back in January, but this one is county-wide and includes more than 150 restaurants.

During OC Restaurant Week, participating restaurants in Orange County (including more than 40 in Newport Beach) will offer special prix fixe, three-course menus, priced at $10, $15, $20 or $25 for lunch, and $20, $30, $40, and $50 for dinner.

I perused some of the Newport menus and found several that caught my eye, and my palate:

Fly ‘N’ Fish Oyster Bar: Executive Chef Julio Hawkins has crafted a three-course lunch for $20 and a four-course dinner for $40. Lunch includes a cup of Hawkins’ famous New England clam chowder and an organic mixed green salad, followed by a choice of fish & chips with truffle fries and blue agave tequila cocktail sauce (one of my favorite entrees), macadamia crusted Oregon sand dabs with wilted spinach and parmesan herb, or New Zealand king salmon with fresh asparagus and oven roasted herb tomatoes. This is one of the best values on the OC Restaurant Week list.

Dinner is also impressive: clam chowder, salad, choice of three entrees (macadamia lemon crusted halibut, cioppino, and wild Mexican sea bass), and dessert.

Fly N’ Fish is on the boardwalk near the Newport pier, so grab a window seat and watch the parade of people go by.

The beet & truffle gnocchi dish at Five Crowns is on the special menu for Orange County Restaurant Week. — Photo by Anne Watson ©

Five Crowns: Executive Chef Alejandra Padillla has created a $50 three course menu that includes choice of three starters, an entrée, and dessert. The entrée that caught my attention is the beet & truffle gnocchi with brown butter, hazelnuts, and Manchego cheese. The other entrees also look good: pork Wellington port wine sauce with mushroom duxelles and sautéed spinach, seared ahi with ginger mushrooms, and soy glaze, and California cut prime rib.

Farmhouse: Owner and Executive Chef Rich Mead has put together a fresh $50 dinner menu that starts with a “laughing bird” shrimp ceviche with sun gold tomatoes, red onions, cilantro, persian cucumbers, lime orange rice vinaigrette, and tortilla chips.

This is followed by a second course of roast asparagus and burrata with cara cara oranges, citrus vinaigrette, shaved fennel and radish.

Entree is a choice of seared sea scallops and roast butternut squash risotto with spinach and shiitake mushrooms, or grilled prime hanger steak and black truffle cream with roast carrots, cipollini onions and swiss chard, pureed roast fennel, and crispy potato sticks.

Dessert on the OC Restaurant Week menu at Farmhouse includes the classic strawberry shortcake. — Photo by Darin Meyer ©

Dessert is the Farmhouse classic strawberry shortcake with cornmeal thyme biscuit, sweet cream, and blood orange sauce.

Bayside: Bayside is celebrating 20 years of serving fabulous food in a classy environment, with live music seven days a week. Their Restaurant Week $40 dinner menu is a good intro to Bayside for those unfamiliar with the cuisine.

Start with choice of house salad, soup of the day or chopped hearts of romaine salad. Then you get a choice of five entrees: Pan roasted Scottish salmon, American kurobuta pork chop, flat iron steak, oven roasted chicken breast, or my personal favorite — the linguine scampi with tiger prawns, white wine, garlic, chili flakes and parsley.

To finish, choice of six desserts (try the butterscotch budino with crispearls and whipped cream — it’s truly decadent).

The beet agnolotti at Fable & Spirit. — Photo by Christopher Trela ©

Fable & Spirit: Chef David Shofner is having fun at Fable & Spirit combining his French techniques with Irish influences to create something uniquely Newport.

His $25 lunch menu is excellent — I should know, I’ve been eating my way through the Fable & Spirit menu.

First course for lunch is a choice of sugar snap peas with yogurt, grapefruit, burrata, marcona almonds, mint, lemon, and pancetta powder, or an amazing beet agnolotti with chevre espuma, hazelnuts, oak barrel balsamic, lemon, and crispy kale.

Entrees include choice of a classic burger with a special blend of house-ground beef, American cheese, heirloom tomato, grilled onions, garlic aioli, and hand-cut fries, cracked pepper bucatini with manila clams, pancetta, parmesan, and smoke cured egg yolk, or organic egg frittata with wild mushrooms, asparagus, caramelized red spring onion, and fromage.

Shofner also has an equally intriguing $50 dinner menu.

Helmsman Ale House: Like beer? Like to eat? Then this is the place for you during OC Restaurant Week.

They have a $15 brunch menu that starts with a choice of petite cinnamon rolls with sherry cream cheese or white cheddar biscuits with jalapeno maple gravy (so good!).

Entrée choices include a two-egg breakfast with bacon or sausage, roasted mushroom, grilled tomato, and breakfast potatoes; chilaquiles with avocado mash, pickled onion, and cotija; and the ever-popular chicken & waffles with black pepper stout maple.

For $15? That’s a deal. So is their $15 lunch and $20 dinner. Add a $5 Helmsman hazy IPA, and you have one tasty meal.

Other restaurants on my Restaurant Week radar: Tackle Box, Tavern House, Provenance, SOL Cocina, The Winery, and Lido Bottle Works — although you really can’t go wrong with any of the choices on the Restaurant Week list.

Restaurant Week cocktails: Many participating restaurants will be showcasing a special OC Restaurant Week cocktail for $12 (in honor of 12 years of OC Restaurant Week), featuring Chambord, Ketel One, Maker’s Mark and Hornitos.

For more information, visit OCRestaurantWeek.com.

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