Off the Menu: Newport is Ready for OC Restaurant Week March 3-9

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Newport Beach Restaurant Week ended a month ago, but another Restaurant Week is already upon us.

Orange County Restaurant Week returns March 3 through 9, with nearly 150 restaurants participating this year with prix fixe menus, cocktail specials and even Breakfast for Dinner specials.

The restaurants range from casual and family friendly establishments to upscale and fine dining. They will offer special multi-course menus, many with a cocktail or signature item at no additional charge. Each restaurant will have the freedom and flexibility to showcase its best offerings. Participating restaurants will offer lunch for $10 to $25, and dinner for $20 to $50. There is also a “luxe experience” at select restaurants priced at $80.

This year, the Cocktails of Restaurant Week will be highlighted to complete dining experiences, and many participating restaurants will offer Breakfast for Dinner options.

“OC Restaurant Week has become more than a week of dining out – it has come to represent time set aside to have an experience with family and friends, and take an opportunity to support local businesses,” said Pamela Waitt, president of the OC Restaurant Association. “I am proud to see OC Restaurant Week become Orange County’s most treasured culinary event, showcasing the many talented chefs and innovative restaurants we are lucky to have in our community.”

More than a fourth of the participating OC Restaurant Week restaurants (40 to be exact) are in Newport Beach or Laguna Beach, a good reminder that we have terrific dining options in our coastal enclaves.

A few examples:

·      Beachcomber Café: $20 lunch/$40 dinner. The lunch is two courses with choice of salad or yellow tomato gazpacho and choice of three entrees including ahi burger and shrimp pasta. Dinner is three courses and includes upgraded entrees and dessert.

Farmhouse chef Rich Mead

·      Farmhouse at Roger’s Gardens: $50 dinner. Chef Rich Mead has a wonderful four-course menu starting with Seasonal Soup Shooter and Crispy Potato Cake and Mushroom “Caviar” with crème fraiche and chives, followed by Roast Asparagus and Burrata Cheese with cara cara oranges, arugula, citrus vinaigrette, and pickled spring onions. Entrée is either Red Wine Braised Lamb Shanks with roast root vegetables and dandelion green, or Seared Curry and Turmeric-Dusted Sea Scallop and Shrimp with orange coconut braised Tehachapi Grain Project sonora grain, cipollini onions, shiitake mushrooms, and grilled baby bok choy. Dessert is Orange Thyme Angel Food Cake with strawberry rhubarb compote and vanilla crème anglaise. You can start your meal with an award-winning cocktail for only $11.

·      Fly-N-Fish Oyster Bar: $20 lunch/$40 dinner. Chef Julio Hawkins has created menus that highlight his specialties, including the award-winning chowder served as a first course on both menus. Lunch features three courses, while dinner offers four courses including upgraded entrees plus dessert.

Fly N Fish Chef Julio Hawkins

·      Great Maple: $20 lunch/$30 dinner. As you might expect, maple plays a role in these menus. The lunch/brunch include soup, salad or truffled deviled eggs (they get my vote), followed by choice of Ancient Grains Salad, Fried Chicken & Maple Bacon Doughnuts, or Newport Fish Tacos. Dinner includes upgraded entrees plus a Famous Maple Bacon Doughnut made to order with maple bacon glaze.

·      Lighthouse Café: $15 lunch / $20 dinner. A terrific place for al fresco dining (if it’s not raining). Lunch includes a choice of appetizers and choice of four entrees, including lobster roll and shrimp tacos. The dinner menu is three courses, including the addictive Lighthouse beignets.

·      Lumberyard: $40 dinner. One of my favorite spots for pre-theatre dining (five-minute walk to Laguna Playhouse), the three-course menu includes choice of appetizer including lamb meatballs, a choice of five entrees including cedar plank salmon and house-made pappardelle with shrimp. Dessert is Hog Heaven Pie with cookie crumb crust, chocolate ganache and peanut butter mousse, Tres Leches Cake, or Almost Flourless Chocolate Cake.

Moulin Restaurant Week dishes

·      Moulin (Newport Beach and Laguna Beach): $20 lunch or dinner. Might be my favorite Restaurant Week menu. Start with a classic French onion soup with house baked baguettes topped with melted Emmental cheese, followed by Le Poulet Frites: Moulin’s famous slow-cooked rotisserie half chicken with choice of French fries or roasted potatoes. End your meal with Artisan Patisserie (a French surprise). 

·      Provenance: $20 lunch/$40 dinner. Diners will be flocking to Provenance when they see the three-course lunch menu, which starts with a Caesar salad, Grandma’s  Minestrone soup, or Pan Roasted Artichoke Hearts. Choose from five entrees including Pan Fried Crispy New Zealand Sole, Margarita flatbread, and a hearty vegetarian option.

Provenance Chef Cathy Pavlos

·      Sapphire Laguna: $20 lunch, $50 dinner. Another terrific lunch menu from Chef Azmin Gharhreman. Start with a kale salad or cream of celeriac soup, continue with a choice of three entrees including Miso Salmon Salad, Kobe Beef Havarti Cheeseburger or Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps. Dessert is either Mango Sorbet with Fresh Berries or Chocolate Creme Brulee.

·      Stag Bar: $10 & $15 lunch/$20 dinner. Want a quick, inexpensive lunch or dinner? Stag Bar has it. The $10 lunch is three meatballs or caprese, fries, and a side or house salad. The $15 lunch is 1/2 Antipasto Salad, a Personal Pizza and Beignets. Dinner is the same menu, but accompanied by a choice of craft beer, glass of wine, or signature cocktail.

·      Tackle Box Newport Beach: $10 lunch. Probably the best $10 lunch menu in OC. Choice of pork Katsu burger, chili cheese dog, crab cake burger or vegetarian (all served with house chips), plus choice of a wedge salad, buffalo cauliflower (a specialty of the house—delicious!), or roasted tomato

·      Taco Rosa: $15 lunch/$30 dinner. As usual, Chef Ivan Calderon has an impressive array of options for Restaurant Week. Lunch starts with roasted tomato soup or arugula beet salad, followed by a choice of eight entrees ranging from tacos de chile relleno to enchiladas to my favorite, the Rosa combo—blackened chicken taco and cheese enchilada served with Mexican rice and refried pinto beans. Dessert is Flancito and Churros con Chocolate. Dinner kicks the appetizers and entrees up a couple of notches (including paella).

Bungalow grilled cheese

·      The Bungalow: $20 lunch/$40 & $50 dinner. The lunch menu starts with choice of corn chowder or bungalow salad, followed by a choice of eight entrees including the Bungalow Burger, Beef Dip Sandwich, and my favorite—Joanie’s New Orleans Grilled Cheese with short rib, Gruyere cheese, white and yellow cheddar, creamy horseradish, arugula, and shoestring fries. The dinner menus kick it up several notches.

·      Yard House Newport Beach: $15 lunch/$30 dinner. Teerrific lunch menu, starting with a choice of seven appetizers including Guacamole & Chips, Buffalo Cauliflower, salads and soups, followed by a choice of six entrees ranging from Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich to Blackened Chicken Tacos. Dinner is three courses with a range of options for each course.

 For more information on OC Restaurant Week, including a complete list of restaurant with links to menus, visit OrangeCountyRestaurantWeek.com.

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