RItz Prime Seafood Short Ribs
Ritz Prime Seafood Short Ribs

Let’s face it, restaurants like to show off their culinary prowess and unique dining venues. And what better way to razzle and dazzle their guests than to create innovative, multi-course and value-driven menus for Newport Beach’s 10th Annual Restaurant Week! I am going to share with you some tips, tricks, and a game plan for you to get the most out of the upcoming Restaurant Week. I have also uncovered some recent “restaurant news” and menu notes too.

Beginning Monday, January 18th, Newport Beach kicks off a two week city-wide dining extravaganza. This event runs through Sunday, January 31st and showcases Newport Beach and Corona del Mar as Orange County’s premier dining destination. The restaurants go all-out, putting their best spatula forward, with creative two and three course menus and delicious cuisine. And in addition to making reservations for our “favorite spots” this event gives diners a chance to try a few new places as well. Go ahead—experiment. Try something brand new—it’s a new year!

Celebrating Ten Years of Good Taste Newport Beach Restaurant Week is Orange County’s longest running Restaurant Week event and has now grown to a two week run. Participating restaurants offer special prix-fixe menus with lunches available for just $10, $15, $20, or $25, and dinners for $20, $30, $40 or $50. (Price is exclusive of beverages, tax and gratuity.)

There are 61 restaurants that are participating in Newport Beach Restaurant Week (RW) this year. The varied cuisine includes many of our go-to favorites—from Italian to French, Mediterranean, Japanese & Sushi, to Mexican, Thai, classic California coastal and of course burgers and sammies. And with ten different neighborhoods, there is bound to be some delicious dining options wherever you may be during this two week time frame. From Crystal Cove to Fashion Island, and hugging the coast up through Mariner’s Mile and the Balboa Peninsula—the options are endless.

My “Insider’s Guide” To Maximize Your Restaurant Week Experience-

  1. Grab your calendar. We have 14 lunches and 14 dinners to potentially book people. I am booking five of each.
  2. Decide how many lunches and dinners you want to opt-in. Mark down “RW” in all those spots.
  3. Reach out to friends and acquaintances and make your plan on selected dates. (Perhaps some friends you missed seeing during the busy holidays?)
  4. Start researching restaurants. Review the menus (the web site features both lunch and dinner menus) and you can sort by type of cuisine, price, and neighborhood. Also see my restaurant notes below.
  5. Include at least one or two new spots that you have never tried before.
  6. Make your reservations, and please do not be “no show”. That really hurts the restaurants. (In many cases you can book your reservations online at DineNB.com, use Open Table or by calling the restaurant.)
  7. Inform your guests and Dine Well!

Restaurant Notes- For a more elegant dining experience, here are some of my go-to restaurants. Also, these could be the perfect “preview” to the Valentine’s weekend in February my go-to list offering lunch and dinner: Bayside, The Cannery Seafood, Billy’s at the Beach, Rusty Pelican, The Bungalow, Canaletto, Coliseum Pool & Grill, Fig & Olive, Oak Grill, Pelican Grill, Provenance, Rothschild’s, Sam & Harry’s Steakhouse, and Sushi Roku. Offering lunch only is Andrea-Pelican Hill. Restaurants offering dinner exclusively, and it is always wonderful, include: Ritz Prime Seafood, The Winery, Five Crowns and Waterline.

Brand new restaurants that have entered the market and are deserving of a look-see, include the following; located on the Peninsula: Lighthouse Café, Dory Deli, PizzaBar and Slapfish; on the beach: Tackle Box; in Newport : The Ritz Prime Seafood, Campus Jax; and for Fashion Island: Hopdoddy Burger Bar and Sushi Roku.

This year, there are a number of gastropubs & bars offering cocktails and great grub. The list of participants (and most offer lunch as well as dinner) includes: Back Bay Tavern, 3 Thirty Three, Cruisers Pizza Bar Grill (a multi-room sports bar), Woody’s Wharf, Malarky’s Irish Pub, Muldoon’s and Rockin’ Baja Lobster Coastal Cantina.

For more casual, local dining, here are some fun spots to cozy up for a lovely lunch or dinner. This includes, from north Newport southbound we find: Cucina Alessa, Royal Thai Cuisine, Fly ‘n’ Fish Oyster Bar & Grill, The Crow Bar Kitchen, Pescadou French Bistro, Bluewater Grill, Pizzeria Mozza, Sol Cocina, Back Bay Bistro, Citrus (formerly Bambu), Tommy Bahama Island Grill, Cucina Enoteca, Red-O, Roy’s, True Food Kitchen, Mariposa at Neiman’s, Ameila Seafood, The Village Inn, The Port Restaurant, Avila’s El Ranchito, Summer House, Modo Mio, Bluefin Sushi and Beachcomber.

Stand Out RW Menus- On cold rainy days, soup and salad just sounds like a winning combination. At Lighthouse Café for a $20 RW lunch, guests can enjoy a choice of: Salad (Baby Lettuce, Cucumber, Croutons, Pecorino, Golden Raisins, Chives with a Green Goddess Dressing) or Soup (Garlic Tomato Soup, Cheesy Herb Crouton and garnished with Crème Fraiche) and for entrée a choice of a Chinese Chicken Salad or a Grilled Albacore Sandwich.

Back Bay Bistro is including a house glass of wine or draft beer with their lunch and dinner menus. This and the Back Bay and Marina views make this a lovely spot to bask in our great SoCal weather.

Always missing France, Pescadou Bistro lifts my spirits with authentic French cuisine. For RW the three starter choices are all excellent, however my go-to is the Terrine de Saumon. This is salmon and halibut potted with asparagus and smoked salmon and served with toasted baguette. And for the entrée, this is the only menu I have noticed during RW to be serving Venison. The Venaison en daube is a Venison stew cooked in Syrah-Grenache red wine, with an array of sautéed mushrooms and fingerling potatoes.

Rothschild’s is a charming restaurant with a bar reminiscent of a European favorite. With petite lamps along the bar and a wine room around the corner it is just a cozy spot. The cuisine is Italian all the way, however the RW menu offers some great choices. The entrees run the gambit from Short Ribs, to Lamb with a Mint Pesto, or a Wild King Salmon Cippolina. Of course, they had me at Cherries Jubilee.

All I can say is I love “choices”! The RW lunch menu for $20 at Provenance is three courses, and includes two options for a starter (soup or salad), and six different options for the main course. Guests will choose from a super chopped salad, to braised short Rib Street Tacos (my personal favorite), Chicken Breast- Tuscan Style, Hamburger or Wild Sand Dabs- Piccata Style. And three options for dessert—I don’t even think I could choose between Chef Cathy’s killer Carrot Cake, Apple Pie or Brownie Decadence.

Sushi Roku has elevated Japanese dining in Orange County. Period. Their RW dinner menu is creative and even offers options for those who do not enjoy raw fish. Brilliant! They offer a Trio of Appetizers from the Sea or the Farm (beef skewers grilled robata-yahi style), a choice of Sushi, Seafood & Veggie Tempura or Ji-Dori Chicken with a choice of two refreshing desserts for $40.

As for Oak Grill’s menu, I find I like every single one of the items offered. For dinner at $40, the RW starters include a choice of: Lobster Bisque with Brandy Cream, Beet and Roasted Pear Salad, or a Belgian Endive Salad. Entrees include a choice of: Jidori Chicken, Grilled Pork Chop or Roasted Salmon. Love them all. And dessert should require a special license, as I read ever so slowly… Sticky Toffee Pudding or Warm Pineapple Butter Cream with Salted Caramel Ice Cream. Yum!

Some “Dining News”… By Participants in Restaurant Week- Campus Jax– I am intrigued about this new spot on Campus Blvd. near MacArthur. The owner hails from Jax Shrimp among other iconic restaurants, and has just opened this spot as a restaurant and supper club. They will serve lunch, dinner, and on Friday and Saturday evenings it turns into a Supper Club serving dinner and live jazz from 8:00-10:30pm. They will be adding jazz on Sunday’s later in February. Bambu Restaurant at the Fairmont Hotel is going through a re-branding and the restaurant has just been issued a new name—Citrus. Watch for enhancements to the menu in the next month or so—with Brian Doherty, the excellent, long time Executive Chef overseeing the new refinements. Modo Mio Rustic Italian Kitchen– Recently under new ownership and with new management of Lawry’s fame, this is a great spot to check out, and lucky for us they are offering both lunch and dinner for RW!

Reservations & Menus- To make your reservations, and to view the menus for Dine Newport Beach Restaurant Week, visit their web site www.dinenb.com/restaurant-week .

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