I love restaurant weeks! It’s the perfect way to try out new restaurants at a great deal and try out their new lineups. This year, Dine Newport Beach is hosting theirs for two weeks! This gives you chance to not only go to all of your favies, but you can go for lunch too!
Great ambiance and great service is key for any restaurant, its the first thing you experience when you walk through the door. So, our great server Valentina was able to answer my questions about The Crow Bar and Kitchen and Crow Burger. Both are owned by the same person, however, Crow Burger is a little more casual and The Crow Bar and Kitchen is more of a gastropub. You totally get that feel walking into the door, with great beers on tap, dim ambient lighting, and warm feel inside, it is very hip. With a great wine and beer list, you can’t go wrong.
I started the night with a beer on tap. It was the Victory Brewing Co. Harvest Ale. It is described on the menu as a soft and full three hop amber ale. I loved this beer for a few reasons. I am not a fan of the super hoppy IPAs, nor am I fan of the very light beers. This was a perfect middle ground of both. It still had a full hoppy flavor, but was not overpowering. Sometimes the menu describes it best, soft and full. Plus, it complimented the kielbasa in the brussel sprouts, but I’ll get to that in a bit.
The Crow Bar and Kitchen is offering a three course dining experience, starting with a pre-appetizer. It is an amuse that varies daily. A quick wikipedia search will define amuse as a complimentary chef’s choice pre meal “snack” that will demonstrate the theme or art of the chef, a quick taste of what is yet to come. I think this is a great idea, and I have not experienced something like this until The Crow Bar and Kitchen. This idea alone is worth going. Chef Grant Paul Lawson really flexes his muscle on this one, I loved it. The amuse was a caprese on a stick, with fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, all covered in balsamic reduction. The mozzarella ball was delicious, flavorful and rich. The basil and cherry tomatoes complimented each other very well. The ordering of the pieces on the stick was not only aesthetically pleasing, but also pleasing to the palate as well.
The neat thing about bringing someone with you to one of these lunches or dinners, is that you get to try twice the number of items on the menu! Although I was not able to try the crow caesar salad, I am definitely going back to try it, the baby gems are grilled which is quite unique, and with a mix of house made rosemary garlic croutons, shaved parmesan, and classic caesar dressing, it is a healthy and safe bet for an appetizer.
The two appetizers I did try were delicious: The brussel sprouts and the mushroom flatbread. These brussel sprouts were absolutely amazing! With spicy kielbasa and home made sweet and sour sauce, the brussel sprouts were not too crispy, and not too salty either. This wonderful texture is due in part to them being flash fried. 2014 was the year of the brussel sprout, and The Crow Bar and Kitchen will carry this on to 2015 as well. Not many places add a hearty ingredient like kielbasa to brussel sprouts, but that is exactly what these delicious vegetables need. Perfectly cut pieces of kielbasa add a rich flavor and matches the texture of the perfectly cooked brussel sprouts perfectly.
The roasted mushroom flatbread was delicious, one of the best flatbreads I have ever had. It is a classic menu item for The Crow Bar and Kitchen, and they have perfected it. It was rich in flavor and texture, but not too oily or greasy. It was filling too! It had a very french style, probably due to the white truffle oil
For the main course, I ordered a craft cocktail, one of their new additions, the Paper Plane. It is a Woodford Reserve bourbon with amaro nonino, aperol, organic lemon juice, served on ice with a lemon twist. It is one of those neat drinks with one huge ice cube (I love how these look!). It had a sweet, but not sticky flavor to it. The citrus from the lemon, mixed with the orange taste from the aperol create this unique sweetness with a citrus nibble (not quite a bite).
The first main course that I tried was the seared ahi burger. Served on a potato ciabatta bun, it looked like a neat lunch item! The taste was superb, the bok choy and jicaca slaw had a hearty crunch to it and a refreshing taste to it. The wasabi cream was the aftertaste, accentuating that refreshing feel and flavor. Seared ahi is a tough meat to cook, but Crow Bar made it perfectly, not too gooey, not too tough, and it matched with the other ingredients perfectly. It was served with grilled green bean fries, which were nicely made, not too soft, had a satisfying crunch to them. Served with an olive tapenade aioli, they had the perfect amount of salt (and I am not a fan of salty food, so I was thoroughly impressed).
The burger I ordered was The Crow “Black Label” Burger. It is an 8 oz 21 day aged signature rib eye, with caramelized onions and bone marrow butter served on a brioche bun. This felt very french inspired with the rich buttery smell and flavor. I could smell it as it was being brought out, delicious! It was so rich and buttery, it soaked the bun, but it was not overdone, so the bun still held and did not fall apart. The level of culinary craftsmanship to create this perfect balance is masterful to say the least. It was filling and flavorful. I prefer my burgers medium, and my cuts medium rare, but I can see how at any level of cooking, this burger would hold together. Served with duckfat fries with black truffle aioli and house made ketchup, this is a filling, delicious, and satisfying meal. One of the most flavorful and rich burgers I have ever had.
Like I said earlier, the best part about bringing a friend along, you get to try twice the amount of food, but when your friend is on a diet, you get to have twice the dessert! I started out with my bread pudding ala mode. It was served with chocolate ice cream and topped with crËme anglaise. The bread was soft and creamy, rich in flavor, not too sweet and filling. The chocolate ice cream added a moisturizing kick to compliment the natural doughy feel of the bread.
The butterscotch and salted caramel pot au crËme was delicious! It was a butterscotch custard topped with a white chocolate and caramel cap. It came with chocolate dipped plamier cookies. The rich flavor of the butterscotch, mixed with the crunchy and savory chocolate create a delicious balance.
Finishing my coffee, waiting for my meal to settle, I began to speak with the GM, Gary. Just how the ambiance and feel is the first thing you experience when you walk into a restaurant, it is also the last. It was an absolute pleasure speaking with Gary. With his experience ranging from corporate restaurants to privately owned places, he began to tell me about the ease of flow of ideas. Chef Grant Paul is so intelligent and flexible, if Gary has an idea, Chef can work with it and throw it out on the menu. Unlike corporate places, Gary has the freedom to say, “Hey, I want pork chops on the menu.” They can test it out with the staff and see if it sticks, if so, it will be served to you within days of thinking of it. Doing this for as long as he has, they have an amazing dining set for you. I was impressed with how friendly the staff was, from our server, to the GM. The Crow Bar and Kitchen is a perfect way for me to kick off Dine Newport Beach. Try it within the next couple of weeks, and you will be back again and again, year after year.
Photo Credit – Crow Bar and Kitchen Facebook