Each year, I always start OC Restaurant Week off with a meal on the first day. There’s nothing better than supporting our local restaurants by visiting as many of these participating restaurants as possible. If you’ve been reading my posts through the years, you’ll know that one of my friends has a birthday around this time, which means we always celebrate at an OCRW restaurant.
Yesterday marks the first day of OCRW and this year, my friend selects Provenance, Chef Cathy Pavlos’ beautiful Napa-style restaurant in Newport Beach. The menu is impressive, offering a generous selection of dishes to choose from in each of the three courses.
Since there are four of us, we manage to try everything on the $40 prix fixe, except for one entree (there were five choices). The table receives a basket of Housemade Scratch Biscuits, fluffy and oh so delicious. Slather with the accompanying honey butter. I do not finish my biscuit but my friends gleefully devour the remainder.
Our appetizers arrive quickly. Sweet Pea Soup is not only pretty to look at, but also flavorful, so much so we are all fighting for another spoonful. Little dollops of goat cheese are floating in the sea of sweet pea with little bits of bacon brioche — salty, creamy, simply heavenly!
There are two salads on the prix fixe, one of which is Clipped Garden Lettuces. This is an excellent example of the bounty from Provenance’s garden. Cherry heirloom tomatoes, edamame, shaved carrots, artichoke hearts, fennel and garden herbs are tossed in Napa verjus vinaigrette — the freshest of ingredients on one plate. If you’ve never taken a walk around the garden, I suggest coming back during the day and really soak in what Chef Cathy is doing here.
The second is Kale Caesar! comprising a salad of kale and little gem lettuce dotted with snow peas, radishes and cilantro. Torn brioche croutons peek through the leaves with one of my favorite ingredients: boquerones (Spanish white anchovies) nestling on top. I find several fried capers and Sweetie Peri Peri peppers between bites, adding a zing to this already stellar starter.
Seafood fans will relish in Black and Blue Ahi “Ceviche Style”. The combination of sweet and tart mango slices pair well with the spices coating the fish. Radishes and micro garden greens add color and freshness to the mix.
With five selections for entrees, we decide to omit short ribs. One of my favorites is Pan Seared Wild California Snapper + Clams both sitting in an umami broth atop a bed of heirloom spinach, snow peas, edamame beans, salsa verde and nori. Squeeze some lemon over the entire dish and eat with a spoon. Make sure to capture a little of everything in each mouthful, especially the enticing broth.
We are delightfully surprised when Mongolian BBQ Spiced NZ Lamb Chops hits the table. Perfectly sous vide chops are finished on the grill and presented on a board. Risotto cakes share space with one of the most delicious broccoli and okra slaw we’ve tasted. Other accoutrements include shiitake mushrooms and Asian-inspired mustard. There are four ample chops which makes a hefty portion even if you have a healthy appetite.
Land and Sea will please those who aren’t able to decide on a protein. Coffee-crusted Black Canyon filet mignon is tender, and wild shrimp adds another level of luxuriousness to the dish. Luscious mashed potato and haricot vert accompany. There are two sauces on this plate — mustard-cognac bearnaise — over the steak, while the shrimp sit over a pool of orange beurre blanc. Two entrees on one plate!
This next dish almost didn’t make it on to our table. We debate over short rib or chicken and ultimately, decide to include Pan Roasted Half All Natural Chicken to our meal. A juicy half chicken is served bone-in, with asparagus, pan potatoes, edamame beans, roasted tomatoes and carrots. A rich garlic-chive-citrus butter au jus adds depth to the fowl, but I want more of it on the plate. One of my friends is not fond of chicken, and usually will steer us away from ordering it. However, I see her eating more than one piece, telling me even SHE loves it.
We are pretty full when dessert rolls around. There are three selections and I suggest you start with the lightest first so your palate is not overwhelmed to not fully appreciate Deconstructed Apple Pie. Sliced apples, rum raisins creme Anglais, caramel, and streusel combine together for a texturally immaculate bite. It surprises because I am not usually a fan of apple desserts (or desserts for that matter) and this is my favorite.
Old Fashioned Strawberry Shortcake is pleasant, however, the shortcake proves a little heavy for the strawberries. One of my friends mentions, perhaps, an angel food cake might be a better option?
Even though “Girl Scouts Rock” Chocolate and Peanut Butter Mousse Torte is the heaviest dessert of the three, I find myself eating another bite. Using the Girl Scouts gluten free “trios” cookie as its crust, the result is a nutty, crunchy base with a rich filling, no doubt satiating even those with a serious sweet tooth.
I’ve experienced numerous OCRW menus through the years and Provenance definitely ranks up there with the best. If you have never eaten here, this is the week to do so! Chef Cathy is doing some amazing things at Provenance! Restaurant week ends on Saturday, March 7th.
2531 Eastbluff Drive
Newport Beach, CA 92660