Another birthday celebration, this time, at The Ritz Prime Seafood. The restaurant opened last October — after the original Ritz in Newport Beach closed – paying homage to them in name, but not much else. Early on, the famous Ritz Egg was still on the menu, but did not live up to the original. Those craving the old Ritz were sadden and disappointed, while others were deterred by its high price point. For me, on top of the steep prices, the menu was confusing and not at all cohesive.
Fast forward and several weeks ago, my friends wanted to celebrated my birthday, and we are here at The Ritz Prime Seafood. With a completely new management and new Executive Chef in place, I was optimistic, especially since Chef George Neyra is a Patina Group and Stonehill Tavern alum.
We begin with a selection from the “Bites” section. Falafel Lollipop ($8/6pcs) are essentially falafel balls served with za’atar yogurt. They are tender and a great option if you’re dining with vegetarians.
The same goes for Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese ($9/3pcs) another solid vegetarian offering. Presented on Chinese soup spoons, these little cheesy bites paired with the slightly acidic burst from the tomato soup is just what the doctor ordered!
Perhaps my favorite bite of the evening was the King Crab Poppers ($12/4pcs). Succulent crabmeat lightly tossed with Sriracha aioli is topped with wasabi masago for a decadent morsel.
Moving on, Grilled Octopus ($19) with smoked paprika, and romesco sauce is a delicious plate for the table to share. The beautiful presentation garners much admiration from everyone, but I am wanting to dig in. There is tender purple and yellow potato slices, shaved asparagus, as well as Marcona almonds for crunch. I love it when what I see with my eyes matches with my tastebuds.
I’m never one to pass up raw fish, so Hamachi Crudo ($18) is especially delightful. When paired with one of my favorite condiments — yuzu kosho – it makes it just a little bit more special. The marriage of sweet apple vinegar, a little heat from the yuzu kosho (Japanese spicy citrus condiment paste), cucumber, and avocado is an explosion in my mouth.
If you’re looking for a vegetarian option, choose Baby Beets ($16) an array of vibrant beets interspersed with coriander labneh (strained yogurt), pickled carrots, and hazelnut crisps for a textural contrast. Its multitude of colors creates a symphony of colors like that of an artist’s palette.
Next, we are treated to Foie Gras ($26) an exceptional sliver of decadence accompanied by spiced banana bread, walnut crumble, citrus jam, and Greek yogurt. The whimsical pairings work surprisingly well with the banana bread being the biggest thrill of all. Its slightly sweet finish is an ideal complement to the richness of the unctuous foie.
I am a huge fan of shared dining, and don’t mind eating off the same plate as my friends. If you’re not comfortable with doing that, most restaurants are happy to share a main course for you and a friend. We did exactly that with Branzino ($37) a fork-tender piece of fish with crispy skin attached – the best part. I’m always miffed when I see someone remove a perfectly crisped skin and set it to the side. Okay, I might set it to the side to save the best for last, but to disregard and have it later discarded is a crime!
The piece de resistance of the meal, a 36oz Tomahawk ($95) finished with bone marrow butter, is presented on a platter with broccoli and marsala jus. Definitely order this to share as it is ginormous. I do not suggest attempting to polish this off on your own no matter how hungry you are!!
This entrée also comes with potato au gratin in a baby cast iron dish on the side.
Of course, for most of you, no meal is complete without something sweet. We taste several desserts, including Chocolate Molten ($10) a moist cake with an oozing lava-like chocolate center when cut into. A scoop of vanilla ice cream, and raspberry coulis accompany.
My favorite dessert of the evening is Figs and Financier ($10) a financier round – French almond cake – is bruléed, topped with figs, and served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I don’t know if it’s because the cake isn’t too sweet, or because the dessert comes with figs – one of my favorite fruits – but this was so good I had three bites of it.
Chef George Neyra’s menu is good, very good! If you haven’t visited The Ritz Prime Seafood yet, this is the time to go.
The Ritz Prime Seafood
2801 West Coast Hwy
Newport Beach, CA 92663