I first experienced Fireside Tavern at its grand opening a few months ago. From the tidbits we sampled, I knew immediately that this new restaurant will be a winner. Why you might ask? Well, in my decades of experience, if the food you’re eating at a cocktail event, a wedding, or anything where food is served to the masses is actually delicious, then just think what they are able to accomplish when they’re cooking just for you and your party.
Chef Scott Brandon (photo courtesy of Bob Hodson) helms the kitchen and my knowledge of him was only limited to burgers (Crow Burger) and hotdogs (LinX). This is the first time I’ve had “real food” by this incredibly talented chef. Honestly, this guy can really cook!
A small group of us were invited for a taste of the menu offered at Fireside Tavern recently, please note, prices listed are a la carte prices and do not reflect the portions depicted in the photos. We started in the lounge area for some cocktails and appetizers before heading into the dining room for a meal served family style.
Please note: some items are not featured on the menu but are reserved for special occasion menus.
One of my favorite starters was the Royal Red Rock Shrimp Hushpuppies ($11) with Creole remoulade and green tomato chow chow, a relish made with green tomatoes, napa cabbage, green and red peppers, sweet onions and jalapenos. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, these are awesome accompaniments to go with our drinks.
Not being a big pork belly fan, the Berkshire Pork Belly Sliders absolutely won me over. The well-rendered slices of pork belly are sandwiched between Rockenwagner salt & pepper brioche buns with apricot mostarda, pickled shallots, wild rocket (arugula) and reggiano. I loved the sweet tart flavors of the mostarda which helped balance the unctuousness of the pork belly along with the pickled shallots.
We moved into the private dining room to continue our experience at a larger scale. The first thing we were presented with were these incredibly fluffy Tillamook cheddar cheese biscuits ($5) dotted with bacon and chives served with hand churned butter. I was trying to pace myself but devoured an entire one. It was hard to resist.
One of my favorite items of the evening was Pickled Wild Gulf Shrimp, a delightful array of my favorite things in a jar. I loved the fennel, the beautiful array of radishes, and especially the pickled quail eggs. Of course the wild Gulf shrimp were delicious too, but those quail eggs won me over. This item was featured on the Mother’s Day menu this past Sunday.
We sampled three entrees, all of which were pretty outstanding. Chef Brandon is a master when it comes to seasoning proteins. I was highly impressed by how everything was salted to absolute perfection.
Cedar Plank Loch Duarte Salmon ($24) was melt-in-your-mouth tender with a really distinctive taste which I love in Scottish salmon. Accompanied with twice cooked fingerling potatoes, creamy kale and preserved kumquats, the latter is an accoutrement I did not expect to work with the dish, but it was genius.
I was so impressed by Pan Roasted Mary’s Chicken (served as half roasted chicken on the menu for $21) which was moist and juicy and of course, beautifully flavored. I’m not a huge fan of panzanella even though this particular one embodied some really rich roasted tomato piquancy.
The one which blew everyone away was Grilled Tavern Steak Bone-In 20oz Greater Omaha Ribeye ($35), at a perfect medium rare with an outstanding bone marrow butter on top. I was so full and took only half a piece of the steak, but ended up reaching for another half piece because it was just THAT good. If I had more room, I would no doubt have polished off half a piece of this.
Dessert was an Icebox Cake ($8) which was very interesting to me. I love how this is a no-bake cake using chocolate wafers and is layered with a mocha mascarpone cream, chocolate ganache and drizzled with raspberry coulis. I think even I am able to make this! So simple yet really pretty.
I cannot wait to return to Fireside Tavern to try more of what Chef Scott Brandon has to offer. This man can seriously cook, a highly attractive trait in my book!
at the Crowne Plaza Hotel
3131 Bristol St
Costa Mesa, CA 92626