I don’t typically post my stories at night, but because it is OC Restaurant Week, I feel compelled to do so simply because there isn’t much time for you to get out there to enjoy it otherwise.
This week sees a myriad of restaurants coming together to showcase their menus to those of you who might not have had the opportunity to dine at said restaurant yet. I always recommend you venture out to some of Orange County’s best restaurants for a meal, especially one you’ve been on the fence about. This year, I’m only visiting one restaurant, and that restaurant is Provenance in Newport Beach.
**Orange County Business Journal’s Fifi Chao has just selected Chef Cathy Pavlos, chef/owner of Provenance as the magazine’s Chef of the Year, and Ms Fifi is the grande dame of food writers in Orange County!**
The restaurant might not be much from the outside, but once you step inside, you’re transported to a beautiful Napa-esque dining room complete with an edible garden along the outside patio wall. (photo courtesy of Great Taste Magazine).
The restaurant week menu is $40 for 3-courses, and Chef Cathy’s offerings are a steal. Before we get to it, we begin with Mediterranean Crab Cakes ($16.50) off the regular menu. These little morsels of light airy crab is crispy on the outside. Paired with chunks of avocado and mango, topped with a jalepeno and cabbage slaw. The ramekin of chipotle aioli is a perfect accompaniment, adding a little smoky kick to the finish.
We also enjoy Herb Smoked and Grilled Artichoke ($14.50), a whole Californian artichoke seasoned with black garlic and white miso butter sauce, then smoked with rosemary, thyme and oregano. Even though it takes a little bit of work to get to the core, the result is an addicting flavor on the palate, making you want more.
The restaurant week menu starts off with Chef’s Warm Yogurt Biscuits. They are flaky and hard to resist, especially when slathered with the honey butter made daily from scratch.
Between the four of us, we select two of the three appetizer offerings. Clipped Garden Lettuces is a mix of baby greens with cherry heirloom tomatoes, edamame, shaved carrots, artichoke hearts, fennel and garden herbs all tossed in a Napa White Verjus vinaigrette.
However, it is the Spicy Carrot-Ginger-Coconut Milk Soup which blows us all away. I’m not able to detect any dairy which is a huge plus for those of us who are lactose intolerant. The soup is light, vibrant and thoroughly complex in flavor. The coconut is aromatic, but does not overpower. It is one of the best things I’ve eaten this year.
Next comes our entrees. There are five options and I’m happy to say, we each pick a different one. Meaty All Natural Beef Boneless Shortribs is a rich dish reminiscent of Mexican mole, braised in chile, bitter chocolate and sherry. It is served with cheesy grits, charred Brussels sprouts and baby carrots.
All Natural Pork Tenderloin is wrapped in Applewood smoked bacon, sous vide and then finished off on the plancha. The smoky adobo sauce, pico de gallo and cilantro brings out the “California Asada Style” as described on the menu. There is also Indian fry-bread on the plate – maybe one of the most luxurious version of any fry bread you’ll ever eat.
Grilled New Zealand Lamb Chops are always a hit here. In fact, we tend to order lamb a lot at Chef Cathy’s restaurants (she also owns Lucca Café in Irvine). These perfectly seared chops are coated in a honey-balsamic glaze served with mini stuffed baked potatoes, pan-seared garden greens – beans and spinach – and a refreshing minted fruit salsa adding brightness to the meat.
The three meat options are all stellar, but it is the Seared Whole Boneless Idaho Trout that is the star of the evening. The fish is flawless, so moist and tender, with its delicate flesh kissed by the various herbs and citrus it is stuffed with. It is absolutely stunning. I would totally come back and order this again (everything is offered on the regular menu).
As usual, I’m not all that interested in dessert, but I manage to take a bite of all three selections. I’m happy to see that the desserts are smaller versions of their originals. Dark Chocolate Crème Brulee is a no brainer for chocoholics, a rich, fudgy mousse, served with a raspberry coulis and whipped cream.
Old Fashioned Carrot Cake is not like any other carrot cake you’ve ever eaten. The lemon mascarpone cream cheese is fragrant with blueberries and walnuts. I am very impressed by how balanced the sweetness is.
My favorite – shock horror – is Apple Pie on the Beach because I’m not a fan of apples. Additionally, I usually will find the combination of caramelized apples, Bourbon sauce and caramel cloying sweet, but here, the result is surprisingly subtle. The gingerbread crust is delightful, lending a textural contrast to the bowl.
If you are trying to decide where to dine this week, Provenance is one which I believe should not be missed. The menu here is always on point, using top quality ingredients, prepared expertly by a chef who is so utterly passionate about food. You can truly taste the love and care that comes straight from the heart.
2531 Eastbluff Dr
Newport Beach, CA 92660