Restaurants open and close in Orange County at a rate that may get your head spinning. If you’re not fast enough, a restaurant might close before you even get to it. A permanent fixture in Newport Beach is A Restaurant, and the reason behind its success is Chef Jon Blackford. Now, the team at A brings you a new restaurant — CdM — a modernized counterpart to A.
At CdM, velvet blue booths line the wall, with a bar in the middle sharing space with low tables, surrounded by tan deco-style leather chairs. It is vintage re-imagined, but here in California, feel free to saunter in without the pomp and circumstance of a dinner jacket, even when the surroundings evoke a chic, timeless embodiment of elegance from a bygone era.
We sit in a booth with a perfect view of the bar, where Ravin Buzzell, craft bartender extraordinaire, is busy at work. I first encountered Ravin when he was at YNK, and was blown away by the creative drinks he concocted. It is awesome to see him overseeing the bar program here, so even if you’re not a drinker, I insist you order a cocktail. You might even end up ordering two!
While the menu at A Restaurant is on the traditional side, leaning heavier on meat, CdM’s menu is more playful. You’ll find delectable farm-to-table fare ranging from pastas, pizzas, big plates, and a handful of incredible dishes focused solely on vegetables.
Start with warm, soft Parker House Rolls ($8) served with beurre de baratte, whipped A5 tallow, and fleur de sel. The butter is so addicting I was slathering it on the rolls, but it is the A5 tallow that is truly decadent. It melts seconds after touching the pillowy buns, and the rich mouthfeel is simply divine.
The Duck Liver Pate ($14) is a must. This house-made creamy pot of lusciousness is best smeared on top of the grilled bread, topped with a little huckleberry gelee, huckleberry conserva, mustard, and a pinch of greens. The combination of velvety and crispy textures are heavenly on the palate.
Although it is slightly heavy for spring, Morels + Peas ($15) utilizes the best seasonal produce paired with creamy Anson Mills polenta. Beautiful spring peas are still in season and lend a delicate sweetness, while morel mushrooms bring a touch of earthiness. Add to that crème fraîche, fines herb (traditionally tarragon, chervil, chives and parsley), a runny fried egg, and the result is a comforting bowl of sheer joy.
BBQ Heirloom Carrots ($14) is positively my favorite item of the night. Vegetarians will absolutely love these tender carrots tossed in a house-made BBQ rub and pecan butter, dressed with herb dressing, and garnished with fresh dill. I’m not vegetarian and I am SO happy eating just a plate of these.
I would highly recommend ordering a pizza. CdM Spicy Pizza ($22) starts with a crispy crust, topped with nduja (spicy spreadable Italian salumi), rapini, sweet garlic, crushed tomatoes and stracchino — a soft and creamy cheese. The spiciness of the nduja, paired with the slight bitterness of the rapini, combine together for a flavor explosion on the palate.
If you’re a fan of pasta, don’t miss “Dirty Pasta” ($18) a house-made thick rigatoni with ground duck, sage, aromatics, and ricotta salata, a dry, crumbly cheese. I love the savoriness of ricotta salata, and it is the perfect accompaniment to this robust pasta.
Since Chef Blackford is a master when it comes to meat, you can be sure the Akaushi Skirt Steak ($32) will not disappoint. The steak is a perfect medium rare and well seasoned. Accoutrements of fingerling potatoes, charred broccolini, and sweet garlic, join ranchero sauce for a solid offering. Frankly, I’d like to double the amount of broccolini on my plate… it is exceptionally tasty.
Right now, it is almost impossible to get into CdM without a reservation, but I would suggest you keep trying. Or, you can always go early and snag a seat at the bar where you can enjoy the full menu, as well as everything the bar has to offer. If for some reason all the bar stools are full, the speakeasy downstairs may be an alternative for some drinks and bites at a more relaxed pace.
Valet parking offered at $6.
2325 E Coast Hwy
Corona del Mar, CA 92625