Here’s The Pork in NB
The humble pig, which Homer Simpson once called a “magical animal,” has a lot to give. People flock to eat ribs, barbecue and bacon, which all come from a single beast. Newport Beach chefs and restaurateurs have employed many culinary methods to celebrate the pig. Here are 10 area pork dishes that you should experience.
Leave it to a barbecue joint to pile on the pork. This restaurant’s logo features a svelte blonde grilling ribs on the high seas, on a boat, with palm trees at her back, and promises “Big Texas Taste with a Bayside address.” The Fun Zone space features a white front with colorful sign, patio seats overlooking the water, and a simple interior with pressed tin ceiling and high-top blue stools. They’ve got baby back ribs, pulled pork and if you really want to give in to your inner glutton, a Big Pig Sandwich with pulled pork, hot link, and two slices of bacon, all slathered with BBQ sauce.
Chef Peter Petro presides over the kitchen at this industrial chic restaurant near John Wayne Airport, which is constructed with wood, steel, concrete and brick. Bosscat didn’t get a name like that by playing it safe. That means you’ll find flavor-forward comfort food dishes like Duroc pork belly poutine. Bosscat’s riff on this Québécois classic features “secret recipe fries” topped with all-natural pork belly, cheese curds, gravy and a duck fat fried egg to boot.
This Beverly Hills born chain, which dates to 1978, features a Newport Beach location in Fashion Island. The grand space contains wood accents, tile floors, a fully loaded cheesecake case, and a patio overlooking the mall’s parking lot. The menu touts massive portions of more than 250 dishes, including many different pork preparations. Their biggest offering is the bone-in, center-cut pork chop, which is brined with fresh herbs and spices. The chop is charred on the grill, but stays rosy and juicy inside. Accompaniments include house-made applesauce, mashed potatoes and fresh spinach.
This beloved Chinese restaurant at the base of Balboa Peninsula features white walls lined with a blue surfboard and beach photos, and an illuminating skylight. The cuisine might be light and “Californiental,” but they still find room for pork on the menu. They’ve got barbecued spare ribs, cha siu bao that are either steamed or baked, and barbecued pork lo mein with noodles tossed with oyster sauce and bean sprouts.
Pork punctuates many dishes at this seasonal, freeway-friendly café from Chef Hyun-Sook “Juliette” Chung and John Hughes in Plaza Newport. Fried pork belly joins shallots, parsley and pomegranate molasses gastrique in a Brussels sprout starter. Share plates include pork cheeks with charred spring garlic, fava beans, pickled ramps, pine nuts, radish and chile mint gastrique. A popular main course stars Kurobuta pork shank, potato confit, baby turnips, leeks, pickled mustard seed and rosemary braising jus.
This Italian “cucina rustica” from owners Phil and Linda Crowley resides in Crystal Cove Promenade. The space features green awnings, walls dressed with modern art, a speckled bar, and tables coated with white cloths. Ground pork joins ground beef in several dishes. They team with tomato and minced vegetables to form a hearty meat sauce that blankets tagliatelle. Ground pork and beef also factors into lasagna di carne that’s layered with house-made spinach pasta, herbed ricotta, marinara and Provolone. Pork comes through clearest in polpettone, a substantial meatloaf that also contains beef, Parmesan, garlic and fresh herbs. Slabs are sliced thin and bathe in Marsala wine sauce.
Legendary chef Roy Yamaguchi, managing partner Tim Lowenberg and chef partner John Vega deliver the flavors of Hawaii to Fashion Island. A palm lined exterior gives way to a dining room with sumptuous red booths, art-lined walls and exposed wood beams. Pork stars into Szechuan spiced, St. Louis cut ribs, which are braised in aromatic pork stock and glazed with Roy’s original Mongolian sauce, a savory mixture of hoisin, sambal oelek, chopped garlic, chopped ginger and teriyaki sauce. The ribs are char-grilled before serving, which leads to smoky caramelization.
Peter O. Sabatino carries on traditions of his family’s legendary local sausage company, which resides near the Lido Peninsula waterfront. The space features murals of the Italian waterfront, checked tablecloths, and a market with coiled, house-made sausage. Their signature dish involves sizzling Italian pork sausage with oozing goat’s milk cheese, served with sautéed peppers and onions. Sabatino’s sausage also helps to stuff zucchini, gets plated with rigatoni, and joins fluffy ricotta in pasta rolls, to name just three options.
Innovative Dining Group’s sushi concept started in L.A. and now has a chic Fashion Island outpost. The space features bonsai accents, boxy lanterns, and a stained glass and steel installation that looks like people are playing Tetris above the bar. Sure, Sushi Roku dispenses plenty of seafood, but don’t sleep on their meat. Spicy pork belly “Kakuni” fried rice layers savory elements like sesame oil, kimchi sauce, soy sauce and Vietnamese fish sauce. Hakata Ramen touts a spicy miso pork broth that’s bolstered with ground garlic, butter, grilled pork cha shu, soft-boiled egg, steamed spinach, nori and more.
This Spanish inspired restaurant near John Wayne Airport is best known for live Flamenco performances. Tapas houses a patio with red umbrellas, but all of the action takes place indoors, where you’ll find art-lined walls, tables with red cloths, and a prominent stage. The restaurant also serves hearty tapas. Pork Valencia features pork loin topped with Spanish chorizo and pear sauce, melding savory and savory. Pork a la Manzana is a sweeter preparation, topped with sautéed green apple in Port wine sauce.