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Hottest New Restaurants in Town: Fig & Olive and Red O

January 10, 2014
  • Hottest New Restaurants in Town: Fig & Olive and Red O
  • Hottest New Restaurants in Town: Fig & Olive and Red O

Two new dining hotspots opened in Fashion Island last month: Fig & Olive, and Red O. We dined at both recently, and came away thoroughly impressed with our experiences.

Red O

From the day Chef Rick Bayless opened his Mexican-influenced Red O, it’s been one of the most popular places in town, and no wonder—Bayless is one of the chefs who has helped change the image of Mexican food in America.

Bayless fans know him from his PBS series “Mexico—One Plate at a Time,” and from his seven cookbooks. But he’s also opened a string of popular restaurants, dating back to 1987 when he launched two Chicago restaurants, Frontera Grill and Topolobampo.

He opened the Los Angeles Red O several years ago, and now brings his dynamic concept to Newport Beach.

The menu features both authentic Mexican and lighter California-style dishes, all with a creative Bayless spin.

We love the décor and the large U-shaped bar, which is popular and usually crowded. And if you don’t have dinner reservations, expect a long wait.

We’ve had drinks and nibbles at the bar (the warm chips and house made salsas are terrific accompaniments to any cocktail), but we recently returned for lunch to get the full dining experience.

The interior is what we’d call relaxed yet upscale—casual clothes suffice by day, but a bit dressy is more appropriate for evening.

We began our lunch escapade with a tasting of guacamole ($14): a sampling of four well-blended guacamoles including pomegranate-walnut, classic, macha and yuzu.

“They all have unique flavors and it’s hard to choose my favorite,” said Catherine after sampling all four. “I thought the most interesting one was the pomegranate-walnut, which had a blend of toasted walnuts, pomegranate seeds and sun dried tomatoes. I especially liked dipping the sweet plantains that come with the tasting in the sweet and salty guacamole.”

We decided to split an entrée: the braised short rib enchiladas ($24), which consisted of two enchiladas with red guajillo chile sauce, melted Sonoma Jack cheese, black beans, frisee and watercress. To say we loved every bite is an understatement.

We also got the side of Mexican street corn ($7), which is “deconstructed” with cotija, Serrano- cilantro crema. Again, delicious and creative.

We came away full, impressed, and ready to go back for more.

For more information, call (949) 718-0300 or visit RedORestaurant.com.

Fig & Olive

Opened just before Christmas, Fig & Olive is the newest Newport restaurant, and possibly the trendiest—in a good way.

The Fashion Island location is the second on the West Coast (the other is in West Hollywood).

Inspired by the coastal regions in the south of France, FIG & OLIVE Newport Beach aims to capture the essence and flavors of the coastal towns along the French Riviera, with a menu crafted by Executive Chef Pascal Lorange. Translation: pricy and exotic, but well worth it.

“This is a great place to enjoy tastes of multiple dishes, since they follow the European style of smaller portion sizes so you can have multiple courses,” noted Catherine when we had dinner here.

Our server, Anna, walked us through the impressive and extensive menu. Thanks to her, we started with a trio of crostinis ($12). Our favorite was the one with shrimp, avocado, cilantro and tomato. We also ordered the truffle mushroom croquette appetizer ($14).

“This is my new must-have,” stated Catherine after we devoured the decadent dish. “The croquettes were crisp with a creamy filling and a pronounced truffle flavor.”

For entrees, we ordered pumpkin sage ravioli ($26) and truffle risotto ($26).

The ravioli dish featured four large ravioli stuffed with braised chicken, ricotta cheese and charmoula, with a pumpkin olive oil emulsion, toasted pumpkin seeds Parmesan and aged balsamic with Frantoio Olive Oil.

The truffle risotto had two different mushrooms and truffle olive oil.

Both were simple dishes, yet packed with flavor and beautifully presented on the plate.

We also had two sides: sautéed spinach with figs, garlic and marcona almonds, and roasted beets with caramelized onions and almonds ($9 each). Again, full of flavor, perfectly prepared.

Were we impressed? Yes. Will we be back? Oh, yes!

For more information, call (949) 718-0300 or visit FigandOlive.com.

Written by Christopher Trela

For more articles on dining out in Newport Beach, see the Off the Menu column in the Newport Beach Independent at NewportBeachIndy.com

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