Thursday, August 11, 2011

Vacation Day at Tommy Bahama's

Tommy Bahama's Bar and Grille
854 Avocado Ave.
Newport Beach, CA 92660

I have been dreaming about going on vacation for some time now. Unfortunately, vacation is months away. So I will have to find places that will fool myself into thinking I am already on vacation. Enter Tommy Bahama's Bar and Grille.

Before dinner we strolled through the retail store that is attached to this restaurant. I had never been in a Tommy Bahama store before. If you are like me, think Hawaiian shirts of varying colors with price tags that are priced in the triple digits. The t-shirts in this store can go for as much as $75. Luckily, we were not here to buy clothes, we were here to eat.

There are thirteen Tommy Bahama restaurants operating today. Orange County is home to two of these, with the other OC location being in Laguna Beach. This island themed restaurant is located just outside Fashion Island. The clientele is on the older side, with an up class-casual feel to the restaurant. The lazy ceiling fans and swaying palm plants temporarily transmit you to a tropical island or a Jimmy Buffet video shoot. Before we snap back to reality, let's check out the food in our island oasis.

Both Mary and I started our night off with an alcoholic beverage. She had the Grapefruit Basil Martini. This concoction was made with Grey Goose, fresh basil and of course grapefruit juice. The result was an interesting combination that Mary called refreshing. My drink was the manly looking Mai Tai. This was an average tasting mai tai. Not the best, nor the worst one I have ever had. Wish this one was a little sweeter.

The first of our two appetizers was the very island inspired Macadamia Encrusted Goat Cheese. This was served on a bed of mango salsa, and drizzled with a sweet soy glaze. I am not much of a goat cheese person, but I felt that this sounded better than it was. Even Matt, who loves goat cheese, did not rave about this dish. I also thought that the flat bread was an odd choice for this appetizer.

My choice for a starter did not draw raves either. The Crab Tacos were over stuffed with greens, and the crab tasted bland, even after adding the two sauces this was served with. I would skip this starter the next time.

Now on to the salad portion of our show. I went with my old reliable, the Classic Caesar. This was an average salad. The pecorino romano cheese was good, but there could have been more dressing on this. Katie had the Harvest Salad, which featured baby greens, heirloom tomatoes, dried cranberries, with a lemon vinaigrette. She was not impressed with the dressing, calling it, "tasteless and bland".

Now on to the main dishes. Katie opted to get something off of the special menu when she ordered the Italian Butter Fish. This light and flaky fish got rave reviews from all that tried. it. The rice and lemon sauce complimented this dish very well. She was a very happy girl after getting this.

Great minds must think alike, because Mary also ordered a fish dish off of the special menu, but this time it was the Barramundi. She was not as enthusiastic as Katie was about her meal. She felt the fish was a little too fishy, and the capers and sauce made this a very heavy dish, which led her to remark that she would skip this plate next time she was here. The side items of potatoes and sliced, grilled tomatoes really got lost here, and added nothing to the meal.

Matt, to no ones surprise, had a steak. He chose the Petite Filet Mignon. Everyday this is prepared differently. I am not sure what kind of sauce this was presented with when we were here, but Matt said this was very tender, and cooked well. His only complaint about this was that the eight ounce portion size did not fill him up enough.

Prime Flat Iron Steak was the order of the day for me. This steak was not as good as I thought it could be. The steak was over cooked, and not very tender. The Maytag Bleu cheese and sauce really helped bring this steak to average status. The garlic mashed potatoes were good, but could have had more garlic flavor. Not sure I would get this again.

Okay I admit, we went a little crazy with the desserts here. We ordered four of the six that they offered this night. We will start off with the best one for me, the Chocolate Malted Cake. This rich, chocolate disc started with a great cookie crust, then topped with a dense chocolate mousse, light chocolate flavored cream, and finished with Heath bar crumbles. Wish I had more room when this came around, because it was really that great.

Red Velvet continues to be a big draw. In fact, on our way to the restaurant we walked by Sprinkles, with a line out the door. Most of the people I saw eating cupcakes outside were indeed having red velvet cupcakes. At Tommy Bahama's, we did not just settle for a tiny cupcake, we had a whole slice. The cake portion of this was a little on the dry side, but what really redeemed this dessert was the icing. Classic cream cheese frosting really saved the day here. Red Velvet fans should not miss this cake.

The Butterscotch Pudding was next, and had the most polarizing effect at our table. The girls felt that the pudding was too gritty, while both Matt and I liked the smoothness of the pudding. In the end we were right and they were wrong. I did not really get a big butterscotch taste here, but that might be because my mouth was still preoccupied with the chocolate malted cake.

What would an island themed restaurant be without a coconut cake? Here the coconut cake is three layered with pineapple frosting between the layers. The coconut was not as prominent as I would have liked here, but the cake was very light and moist. Very good cake.

What did I learn from our visit to Tommy Bahama's? I learned that, just like Tommy Bahama clothes, the restaurant might not be for everyone. The service the night we were here was very good, but I felt the prices were a little on the high side, for the portion size that you receive. The meals were okay, nothing fantastic. What really impressed me were the desserts that we had. All of them out shined the entree's and appetizers. We will probably forgo the dinner next time and just head straight to the dessert tray. But isn't that what you are supposed to do when you are on an imagined vacation?

So, out of five palm trees, (since this is an island themed restaurant, and I told myself I would not include any Gilligan references), five being best to zero being worst, Tommy Bahama's gets 2.5 palm trees.

For more information on Tommy Bahama's Bar and Grille, click here:

 Tommy Bahama's Bar & Grille on Urbanspoon

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