Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sappy or Sweet at the Great Maple?

Great Maple
1133 Newport Center Drive
Newport Beach, CA 92660

The clock was ticking. It was four days into Newport Beach Restaurant Week, and we had not been to one restaurant yet. Lucky for us we had an open day on the calender, so we could make it to a restaurant. Which one to choose though? Last year at this time we had tried to go to Rustica for restaurant week. Unfortunately, they were having problems with their computers when we showed up, and they were closing early. Everything ended well because we ended up at Roy's, which was very good. Rustica is no more, and where it once stood is now the Great Maple, so that is where we headed for our restaurant week opening act.

The Great Maple is located in the middle of Fashion Island, right next to Nordstrom's. The restaurant is not huge. They do fit a great many tables in the space, without it feeling really cramped. Wood dominates the darkened dining area. The name Great Maple conjured up images of a hunting lodge in Canada, and the decor here is not too far from that. From our seats in the dining room, it is easy to see into the open kitchen. There is also a large patio that overlooks the hustle and bustle of the shoppers at the mall. After ordering from our casually clad server, this is what was brought to our table.

Before our meals arrived we were brought this bread, which came to us in a brown paper bag. The tiny loaf was sliced, and served warm. The butter was soft, creamy, and maybe touched with a little olive oil and dry herbs. A very nice start.

Katie did not want to order off of the restaurant week menu, so she struck out on her own with this Baguette Grilled Cheese with Salted Rosemary and Clover Honey. This is unlike any grilled cheese my Mom ever made me. This one was made with Brie cheese, which had a great flavor, but was really too rich. The caramelized onions and raisins served with this helped cut the richness of this sandwich a bit, but after eating half, both Katie and I were not sure we could eat the next two courses that were on the way.

Since Katie does not enjoy Calamari, I had this good sized appetizer all to myself. The squid was fried perfectly in it's heavy breading, and was lacking greasiness. The calamari was sprinkled with chili flakes and accompanied by olives, both of which added a little flavor surprise to each bite. The lemon caper mayo dipping sauce was heavy, and I kind of got tired of it by the end of this large appetizer. If you enjoy calamari, this will be the appetizer for you.

Katie had the run of the menu here, and off of it she chose the interesting sounding House Fried Pasta. The penne pasta was joined by scrambled eggs, fennel sausage, tomato, basil and Parmesan. After having the rich grilled cheese, she was happy that this was more on the mellow side. She got a little flavor from the sausage, and liked the freshness of this dish.

I knew out of the three selection for main dishes on the restaurant week menu, that I would be having the Flat Iron Steak Strip. This steak was cooked perfectly medium rare, but was not as tender as I would have liked. It was still good though. I like a good blue cheese, and the one that topped this steak was strong. The sauce around the plate helped cut the blue cheese flavor just enough. Green beans were okay, nothing out of the ordinary. Good sized hunk of meat.

Lately most desserts have really let me down. The Great Maple Chocolate Cake can be added to this list. Not sure if the cake was flour less, but it tasted like it was. The cake portion was kind of dry, but we did like the strong cocoa flavor here. Icing was nice and chocolaty, but it still could not make up for the dry cake portion. The Peanut Butter Banana Split will get my dessert attention on my next visit.

The staff at the Great Maple was very nice and professional. The managers were very active running food and refilling drinks. The menu here is not going to blow you away with its wide variety, but  it is varied enough that you should be able to find something to your liking. Serving sizes were generous, and we did leave the restaurant very full. Prices are not crazy bad, considering that you are eating at Fashion Island. No item is over $30, and most sit down restaurants at Fashion Island can probably not make the same claim. The menu does change three times a year, so that will add to the variety as well. We were glad we could make it here before the end of restaurant week.

Out of five bonsai trees, (because maples are a popular choice for growers of the miniature trees), five being best to zero being worst, the Great Maple gets 3 bonsai trees.

For more information on Great Maple, click here: http://www.greatmaplefashionisland.com/home.html

Great Maple Libations and Seasonal Plates on Urbanspoon

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