Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Popping the Cork on Champagnes New Dinner Menu

Champagnes Bistro and Deli
1260 Bison Ave.
Newport Beach, CA 92660

One of the best parts about writing this blog is getting invited to some great food events. We have been asked to come to some fantastic restaurant openings, great "taste of" nights, and some really awesome roll outs of new menu items. I am usually permitted to bring a guest, and it is usually Katie. She really enjoys these events, more for the social aspect, than the food. This was not the case with this event. In the three years we have been going to events, she has never been this excited, than the one we went to the other night at Champagnes Bistro and Deli.

Katie has a long relationship with Champagnes. She has worked in the area for about seven years, so she has had lunch here pretty frequently in that time. Also, when she lived down in Newport, she picked up some of their fresh packaged dinner selections as an alternative to fast food.

Champagnes has been around since 1989. In those twenty plus years they have always been in the same shopping center, right at the corner of MacArthur and Bison, but they have moved locations within the same center. Now they are in a more prominent, free standing building at the front of the center. When they opened, Champagnes was more of a market and deli than a restaurant. Since the move they are now refocusing on the dining aspect of the business. This past week they started serving dinner with waiter service beginning at 4:30 daily. This event was used to highlight their dinner offerings. I was getting pretty hungry, and lucky for me there was a lot of food on the way for us to try.

The new hot item in restaurants has got to be Brussels sprouts, and this is what they led off with at Champagnes. The Caramelized Brussels Sprouts ($8.50) are cooked with lemon, garlic, capers, and anchovies. My Mom never force fed us these miniature cabbages, so I have no ill will towards them like others might. I really enjoyed the version served here. Good caramelization and they really had a good char on them. This was a table favorite.

When we were coming to Champagnes, I would have never thought that they would have had Firecracker Shrimp ($10.95) on the menu. This Asian inspired dish came with a confetti cole slaw and a wasabi cream sauce. Although I did not observe the wasabi in this dish, the shrimp had more than enough flavor to help this along. The shrimp was moderately spicy on its own, and the cole slaw helped cool down this plate. The crispness of shrimp should be noted here. Very good appetizer.

I am really picky when it comes to crab cakes, and the Jumbo Lump Blue Crab Cake ($12.95) at Champagnes was pretty good. The crab is wild caught, and served over a bed of field greens, with mandarin oranges, basil aioli, and fizzled leeks. This crab cake was devoid of filler, like other restaurants crab cakes. You could actually taste the freshness of the crab here. I would have liked a creamy sauce, maybe a light tarter sauce to go along with this, but that would be my only complaint about this starter.

We were lucky enough to try Champagnes brick oven pizzas. The first one was the Classic Margherita ($10.95 / $14.95). This thin crust, handmade pizza came with tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, basil, tomatoes, and Parmesan cheese. What I noticed most here was the cheese, and the fresh taste of the ingredients used on this. The second pizza was more my style, and really hit the spot. The PSM - Pepperoni, Sausage, and Mushroom ($11.95/ $15.95) was a solid pie, and I would not hesitate to order this again. Both meats were good, the mushrooms plentiful, and the sauce really complimented the pizza. Good sized pizzas, and enough for leftovers the next day.

Anyone that reads this blog knows that I have a bias against salads with fruit in them. These are always the kind of salads I see little old ladies eat at Mimi's Cafe. I do not want to be grouped with these women, but I must admit that The "Farm-acy" Superfood Salad ($10.95) did come out pretty good. This salad was chalk full of items. Mixed greens, baby spinach, strawberries, blueberries, red grapes, apples, oranges, dried cranberries, celery, red onion, cucumber, spiced almonds, blue cheese, and an orange champagne vinaigrette. Basically this was the entire produce section in your local grocery store. The items were fresh and  the dressing allowed the  produce to be front and center.I am not going to switch to fruit salads anytime soon, but this is a good option for those of you that enjoy a little extra vitamin C with your greens.

Now on to the dinners from Champagnes. The first one we tried was the Chicken Breast "Paillard" ($13.95).  While I was writing this review I learned that paillard refers to a quick type of cooking. Three years into writing this blog and there is still so much for me to learn. Anyways, this chicken came with a lemon caper sauce, and was served with a salad of mixed greens, tender greens beans, mixed veggies, cherry tomatoes, and shaved Parmesan cheese. The salad portion of this was okay, but the chicken was very tender, and the lemon caper sauce was spot on.

It's summertime now, but eating the Braised Short Rib Beef Bourguignon ($18.95) advanced me six months into the future, when it is colder weather, and I could imagine eating this comfort food classic to heat me up. The short rib is cooked in a red wine with bacon, mushrooms, carrots, peas, and one of my favorites, pearl onions, alongside a flat noodle pasta. The meat was very tender and  the veggies were cooked just like you would like them. This is the kind of food that hugs you from the inside.

By this time I was getting pretty full, but they might have saved the best item for last. The Signature Champagnes Burger ($11.75) was well worth the wait. This Angus patty was topped with Tillamook cheddar cheese, caramelized onion relish, lettuce, tomato, and roasted garlic aioli. When eating burgers I am usually more about the toppings, but at Champagnes, the meat was cooked well and it was pretty juicy. The Tillamook cheese is always a winner in my book too. Great burger!

Dessert is not to be missed at Champagnes. We started off with the Sweetheart Coconut Cake ($5.95). This cake was moist, with a subtle cream icing and shredded coconut. I really enjoyed this cake. It is called the sweetheart cake because they place hearts of raspberry sauce and creme anglaise on the plate. I would call this cake the heartbreaker, because it could cause a fight between a couple sharing this, when deciding on who gets the last bite.

For all you chocolate lovers out there, this one is for you. The Callebaut Belgian Chocolate Mousse ($5.95) was served with whipped cream, strawberries, and shaved chocolate over it. The mousse was very light and the serving size was very generous. This was a rich dessert, without being overly heavy.

Before we left I wanted to snap a few pictures of the Market Center at Champagnes. This is the place to come if you want to take some fresh pre-packaged dinners to go. They also offer salads, freshly made deli sandwiches, and baked cookies and cakes. There is also a very large assortment of beers and wine that can be purchased here as well.

Our night at Champagnes could not have been better. The food was great, our fellow blogger's and media peers are always great dining companions, and of course the staff, from the owner on down to our servers were excellent.  Champagnes is a great dinner option that will not empty out your wallet. Nothing on their dinner menu is over $20, and the quality of the food is what will bring you back. This is a true family business. Owners Rand, Terry, and Tina are very involved in every aspect of this restaurant, and ensure that every guest leaves happy.

Thanks very much to everyone at Champagnes for a wonderful evening. Rand, Terry and Tina were very gracious hosts and you could tell that they are very proud of the food they serve, and it shows. Also thanks to our servers on this evening, Aman and Kelly. They worked very hard to keep all glasses full, and kept things moving at a very efficient pace. Thanks also goes out to one of the hardest working PR woman in OC, the great Jane Gillespie. She had to endure sitting next to me all night, so she definitely did her duty on this night. One last thanks goes to Phyllis Ann Marshall. She was so wonderful, and was eager to showcase this great family run restaurant. We look forward to coming back soon.

For more information on Champagnes Bistro and Deli, check out their web site here:


  1. Everything looks too yummy and delicious!!

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