Thursday, May 23, 2013

Rise and Shine, it's Time for Sol's Take on Brunch

Sol Cocina
251 E. Coast Highway
Newport Beach, CA 92660

Yes it is true, another post about Sol Cocina. This just happens to be one of Katie's favorite restaurants, and one that we frequent quite often. Anything to keep the woman happy I guess. I actually do enjoy the food here too. We have been to Sol Cocina for dinner, for a couple of media events, and now we are trying the brunch here. Along with us on this trip are my parents, who are trying Sol for the first time.

Sol Cocina comes to us from Executive Chef and Partner, Deborah Schneider. I have had the pleasure of meeting Chef Deb a few times, and can honestly say that she is as nice, as her food is good, and I love her food. She has written five cookbooks, including the James Beard nominated, "Cooking with the Seasons at Rancho La Puerta". Her passion for Baja cooking comes from her many trips down the coast, observing the small street stands which offer flavorful and healthy food. Chef Deb has brought what she learned in Mexico across the border, and opened Sol Cocina to help showcase her culinary talents. Now with two locations, (this Newport Beach location, and one in Scottsdale), they have just announced that a new sister restaurant to Sol will be opening at the Bella Terra Center in Huntington Beach. It will be called Solita, and will be a neighborhood-casual restaurant serving items that have bold flavors, while integrating traditional favorites with other more imaginative dishes. I can not wait to see what they come up with when this sister restaurant opens in September. For now though, I was really excited to try the brunch at Sol, so let's see how it turned out for us.

We got to Sol at about 10:30 on a recent Sunday morning. I had made reservations, so we did not have more than a couple of minutes of a wait. We were very lucky to get one of the last tables overlooking the marina. If at all possible, ask to be seated overlooking the water, whether on the outside patio or in the restaurant, with a window seat. It kind of gives the impression of being on vacation. The brunch crowd definitely was a little late in arriving, but by the time we left the restaurant was pretty full. I am usually partial to all you can eat brunches, but this one had a menu to order off of. After ordering from the waitress, this is what came out for us.

I was pretty hungry at this almost lunchtime hour, so I was happy to see that Sol Cocina serves their Taste of Baja, which consists of salt, lime wedges, and hot sauce, along with an addicting bean dip and a salsa that had a mild spice to it. The big round chips did not last too long at our table, as they were being gobbled up by the four of us. I definitely had more than my fair share of that bean dip. So good. The main plates were coming, so I really had to test my willpower to stop eating this bean dip.

If you can avoid being distracted from my Dad's wonderful peach Hawaiian shirt, you will see that he ordered the Crab and Shrimp Cakes Benedicto ($17.50). This unusual take on an eggs Benedict used the shrimp and crab cake as a base, then it was topped with a poached egg and a chipotle-orange hollandaise sauce. It is also served with black beans, a few slices of avocado, and bacon on the side. My Dad really had a hard time putting this away. It was very rich, and I was the willing recipient of what he could not finish. The crab and shrimp cake had a great crunch to it, and the hollandaise sauce was spot on, with a very subtle chipotle flavor to it. The one drawback I would say about this was that the seafood really got pushed to the background in this dish. Not surprising with everything going on here, but I would have liked the crab to play a more prominent role.

Before I had got to Sol, I had looked at the menu and picked out something I would have liked to have ordered. My Mom beat me to this Breakfast Changa ($11.75). This deep fried breakfast burrito came stuffed with scrambled eggs, cheese, bacon, Serrano chilies, cream cheese and onions. It is then topped with pico de gallo, avocado slices, and crema. Again, and not surprisingly, I got to eat what my Mom could not finish of this dish as well. I was really cleaning up here. I thought this changa was going to be a little more fried than it was. I would have liked the tortilla to be a little crisper. The insides of this had some big time flavors going on. The cream cheese kind of melted away, but the creaminess remained. Not something you could eat everyday, but once in a while this would be a welcome treat.

Katie's plate of food really lacked the color of the rest of ours. Maybe I should have had my Dad's peach shirt lurking in the background for this shot as well. Katie went with the Sol Chilaquiles Verde ($11.75). You do have the option to have this with meat added for three dollars more, but Katie declined this option. Pieces of corn tortilla are sauteed in a tomatillo salsa, along with queso fresco, then topped with eggs, crema, cotixa cheese, and onions. Katie felt this was really a well made brunch plate, but the tomatillo salsa was very mild. She has decided that she favors red salsa with chilaquiles. The chips were still crisp, which is very hard to find in a chilaquiles. She would probably get something else on future brunch visits here.

Since my Mom got the changa, I selected my second choice, the Papas Papi ($12.50). This started with a bunch of thick cut red potatoes and onions, then melted cheese on top of that, then a whole mess of items; Serrano chilies, crema, chorizo, bacon, pico de gallo, green onions, and then topped with three fried eggs. The base of this version of a breakfast skillet was very good and flavorful. I, of course would have liked even more chorizo and bacon, but I made due with what was given to me. I liked the flavors here, but this really needed more cheese. I should have also asked for the eggs to have runny yolks. That's my new thing, I have grown very fond of a runny yolk at breakfast. This was a very filling plate of food, and kept me full until dinner time.

I liked the brunch at Sol Cocina, but it still is not as good as the dinners here. The brunch was good, but nothing really rocked my world on this visit. After eating my food, and some of my parents, I was definitely very full. The food had a great flavor, but I might have been expecting more because I am so fond of the lunch and dinners here. The atmosphere for brunch can not be beat though. The great view, the laid back vibe, and the wonderful service really made this visit for me. My Mom took advantage of the $10 Bottomless Mimosa, and our waitress Donna was right on top of it every time the glass was nearing empty. My Dad had the Sol Bloody Mary ($8) and made very quick work of it. We all agreed that we would definitely come back for brunch, and eating here really got my parents excited to try their dinners in the near future. A return trip that both Katie and I are always up for.

Out of five soccer balls, (because the former women's professional soccer team based in LA, was called the Los Angeles Sol), five being best to zero being worst, Sol Cocina gets 3 soccer balls.

For more information about Sol Cocina, go to their web site here:

Sol Cocina on Urbanspoon

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