2531 Eastbluff Dr.
Newport Beach, CA 92660
When the calendar turns from one year to the next, I get pretty excited. Not only did I make it through another holiday season, but the new year means that there are a whole slew of Restaurant weeks happening all over OC. The first part of the year for restaurants is generally pretty slow. People dieting and trying to save money are pretty much the reasons for this. So the restaurant industry has come up with restaurant weeks to lure people to ditch those new years resolutions, and get in their doors. This is real good news for food lovers, such as myself.
For those of you that don't now how restaurant weeks work, these primarily happen in one specific city, for the period of a week, and are at numerous restaurants within the city. The restaurants offer set menus for a designated price. Most of the time there are three courses, with two to three selections to choose from per course. I really enjoy doing the research on finding the restaurants that offer the most bang for your buck. Sometimes though, like this night, I just picked this restaurant because I have had it on my list of places forever. That's why we made the choice to spend our Newport Beach Restaurant Week experience at Provenance.
Provenance comes to us from the great Cathy Pavlos, of LUCCA in Irvine. She opened that restaurant in 2005, and has won tons of awards and accolades at that location. This is her second OC venture, which opened in the spring of 2014, and has gained some good praise from local foodies and some of my favorite food bloggers.
Provenance takes over the beloved Sage Restaurant, which was in this spot for a good many years. They are going for a Napa Valley kind of feel to this restaurant, and based on our experience as we walked in this place, I'd say that they nailed it. Sandwiched between a Ralph's supermarket and a CVS Pharmacy, you definitely lose that strip mall kind of feel once you are inside the space. Helping in this is a 1,300 square foot garden in the back of the restaurant, which yields its bountiful offerings to that days menu.
We had reservations at 6pm, and were seated promptly by a very nice hostess. My hurried count of tables were 12 each inside and outside, most of which were filled during our visit. Our waiter let us know that they were twice as busy as usual due to the Newport Restaurant Week promotion. The restaurant has a nice, clean look to it, with lots of exposed, lighter woods present, and a large glimmering wine case as a focal point of the restaurant. The chairs were not particularly comfortable, as they did not allow for slouching, which would make my elementary school teachers very happy, as I was told to sit up straight about a thousand times during my school days. We quickly made our selections off the $40 pre-fixed menu, and waited anxiously for our food to come out. This is how it all unfolded for us.
Starting things off for us were these House Made Yogurt Biscuits. These had a great balance of not being too light, while also not being too dense. A very delicate balance to achieve. A bigger burst of flavor than what I was expecting, these were made even better with the generous sized serving of honey butter that accompanied these. We made these disappear rather quickly.
Dining off of the restaurant week menu, both Katie and I always choose differently, so we can get a good cross section of what a restaurant has to offer. She selected this Cauliflower and Quinoa Soup to start. Katie really enjoyed this soup. It had a heartiness to it, but it was not so heavy that it bogged her down. She also loved the drizzle of creme fraiche on the top of it.
To be honest, Katie had taken my first choice on the appetizer portion of the menu, so I went with my second choice, the Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad. This salad came with a whole lot of items involved in it. Included with the brussels sprouts was a crispy prosciutto, walnuts, dried apricots, arugula, scallions, shaved Parmesan, celery, and a champagne-dijon vinaigrette. This salad was a miss for me. Yes, a lot of this salad was fresh, probably a lot of it from their garden, but for as many things as went into this salad, it was kind of boring. The arugula really took over here, while there was not too much in the way of brussels sprouts on the portion that I had. The crispy prosciutto was hard to get through, and the light touch of the dressing was not enough to awaken my taste buds.
We've been to a lot of restaurants during restaurant weeks, and they almost always put a short rib on the menu, and that was the case here at Provenance. This Angus Beef Boneless Short Rib was placed on top of cheesy grits, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, roasted shallots, a veal demi glace, and a citrus gremolata. I learned that gremolata is a herb condiment made up of lemon, parsley, and garlic. Thanks Google. Katie loved the tenderness of this short rib, as it just fell apart as her fork went near the meat. The wonderful flavor of the beef went very well with the cheesy grits. She would have a hard time ordering anything else here.
It's probably not too surprising that I would order a menu item named the Turf and Turf, which consisted of a Certified Angus Beef Ribeye and Mongolian BBQ Spiced New Zealand Lamb Chops. I do enjoy my fair share of meat, and if I can get two kinds on the same plate, I could not pass that opportunity up. We'll start with the ribeye. It was pretty average. I liked the look of this steak more than the actual taste of it. The meat itself tasted fine, but needed a sauce or more seasoning to make it more interesting. The grill marks were evident, but it was cooked medium well, rather than my preferred medium rare. In fact they did not even ask me how I wanted this prepared, which I thought was weird when I now think about it. The steak was plopped right on top of some hand cut fries, which were good, but cut a little too thin, and almost resembled potato chips. Much more to my liking were the two lamb chops that came nicely seasoned, with plenty of meat on them. I could have eaten a lot more of these. Not too gamey, like a lot of lamb can be, these were tender and juicy. A big highlight of the night for me.
Dessert was up next, and Katie tried the Dark Chocolate Creme Brulee. I know what you're thinking, that doesn't look like creme brulee. That's what I thought too. No caramelized top, it was more like a chocolate mousse. Not overly sweet, and not anything Katie was thrilled with. She would opt for a one of their fruit based desserts on her next visit.
I'll preface this part of my meal by stating that I'm not really a big fan of deconstructed desserts, and especially when there's no mention of it being deconstructed on the menu. Luckily, I had done a little research before coming here, so I knew what I was getting into when I ordered this. I love carrot cake, but this Old Fashioned Carrot Cake was not my favorite version of this classic dessert. Because this was deconstructed, it was real hard trying to get the perfect bite here. The cake was not very moist, and this needed more icing than what was provided. Disappointing end to the meal.
Leaving Provenance I kind of felt like both Katie and I had two different experiences based on what we ordered. Her short rib and soup were both really good, but my steak, salad, and dessert really disappointed. I can see what they are trying to do here. They are trying to be a little experimental, but you don't want to misguide people. The food is very fresh, but some of it is misrepresented on their menu. The carrot cake, chocolate creme brulee, and their brussels sprout salad need to be described a little better, or renamed altogether. It's definitely lighter food, and you can leave here after eating a three course meal like us, and not go home with that heavy feeling in your gut. Yes, I probably ordered the wrong things, but thanks to Newport Beach Restaurant Week, at least I did not pay full price for my meal. We'd definitely come back, as I hear that their brunch is pretty stellar. For now, we are looking forward to Orange County Restaurant Week, which begins the first week of March. A great time of the year to be a foodie.
Out of five easels, (because the word provenance is the origin or history of an object, usually in relation to a work of art, many of which are created using easels), five being best to zero being worst, Provenance gets 3 easels.
For more information about Provenance, go to their website here: http://www.provenanceoc.com/