Thursday, April 9, 2015

Romantic Date Night at Juliette

Juliette Kitchen and Bar
1000 N. Bristol St. #11
Newport Beach, CA. 92660

It has been some time since we have gone out on a true date night. You know the kind of night. The night where it's just you two, you get dressed up a little bit more than you usually do, and you even splash a little extra cologne on yourself. The kind of night that you look at yourself in the mirror and think, not half bad. It was one of those nights.

One other ritual that I have on date night is to go to the computer, and check out my list of restaurants that we need go to. There are lots of places on this list, but some are easily eliminated as not date night worthy places. I don't think the 20 places I have listed for breakfast burritos would make Katie feel so great about dressing up. About halfway down my list, there it was, Juliette Kitchen and Bar. My notation next to this restaurant, was that they had a really good burger. Not sure I was going to get it, but I did have it in the back of my mind.

Juliette comes to us from the former owners of the Filling Station in Old Town Orange. Run by a husband and wife team, and now they have incorporated their daughter into the mix as the pastry chef. Housed in the former Tradition by Pascal spot, right behind the Coco's and next door to the much buzzed about Moulin Bistro, this kitchen is headed up by Executive Chef Daniel Hyatt, who had a previous stint at Nesai, which is also on our must try list. Chef Hyatt's menu is divided into three main categories, small, share, and large plates. The menu is changed frequently, so their offerings may be a little different based on what's available.

We arrived with reservations at 8pm on a recent Saturday night, and were seated promptly. The restaurant is a little on the loud side, but we could still hear each other, much to Katie's chagrin I'm sure. The decor here is very woodsy. Dark woods are everywhere, and the muted lighting does nothing to brighten things up. This space kind of reminded us of some of the wine bars we have been to recently, like Sealegs, Calivino, and the Twisted Vine. I was pretty hungry, so let's see how the dining portion of our meal turned out for us.

Katie always manages to get her phone in at least one shot, and that was the case with the first thing we tried, these Roasted Brussels Sprouts ($8). These fancy Brussels sprouts came with fried pork belly, shallots, parsley, and a pomegranate-molasses sweet and sour sauce. This was a great way to serve the much maligned Brussels sprout, but it did have some flaws. The pork belly was overdone here, and could have played a much more prominent role in this dish. I understand the sprouts are supposed to be the star of the show here though, but I love pork belly so much. The sauce was pretty good, and the sprouts themselves were tasty.

Over and over again in the reviews for Juliette Kitchen, you read about the praise for this Farro Risotto ($14), so we of course had to give it a try. This had a lot of layers to it. Butternut squash was cubed, then joined by squash blossoms, trumpet mushrooms, beet greens, pecorino cheese, sherry vinegar, olive oil, and finished off with some parsley. This was a little lighter than I had imagined. It was unique using the farro here, and the flavors came through in bursts. Very nice dish.

Katie took one look at the menu, and made her selection straight away. She did not deviate from ordering the Striped Bass ($30) at Juliette. This beautifully presented fish was served atop braised Swiss chard, roasted sunchoke, mushrooms, fried tofu, scallions, and finished off with a black garlic mushroom broth. Kind of an Asian influence with this plate. Katie really enjoyed the flakiness of the fish, but had wished that the skin was taken off. Still she enjoyed the preparation here, and liked the way the components of this dish interacted.

After I had read that the OC Register's Food Critic, Brad Johnson had called this Juliette Burger ($17) one of the best burgers in OC, I knew I had to give it a try. After finishing this, I could see why this burger gets a lot of praise. I'd describe this burger as one that does not need a lot of flash to make it good. Sure there's a tomato jam, aged cheddar, pancetta, grilled balsamic onions, and a mustard aioli on this, but these items sit in the background and allow the very good beef to be the star of the show. The burger was a manageable size, and very juicy. The bun held its own here by keeping everything together. This burger came with some very nicely done house made potato chips, which had a BBQ seasoning on them reminiscent of the old Laura Scudder's potato chips of my youth.

These days Katie has not been into dessert very much, so I knew that I would be having the majority of the dessert when I ordered this Salted Caramel Pot de Creme ($9). This was a very good version of this suddenly very trendy dessert flavor. I see salted caramel everything all over the place, and this one was good, even though it included a good many sultanas, which is a white raisin like creature. This dessert also included a milk crumble, whipped mascarpone, and very addictive brown butter shortbread cookies, which I could imagine being very popular with the staff here. Very tasty, and the perfect size for a solo dessert eater.  

I left Juliette in a quandary, not exactly knowing what rating I would give this place. I liked everything that I had, but was not over the moon about anything. I'd say this is a very solid restaurant that we would like to come back to again. The burger was very good, and really was made with quality ingredients. Katie would try something else, and the sides that we had before our meals were tasty and well made, but I'd like to try their mushrooms and pork cheeks on our next visit. Service was pretty solid, although the food was a little slow making its way out of the kitchen for us on this busy Saturday night. Still we had a very nice date night experience here, and feel you might as well.

Out of five postmarks, (because every Valentine's day, the city of Juliette, Georgia, offers a dual postmark with the city of Romeo, Michigan in a nod to the famous Shakespeare play), five being best to zero being worst, Juliette Kitchen and Bar gets 3 postmarks.

For more information about Juliette Kitchen and Bar, go to their website here: 

Juliette Kitchen & Bar on Urbanspoon

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