Monday, February 6, 2017

Ready for Dinner at R + D Kitchen

R + D Kitchen
555 Newport Center Dr. 
Newport Beach, CA 92660

I'm not sure if I had mentioned this on the blog or not, but Katie got a new job near the end of last year. It has been a little more challenging, some late nights, and a little more driving for her. After the craziness of the holidays, I realized that I had not been to her new place of employment yet, so I had to remedy that by planning a visit, and of course choosing a restaurant to try nearby. I also brought my parents along to check out her new digs.

She works just across the street from Fashion Island, and I have to admit her new place seems pretty darn impressive. Very professional looking, and we also got to meet a few of her very nice coworkers, who also happened to be staying late on a recent Friday night. After a long grueling day at work, I wanted to take her somewhere special, that wasn't going to break the bank. I had another place in mind, but a quick Yelp search turned up the promising R + D Kitchen, which was within walking distance. We made our way across the street and through the parking lot in that direction.

I did not know it at the time, but R + D Kitchen is part of the Hillstone Restaurant Group, which includes some pretty stellar restaurants; Bandera, Gulfstream, Houston's, and others. This is one of four locations of this particular brand, which also has spots operating in Santa Monica, Yountville, and Dallas. This particular R + D Kitchen is located between Canaletto and the Neiman Marcus, right across from the new parking structure, in the northeast area of Fashion Island.

We got here at about 6 pm, without a reservation, and were met with about a 45-minute wait. Not in any rush, we walked around the mall and settled down in the food court catching up with each other. There's never any shortage of conversation when my mom is involved. After about a half hour of waiting, they texted Katie's phone that our table was ready.

We were seated just opposite the bustling bar at a table which was a tad too small for our party of four, but we decided to try to make it work. The inside of this restaurant was almost pitch black, with the only light being directly over the table. With the boisterous crowd, it was a little difficult hearing what my parents had to say, but that might have been a plus. Kidding of course.

The menu at R + D is not going to overwhelm you with choices. Their dinner offerings include eight starters, four sandwiches, four entree salads, and seven entrees. They also must rotate a bunch of stuff, because there were some pictures of a great looking Rueben online, but it was not listed on the menu and was not mentioned by our server as a special. Even with the limited number of items here, I still had some trouble choosing my meal. Let's see what we all came up with on this evening.

I should have known this was a Hillstone restaurant when I saw that they had this Dip Duo ($10) on their menu. It seems to be a trademark of their restaurants to have a dip offering on each of their menus. I remember we had a really good smoked trout dip at Gulfstream a long while back, which was awesome. The dip duo at R + D was made up of a very fresh guacamole and a cheese dip, which was served cold and made up of some coarsely grated cheese. Very unique and addictive. The guacamole was good, but nothing really made it stand out. This came with some very solid tortilla chips, which were a great vessel for these dips.

Entrees made their way out in a timely manner, and we'll start with Katie's first, the Ding's Crispy Chicken Sandwich ($16). This sandwich started with a crispy buttermilk fried chicken patty and was topped with a spicy slaw and swiss cheese. Katie thought this sandwich was good. She liked the textural component of the slaw, but it was not really spicy. The chicken was a little on the thin side but had a good breading around it. She thought the bread was top notch, and she would not hesitate to get this sandwich again.

Kind of an odd choice for dinner, but my dad was pretty excited by this Spinach and Cheese Omelet ($15). With this omelet, you get to pick between swiss, white cheddar, or goat cheese, my dad went with the swiss. The omelet was made well, and I thought it kind of resembled an unwrapped tamale in appearance. It came with a Campari tomato which was topped with a small mixed green salad. My dad kind of gave this salad the cold shoulder, as he focused more on the omelet and the toast. He was pleased with his pick at R + D.

I thought my dad was going to pick this French Dip Au Jus ($20) as his meal, so I was relieved when he went with the omelet and left this one for me. For the meat on this one, they slice prime rib real thin and sandwich it between two pieces of sturdy bread with a little mayo added and au jus of course for dipping. This was a good version of an upscale dip, although it could have used some onions or maybe a little more mayo to make it stand out. The meat was tender, and cooked to a perfect medium, while the bread was spongy, but still did a good job of keeping the contents of the sandwich together. I wouldn't hesitate to get this again.

I did think it was a little odd that my twenty dollar sandwich did not come with fries, so I ordered these Hand-Cut Fries ($5) off of their starters portion of the menu. I thought these were fine, but I was not blown away by them. They were obviously not out of a freezer, but other than that, they were pretty average.

When I had heard that the Carrot Cake ($12) at R + D Kitchen gets all kinds of praise, it was a definite must order for me. I'm probably in the minority here, but this is one of my favorite kinds of cakes. I love the spices, the little shards of carrot, and even though I'm not really a cream cheese frosting fan, it works with this kind of cake. This version at R + D was one of the lightest I have ever had. The cake was light and airy, while the frosting also seemed lighter than air. It was good, but I was hoping for a little more spice to come through here. If you enjoy light cakes, this might be the version for you. For me, I like a little more heft to my carrot cake.

Even though R + D Kitchen was not our original dining destination on this evening, it was a very solid spot to start our weekend off and celebrate our first trip to see Katie's new place of employment. I liked everything here but was not blown away with anything, with the exception of the cheese dip and my french dip. I'd like to try more of their menu on future visits. The mushroom meatloaf and the pan fried fish have piqued my interest and will be on my list to try soon. Service was very good on this evening. Our server Jared was one of the most personable waiters we have encountered in some time. He was friendly and anticipated our every need during our visit. Since this restaurant is so close to Katie's new job, I can definitely see us coming back here again pretty regularly.

Out of five beetles, (because the top research and development spender every year is traditionally Volkswagon, maker of the beloved Beetle), five being best to zero being worst, R + D Kitchen gets 3 beetles.

For more information about R + D Kitchen, head to their website here:

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