Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Popping in to Lido Bottle Works

Lido Bottle Works
3408 Via Oporto, Suite 103
Newport Beach, CA 92663

The month of February has been a real kick in the pants for both Katie and I. It started with an unexpected hospital stay for myself, Katie's been having to deal with some craziness at work, and then there's been some other assorted family issues that I'm sure you do not care to hear about. My point is, it was definitely time for Katie and me to get out and have a long overdue date night. Get out and just breathe, and not have to think about some of life's challenges. We chose to do this at Lido Bottle Works.

For those of you that are unaware, Lido Bottle Works is located at the recently revamped Lido Marina Village. This was my first visit back to this center since I was here for a wedding cruise for one of our friends three and a half years ago. Besides the fantastic wedding, what I remember most about that visit was that this shopping plaza was pretty much deserted, with lots of boarded-up shops and construction going on. My only other memory of this area is when I was much younger and would head to the long departed Warehouse Restaurant on club nights to strike out with women, or trying their pretty awesome Sunday brunch. Oh, the memories!

It does seem that this area has turned a corner though. It was still pretty sleepy when we arrived here at 6pm on a recent Saturday night, but they did a great job of renovating this center, and as more places open up it will probably become more lively. There's plenty of fashion, home furnishings, and beauty inspired shopping options at Lido Marina Village, and dining purveyors have slowly set up shop here. The most notable is probably LA hot spot, Nobu. There's also a place that has me intrigued after checking out there menu, Zinque. This trip was all about Lido Bottle Works though.

LBW has gotten raves for their food and bar program. They nabbed top spots on both Edwin's and Anne Marie's top 5 lists of 2017 in the OC Weekly, and they are two food writers that I really admire and respect their opinions. Of course, those raves were before opening chef, Joel Harrington made a beeline for Nashville earlier this year to work in a modern steakhouse in Music City. LBW seems to be left in good hands, with original sous chef, Amy Lebrun now promoted to executive chef. She's recently created a brunch menu and promises that most of the customer's favorites will still be available.

Like I said we got here at 6pm and were seated promptly in their comfy dining room. Maybe because we were so close to the water, but the space brought to mind the feeling of a yacht's cabin, with its wood paneling and view of the water. There's a bar in the middle of the room, with high top tables in the front of the restaurant and a long row of more traditional seating alongside the left-hand side of the restaurant. Tables are spaced a little too close together, but if you are lucky like we were, you will get to know your neighbors like we did. We were sat right next to the most charming two young ladies who were doing a valiant job of going through almost the whole menu at LBW. Speaking of the food, let's see what we ended up getting here.

Pork Belly Bao Buns ($14) were not something that I was expecting to see on the menu here, but there they were, and Katie wanted to give them a try. The spongy bao bun was filled with pork belly and an almost egg sauce sprinkled with togarashi, which is a seven chili seasoning that was used liberally over the buns but did not increase the heat level on these too much if at all depending on your tolerance to spice. The pork belly was done nicely, but it kind of got overshadowed by the steamed bun. I enjoyed the pork belly much more when I plucked it from the steamed bun to eat it on its own.

Probably the most talked about food item at LBW is this Cauliflower ($18) dish, which they should really rename, cauliflower three ways. They pickle it, roast it, and cream it all on this one plate and then add golden raisins and trumpet mushrooms to the top of it. It's arranged as a cauliflower bundt cake, Predictably light, I liked the way the pickled pieces interacted with the cauliflower mousse and the rest of this starter. Worthy of being their signature dish.

I was a little taken aback when Katie got this Bolognese ($24) because I thought she was a lock to try their seafood offering on this evening. She still surprises me even after nine years of being together. Also, surprising was the fact that this pasta dish was just as good as anything you'd get at an Italian restaurant. The tagliatelle was cooked wonderfully al dente, the meat sauce was savory, and the inclusion of the tomato confit and ricotta helped smooth things out. A very well balanced, and satisfying plate of pasta. Excellent choice Katie, I never should have doubted you.

I had heard great things about the LBW Burger ($18) but it kind of left me wanting more. It's not really a good sign when the bun is the best part of a burger experience, but that was the case with this very well crafted wasabi tinged brioche. The beef patty was overcooked and not as juicy as I would have liked, and the black garlic aioli and bacon jam were not prevalent enough to save this burger. The fries were fine, as they had a good crispness to them with plenty of old bay seasoning covering each of them.

We sampled a trio of the desserts at LBW. The first was the Caramel Apple Cake ($9) which was light on caramel and apple, but still had a pleasant moistness to the cake, and the sweet soy ice cream was an interesting choice but did not really boost this dessert to an elevated level. After my first bite of the Chocolate Mousse ($9) I was kind of underwhelmed, but as I ate this I ended up really warming up to it. The olive oil and sea salt kept me interested, and the smooth chocolate and malted little balls were an excellent textural yin and yang. The best of the bunch was the Vietnamese Coffee Panna Cotta ($9) which I probably would not have ordered just based on the fact that I'm not a big coffee fan, but the bite that I had was delicious. It combines Abuelita Mexican hot chocolate and macadamia nuts to go along with a very well done pannacotta. Special thanks to our awesome table neighbors for offering us a bite of their dessert, and for allowing us to crash your night out celebrating your father. It was great getting a chance to meet you, and I was pretty impressed with all the food you guys put away.

There were some hits and misses on this evening, but on the whole, I enjoyed our time at Lido Bottle Works. I kind of get the feeling that LBW is n the midst of a transitional period, in which new chef Amy Lebrun will make some changes to the menu when it transitions seasonally. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out. As for now, there are some definite things you need to try on this menu, like the cauliflower starter, the pasta dish, and I hear their seafood options are amazing, and the seafood comes from the Dory Fishing Fleet Market at the nearby Newport Beach Pier, so you know the fish is crazy fresh. Service on this evening was fantastic, and the vibe here was definitely down to earth, which is kind of rare in this area of Newport. So happy that we could have a much-needed date night, and hope that the rest of the year is a smooth ride for us.

Out of five anchors, (because nearby Lido Isle is home to the Lido Isle Yacht club, which I'm sure has some pretty big ships with large anchors), five being best to zero being worst, Lido Bottle Works gets 3 anchors.

For more information about Lido Bottle Works, head to their website here: http://lidobottleworks.com/

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