It’s a small place on a small street in a small part of town, with three rows of tables seating about 50 people. One end of the restaurant is open, overlooking the bay on the way to Bluewater Grill and the Cannery. On a chilly winter night, they have open fire pits between the tables to keep warm, and they provide blankets for guests as needed. As with any smaller setting, the energy varies depending on the meal pacing and wine consumption at the larger tables. But given the proximity of the tables, it’s remarkably civil. I think the fire pits serve to break it up a little bit.
Service was among the best experienced in recent history, with a complete knowledge of every ingredient and every preparation method of every dish, including specials. But more importantly, it seemed effortless to be attentive and accommodating while allowing diners to relax and enjoy the time there. It’s the kind of place where three servers bring out the main courses all at once so everyone gets it at the same time.
The menu has a nice variety of starters and main courses, including soup, various salads, fish and meat. There’s not much for the vegan crowd here.
The restaurant is owned by the same people that own the nearby Porch restaurant, as well as the Beverly Hills Wine Merchant. So the wine list is quite interesting. And they change the wines by the glass daily. So expect the opportunity to try something new.
Now on to the food.
Soup du jour was a lobster bisque served in a unique saucer-like (UFO saucer, not coffee cup saucer) bowl. I was getting a good feeling about this, as the presentation was well considered. And the bisque was tasty, with various flavors keeping it interesting.
Frisee salad was larger than expected and slightly deconstructed, with components assembled, not mixed. Lardons were thick and chewy, and the egg was correctly cooked. It was not overdressed, and included a few fresh croutons.
The first dish of any consequence was the crab beignets. They weren’t fluffy affairs like one might experience at Café du Monde in New Orleans. Rather, they were three round balls, each resting in a small pool of orange Piment d’Espelette sauce, which is basically a red pepper sauce. Alongside was a fresh mango sauce, and over the top was a marinated radish slice. The hot sweet and sour of the pepper sauce, mango and marinade could be mixed and matched with each bite to bring out a slightly different flavor profile. Each beignet was about two bites of food, and this dish went quickly.
The Hamachi crudo was sashimi-cut so it was extremely tender. It almost melted on the tongue. And the flavors were very complementary.
Now on to the main courses.
Rack of lamb was by far the most popular as this dish kept coming out again and again. I’m guessing a quarter of the restaurant ordered this, as it ended up on all the tables around us. Our table ordered two. Cooked to a perfect medium rare, it was tender and moist; but cooked. Chef cut the meat from the bone and presented it in one inch thick medallions with the bones intact alongside. This was placed on a bed of couscous into which some of the juices from the meat had dripped, adding a nice flavor.
House made, very fresh-tasting hummus was brushed onto the side of the dish and over that was arranged fresh and vibrant ratatouille. Altogether, this was a well prepared dish, if a little bland. I would have preferred more harissa flavoring in the lamb which I think would have made it more interesting. Even better would be a little cup or pool of harissa sauce alongside that could be used as desired. The other thing is that while the lamb medallions were easy to eat, the best meat was left on the bone. It took a little effort, but the investment of time and knife dexterity paid off as I separated the bones and got to the good stuff.
With a much more robust flavor was the New York steak. It was a large eight ounce steak, also cooked perfectly medium rare, and covered with a decadent charred red wine glaze. This had the savory forward flavor the lamb dish was missing. And it was well paired with parsnip fries, which were lighter than normal fries, potato gratin and roasted veggies.
Next is dessert
There’s no written menu, but the server was all over this, too, explaining in detail each of the five desserts down to each ingredient and how it was prepared and presented. Offerings ranged from bread pudding to chocolate cake, etc.
We elected the lightest-sounding one, the crème fraiche sorbet with fresh strawberries and house made strawberry jam, and it was a hit. The crème fraiche had a yogurt-style sourness that made a mouthful of cream more palatable. And the strawberries added a nice tartness to further lighten it up.
All told, this was a delightful meal and the Dock might be the best restaurant in Newport Beach right now. At least it’s in the top few.
2816 Lafayette Avenue
Newport Peninsula (just across from Lido Peninsula, by the Cannery)