6 of us Saturday night at Rouge, David Wilhelm's new bistro in the old Chimayo space in Fashion Island, Newport Beach. The place was packed - very cute & an Americanized view of what a French bistro should look like inside. Huge bar, plus extra bar room with piano & cello duo - so loud no one could really hear them. Very small dining room in comparison - incredibly loud everywhere. Were told they were running 15 mins. late for our 7:45 resv & to please wait at the bar - where? Finally, after about 35 mins, some people left & we got a few seats at the bar. $65 for 6 drinks. Kept checking with the front desk & seems to be only 1 table for 6 & the people in it weren't budging. Finally, my husband spoke with the manager, who was gracious & comped us a bottle of wine - we ordered Duckhorn merlot, so no complaints there. We were finally seated at 8:45 - 1 hour after our resv & enjoyed our wine then. Great menu you can check out on Wilhelm's web site - really hard to choose. Sliced so-so bread & butter & tapenade. Appetizers were mixed - escargot was deemed delicious, a spinach garlic 'fondue' I found soupy, but some liked. I had the heirloom tomato, sweet onion & goat cheese salad, which was pretty much tasteless - kindof hard to get bad heirlooms, but they did. Butter lettuce salad was a whole head & pretty presentation, but difficult to eat. Friends were there that night & ordered the Fruits de Mer platter (small - $65) - just ok - when will we learn not to order this anywhere but Brittany? They always look so nice, then the seafood is tasteless. Oh well. Entrees were the weakest link. Servings were very large, but other than the rack of lamb, not that tasty. Chicken was boring, sea bass interesting, but very spicy - not as advertised, I had the duck 3 Ways - confit (boring), breast slices (3 small dry slices) & foie gras (small, but tasty). Desserts were pretty good - chocolate souffle nothing out of the ordinary, but good; raspberry lemon tart was citrusy & large, lavender blackberry cobbler with creme fraiche ice cream was the best - a little heavy on the lavender & more blueberries than blackberries, but yummy. $347 w/out tip for 6 with comped merlot & 1 Stag's Leap Merlot @ $57 (they'd run out of the Duckhorn).
Overall, we were just kindof underwhelmed - the entrees really need work & definitely got the feeling the kitchen was in over it's head. Having just returned from Europe, it's so hard to replicate the food & the atmosphere. Service competant, but overworked. If you like a loud happening scene, go now. If you more highly value the food, I'd wait a bit & see if they settle down & improve items they they're not getting positive feedback on.