Went to Svelte in Corona Del Mar the other night for an early birthday dinner. This relatively new restaurant (open since July of this year) is the new project by Troy Furuta, formerly of Pascal in Newport Beach. He focuses on French/Cal/Asian cuisine.
The location may hurt the restaurant, because it is tucked in a residential area and has a sign in an eery dark blue light that's easily missed. The decor is reminiscent of a gothic den and was somewhat creepy yet hip at the same time.
Because I went on a Tuesday night, the place was unfortunately undeservedly empty. Every dish ordered was above expectations in both taste and presentation.
Given the heartiness of the entrees my dining partner and I decided on, we agreed to only one starter, Souffle Blinis stuffed with Peeky Toe Crab accompanied by a Cucumber Herb Salad. I've never seen a blini presentation like the one Svelte offers. Two sizeable (about the size of frozen pancakes) blini pillows arrived with a mound of cucumber ribbons and various herbs on the side. A small carafe of creme fraiche or a sour creme condiment was also provided. The blinis were so light and fluffy, and they were each stuffed with a substantial amount of equally light and delicate crab salad. The texture was occasionally offset by frequent crunches of fleur de sel in the crab mixture. The cucumber salad was refreshing but only really succeeded in blanding the flavors of a dish that was already so light. Thank goodness for that fleur de sel.
For the main course, I ordered the Wild Mushroom Veal Meatloaf with "Supreme Potatoes" and a mushroom jus. 3 slices of hearty, earthy meatloaf arrived, topped with creminis and accompanied by a hollowed out crispy potato half stuffed with creamy, almost milky mashers and a few chives as a garnish. Another tiny carafe was on the plate, this time filled with an unfortunately overly salty jus. I'm a huge fan of salt and even this was too salty for me. Overall, this dish was fancified comfort food which I enjoyed quite a bit (almost licked-the-plate-clean enjoyment).
My dining partner ordered Duckling two ways - seared duck breasts with crispy morels and a blackberry sauce with plump fresh blackberries; duck confit in a feuille de brick. Both preparations were flawless. The breast meat was tender and juicy and cooked properly as ordered. The slices were nicely accompanied by those crispy morels (yum!) and that tart blackberry sauce and berries. Wow. Confit is another weakness of mine, so the latter preparation was my favorite. The confit was wrapped and fried/baked in a phyllo like wrapping so as to resemble an eggroll the way the French do it. Oh so nice.
The dessert menu is rather curt, so we shared the Molten Chocolate Souffle. After waiting for 20 minutes (standard souffle prep time), heaven arrived. The souffle didn't have the height as say, the phenomenal L'Orangerie Chocolate Souffle has, but the chocolate intensity is superior. The texture is still definitely that of a soufflé rather than a molten anything. It arrived piping hot (both my companion and I burned our fingers impatiently digging in) with a side of sugared fresh berries and cream. Again, cleaned.
We had the meal with a bottle of 2003 Navarro Riesling that was not as sweet as promised. I'm an avid fan of tropical, sweeter Rieslings, and that bottle was floral and drier. It did taste better after a glass, but what wine doesn't after a glass or two? Forgiveable recommendation given the pleasure we received from the rest of the meal. Total before tip was $126 including wine and tax.
Svelte is highly recommended for its food and the potential of the hip lounge/bar which was doing considerably well for early on in the week.
Corona Del Mar
closed Sundays and Mondays; open late (till at least midnight?) other days