Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Special Foodventure #99: Tradition by Pascal re-visit (Newport Beach)

Whether by coincidence or clever marketing timing, the Newport Beach Restaurant Association planned their Restaurant Week exactly before the DineLA ones; since this is limited to one city, the restaurant selections are more limited -- but there are some gems and places I wanted to try there. One place I was looking forward to check out again was Tradition by Pascal, where I was treated to a blowout dinner recently. Now that I'm doing dinner on my own dime (and more importantly, not being expected by the staff,) I'd be curious to find out if they're still on their game.

Creme Caramel
My two friends (one of whom this a birthday dinner for) and I arrived at 7:30p on a weeknight to a completely packed restaurant. Looks like there were plenty of others in the know about Restaurant Week as well; even with a reservation it took about 15 minutes to get seated, guessed some of the earlier diners lingered a while longer than expected. But it wasn't an uncomfortably long wait and we settled in pretty quickly with our menus and wine list.

I took a cursory scroll through their wine binders, the place has a nice wine list with decent by the glass options as well as a good number of affordable bottles (which leans a bit towards French wines.) But since this was a celebration meal, I honed in on the bubblies and noticed they offered a 2003 sparkling syrah from Australia. It's a little different, and not too shabby for $47 a bottle, the bubbles help take edge off the tannic astringency (one of my friend's major gripes about this grape varietal) and personally it reminded me of sangria mixed with soda, with its spicy notes and full fruit flavors and the effervescence is a nice touch.
Foie Gras
With three to four choices for appetizers, entrees and desserts -- it didn't take us a whole lot of time to decide what we wanted. Additionally, we splitted a plate of their pan-seared foie gras with d'anjou pears, brioche and verjus sauce. Just like last time, it was wonderful piece of rich butteriness with just a tinge of duck and liver flavors, balanced out by the fruitiness flavors of the pears and the sweet-savory sauce. And again, my friend moaned in pleasure and sopped up every last bit of meat and juices with bread from the basket.
Onion Soup
Appetizers arrived pretty quickly after the wine; I got their homemade pâté with onion marmalade -- mainly because I've never really eaten paté outside of a banh mi sandwich and I've been craving it ever since reading a Bon Appetit article on the subject. While it didn't evoke the epic sensation that I read about, it was still delicious. Hard and coarse in texture, with meaty flavors and chopped nuts within, it tasted like a less-spicy salami minus the cured-fermented flavor and surprisingly not organ-y at all. The sweet onion marmalade and the vinaigrette-dressed mini salad were nice contrast to the savory pâté. My friends got the French onion soup (pictured above) and the roasted-beet salad with hazelnuts and lemon-scented goat cheese, which also got positive feedback (particularly the soup, more meaty and less salty and heavy compared to most -- I can only presume that they may have made the beef broth/stock in-house for this to yield that flavor.)
For entree I got their salmon with quick sauerkraut and mushroom tarragon tomato jus (pictured above). The salmon was slightly overcooked but still tasty, but I liked the sauerkraut a lot -- being the 'quick' version and one fermented for weeks, it lacked the pungency that can easily be overbearing (great with sausages, not so much a mild fish); the result is more like a mix of creamy mashed potato and celery root puree. The jus was a delight as well, a balanced yet vibrant mix, with its components adding a bright acidity, meaty-earthiness and fresh, herb aromas. It was nice dish, though I found the jus and the side more memorable than the meat. I also snuck tastes of my friends' dishes (sausage-stuffed roasted quail with cognac sauce and medium-rare beef sirloin in green peppercorn sauce) and found their proteins were better executed.
Tart Tatin
Lastly, the sweets; having missed actual apple pie just blogging about the Providence Dessert Tasting, I got their Tart Tatin. It was a nice touch that it's an individual tart instead of a slice from a larger tart, and this was nicely prepared. Apples were wonderfully caramelized, and I love their spin from the traditional crust by using a light, flaky puff pastry. Both my friends got the cremé caramel instead; it was nice and creamy, but I still preferred my tart much more.

Again, throughout the meal the service was pretty much flawless (which makes me wonder if the staff recognized me, since I saw quite a few of the same faces from last time) but I observed the other tables and their treatment was pretty much the same as ours as well.

All in all, I still feel that this is a solid traditional French option in the Orange County and the price-point feels right the food you're getting event outside of Restaurant Week. And I'd likely return again to try out more of their classic fare, maybe a glass of wine, and another serving fo the tart. And while they restaurant week has already came and gone, this place seem to still offer $20 prix-fixe lunch and $40 prix-fixe dinner option for the budget-minded.

Photo set of this foodventure here.

Tradition by Pascal
1000 Bristol St N
Newport Beach
(949) 263-9400

Tradition By Pascal on Urbanspoon


Diana said...

I love that you described the pate as "not organ-y." I broke into a smile when I read that! :)

Lovely write-up -- I grew up in Newport, but have yet to dine at Pascal's. I think I may be adding it to my list of restaurant "to-dos"...

Kat said...

Oh I am so sad I missed them in Restaurant Week, but I am glad to hear that they offer lunch & dinner pre-fixes ^_^ They are still on my list to try. Since the seared foie gras sounded pretty good, more motivation ^_-

Unknown said...

All I have to say is....LOL....


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