Rediscovery: The Beachcomber

Primo goods get patchy treatment, but oh that view

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Ahi tacos with
Asian slaw, a cool Pearadiso, and some frothy waves.

Iconic and heart-swelling, the sweeping Pacific view from a table at the Beachcomber at Crystal Cove never fails to astound. This is the surf’s edge vista we all covet, but can’t afford. But most diners can easily borrow this prime real estate for a couple hours, maybe a lazy breakfast or a tequila sunset dinner under the deck’s striped canvas awning. Executive chef Carlos Olivera supplies a seamless update to this Ruby’s-operated venue, and his menu remains tightly moored to the coastal cuisine category. Bodacious bloody marys and lusty tiki drinks fuel the sandy throngs. People’s choice-type orders also endure: Maine lobster rolls, Prime grilled flatiron steak with wild mushroom-and-truffle mac ’n’ cheese, and roasted tomato soup studded with blue cheese crumbles under a puff pastry lid. Goods are high quality—it’s the execution that can be patchy. One night, too much truffle oil mars the mac ’n’ cheese. Crowd-pleasing beignets are hot and fluffy in the morning, but leaden after dinner for dessert. Sticking to time-tested dependables that don’t overreach is a wise strategy. Think clam chowder, wonton ahi tacos, grilled artichokes, or seared Scottish salmon, and you’ll enjoy your feast at the shore. Craft brews are a recent addition, but why are none from our fine O.C. breweries? With surroundings like this, do folks really care? Not by the looks of the crowds during high season, so make reservations whenever possible if your party is for six or smaller. Like many ocean-view spots, the A-plus scenery may outscore the fare here, but at least the kitchen doesn’t let Mother Nature do all the heavy lifting.

Best Dishes 
Grilled artichoke, ahi tacos, baked tomato soup, lobster rolls, shrimp Cobb salad, Kobe burger, flatiron steak, grilled scallops, Scottish salmon.

Float the Flag 
Reveille plays at 5 p.m., and the martini flag is raised according to decades-old Crystal Cove tradition.

FYI 
$15 parking in the lot on PCH is validated. Take a shuttle for $1, or take a 10-minute walk to the beach via a pedestrian tunnel.

15 Crystal Cove, Newport Coast, 949-376-6900, thebeachcombercafe.com
Two Stars

Photographs by Priscilla Iessi

This article originally appeared in the July 2013 issue.

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