Second Course: A Restaurant

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For a few moments, I am bat-blind and loving it. Ducking into dark A Restaurant on a sunny afternoon, my brain perceives this as “retro delights ahead.” The dapper old-school haunt is waking up after a lull, thanks to fresh momentum supplied by a reshuffled team that includes managing partners Doug and Julie Garn, and pastry chef Tara Bui. Longtime executive chef Jon Blackford is feelin’ it too, as his appealing new menu pushes American classics to the next level, for some of his best cooking ever.

House-made garlic wine sausage gets a clever assist from charred cabbage and herb spaetzle. Tender meatballs are flavor grenades hiding under tomato sauce spiked with piquillo peppers. Honey, goat cheese, and fresh fennel elevate chilled baby beets, with a sherry vinaigrette that brings refinement. Blackford is a charcuterie fan, so ask what’s house-made. Ciccioli, an Italian pork rillettes, is a standout, with subtle notes of allspice that play well against freshly grilled bread. Fish and chips, a menu mainstay, often features halibut under a jacket of sizzling dark-ale batter.

Splurge on the Imperial Wagyu strip loin: Its spot-on seasoning and adept broiling make it one of O.C.’s signature steaks. Definitely start with the off-menu, barrel-aged rye-based A Martini, and finish with Bui’s gooey Fluffernutter Sundae, studded with honeycomb crunch.

Best Dishes
House-made charcuterie, garlic wine sausage, meatballs, beet salad, fish and chips, Fluffernutter Sundae, barrel-aged spirits cocktails.

FYI
Happy hour runs 3 to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.

3334 W. Coast Highway, Newport Beach, 949-650-6505
arestaurantnb.com
Three Stars

Photograph by Priscilla Iezzi
This article originally appeared in the August 2014 issue.

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