Spirited Cooking is Key to Lido Marina Village Jewel Lido Bottle Works

Lido Bottle Works sounds like a liquor store, right? And it is, to a slight degree. It certainly doesn’t sound like a full-service restaurant with notable fare. Which it is, above all.

Open since May, it exists thanks to last year’s overdue glossing up of dowdy Lido Marina Village. Thirty new tenants include beach-chic clothiers, eyewear boutiques, and yet another Nobu, the sushi hang for the glam set. The 67-seat Lido Bottle Works is the venture of five partners, all locals.

Having abstained from burgers after our deep dive into the county’s best for the October issue, I finally break my fast at lunch, with the restaurant’s signature stack. Great decision. Built with virtuoso ingredients—house pickles, gochujang-spiked beef, bacon jam, and a custom wasabi brioche bun toasted with horseradish butter—its sensible, 6.8 ounces of meat and sexy proportions mean every bite disappears, no sharing. Alas, the included chips are taro crisps minus a speck of seasoning, necessitating an emergency order of legit fries. The golden hot potato sticks hit the spot, with a dusting of brown sugar, black pepper, and smoked paprika for unexpected verve.

LBW burger on a wasabi brioche bun served with taro crisps

Lunch also yields the morning’s catch, tasty yellowtail from nearby Dory Fleet, a few bites of which reveal a pro’s confident touch and shrewd creativity. A light sear lends texture to both the pale pink flesh and porcini-dusted crust. Set atop red pepper puree, garnished with crunchy green tobiko (flying fish roe) and fragrant fennel pollen, the pristine fish gets briny heft from squid ink orzo. It’s the work of executive chef Joel Harrington, a culinary gypsy who has passed through famous kitchens, gleaning wisdom from boldface talents the likes of Dean Fearing and Marcus Samuelsson.
Seafood should be your first consideration on any visit. Harrington is neighbors with the Dory Fleet Market, taking his pick at sunrise and pedaling it up the peninsula to work, on his “tricked-out trike.” He reports tuna tartare as a big seller, and it certainly departs from the usual with its wreath-like presentation of ruby fish, creamy avocado, and “chili pop rocks” triggered by a drizzle of yuzu ponzu. It’s fun. Once. I already miss the fresh crab with sweet summer melon orbs, set off with crispy bits of salty serrano ham. For those willing to roll with it, the day’s catch can be a knockout. Black cod in ginger-miso, with seaweed rice, sea beans, and baby Brussels sprouts from Weiser Farms is unlike any dish nearby.

Prime hanger steak frites

Yes, the menu feels pretty small after a few visits. But it’s a sure way to keep choices fresh and seasonal. I do wish it were more descriptive though. Only my sense of duty unearthed a sleeper labeled “raw and cooked vegetables.” It starts with a “soil” of crushed toasted hazelnuts, to which Harrington adds a vibrant array of fresh farmers market produce—some miniature, some pickled, some confit, some just clipped off the vine—all gilded with bee pollen, edible flowers, and lemon vinaigrette blended with local honey. It’s a delightful salad, and I expect it will be copied elsewhere soon.

Pork fans, do try Spain’s prized Iberico “secreto” pork; it’s tender, ruby pink, and explosively flavored. Harrington counters the richness with carrot-ginger puree and a smear of foie mousse to create a dish that’s comforting yet graceful. Skip the caveman-
esque Prime ribeye for two and order the Prime hanger steak with strong artisan blue cheese and those sassy fries. Winter equals heartier fare, and the chef forecasts rib-sticking creations such as a new stroganoff, lamb belly with plum sauce, and fresh plays on burrata, local prawns, squashes, and root vegetables.

Chef Joel Harrington with his catch of the day from the Dory Fleet Market

Because the pineapple upside-down cake can be terribly dry, go straight for the excellent chocolate mousse—with classic texture and a modern flourish of salt flakes and good olive oil.

Choice beer and wine offerings are interesting and well-understood by servers, when you can find one. The dapper bay view restaurant is never crowded on my visits, so I get my choice of bar, banquette, window table, or patio seating—without reservations. The place is still fairly new, but I wonder if it might also be obscured by its high-profile neighbors. I hope a newly launched weekend brunch attracts locals who can’t say no to cold smoked salmon toast on artisan rye, with avocado mash and green olive relish. Or brioche French toast coated in house-made granola, rounded out with dark berry compote and a tiny pot of coconut butter. I’m eager to try chorizo hash with poblano hollandaise.

Each time I visit Lido Bottle Works, my eye is drawn to the glowing refrigerator case full of bottles. I’ve yet to see anyone open it to take one. I wish it were an exhibition kitchen instead, one that could show off Harrington’s dashing, spirited cooking.

Iberico ‘Secreto’ Pork

3408 Via Oporto
Newport Beach

The house burger
Raw and cooked vegetables
Catch of the day
Iberico ‘secreto’
Chocolate mousse

PRICE RANGE Lunch, $9 to $23; dinner, $9 to $57; brunch, $9 to $25

FYI To shower a dish in truffles, ask the chef to “make it rain.”

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