Cool sea breezes tickle the flowering vines along the patio walls at Babette’s in Newport Coast. The pretty courtyard teems with ladies who lunch, primarily on salads on this sunny day. Born in East Hampton, this Pacific Coast sibling, open since October, is easily the most posh new girl on campus at Crystal Cove Promenade. I just wish the pricey, health-minded American cuisine by executive chef Michael B. Powell was executed more consistently.
One night, warm olives and super cocktails start the evening in promising form. Then comes a criminally over-salted mushroom soup, reeking of truffle oil. Which makes the entrée a pleasant surprise: an organic, grass-fed rib-eye that wows with such flavor and creativity that the crave-worthy dish scored a coveted spot in our Destination Dishes spread last month. Salads—so alluring on the menu with ingredients such as feta, tangerine, fennel, and fresh mint—turn out to be stingy scavenger hunts on a plate. At lunch I order the Korean-style flank steak as much for its sesame scallion pancake as its grilled marinated beef. Alas, the tortilla-size pancake is not soft or crunchy or fresh, but tougher than my leather handbag.
My second wish is for an ounce of warmth from management, which seems palpably averse to making contact, leaving hospitality duty to servers and bartenders who, unlike the managers, are polished and solicitous. These front-line staffers, and the beguiling setting, are the best reasons to return. Oh, and that sexy rib-eye for dinner.
Beach Babe Gone West
Translating East Hampton for Left-Coasters
ALFRESCO LIVING➔ Coastal dining demands an inviting patio. Theirs offers people-watching; ours is private.
MENUS DON’T MIRROR➔ New Yorkers get pan-roasted Montauk bass with oyster mushrooms; we get seared scallops with chickpea-almond pesto.
BEST DISHES Warm marinated olives, Sake-Soy Marinated Rib-eye of Beef, California Crispy Tofu Sandwich, fresh juice cocktails.
PRICE Range Breakfast, $9 to $17; lunch, $9 to $16.50; dinner, $6 to $43; cocktails, $12 to $16.
7962 E. Coast Highway
Newport Coast, 949-715-9915