Bill Boggs Corner Table: The Ritz Prime Seafood, Newport, California
If I lived in Newport Beach, I'd be a regular at The Ritz Prime Seafood.
The place has everything going for it.
Location? It's on the water along Newport's scenic "Mariner's Mile. Atmosphere? Chic, yet warm and inviting, with live music most nights. And, oh yes, an unspoiled outlook on the yacht scene at Newport Harbor and perfect sunsets. Food? Outstanding, with an innovative and vibrant globally-influenced menu featuring sustainable fish and seafood flown in daily and dry aged steaks.
The RItz Prime Seafood
There's more, lots more. Like Osetra Russian, Siberian or paddlefish Caviar; popcorn shrimp; foie gras with spiced banana bread, walnut crumble, citrus jam and Greek yogurt.
An imaginative aspect of the menu that I particularly like are the "Bites" to order before appetizers. They are a perfect complement to your first glass of wine that is crying out for a little taste of food to accompany it. The top of that list for me was the waiter's suggestion to try the "King crab poppers." They come with a sriracha aioli that gives them a zing to accompany a wonderful crunchy texture. After this one bite I knew I was in for a great meal.
The restaurant is overseen by partner Ben Sabouri and executive chef George Neyra, two professionals who leave nothing to chance. The menu offers ten appetizers; outstanding among them is the baby beets with coriander labneh, pickled carrots, and hazelnut crisp, arranged in a futuristic display on a black plate. The grilled octopus with yuzu koshu, apple vinegar, cucumber, and avocado, was one of the best preparations of this old war horse of a dish that I've ever had.
Chef Neyra's imagination is on full display in each dish. The Alaskan halibut, for example, is composed with red bell pepper, eggplant puree, confit tomatoes, and basil. Branzino, a fish that has become ubiquitous on menus in the last two years, takes on new life in his kitchen. I asked for mine with the skin removed. The fish itself was plump and moist — perfectly cooked — and greatly enhanced with the accompanying sunchoke, pistachio, couscous, and golden raisins.
The meat selections include a 36-ounce tomahawk ribeye, Wagyu hanger steak, braised short ribs, Jidori chicken, and a big bone-in rib eye. And the menu cooly states that "Any surf can turf." A noteworthy side dish is the texturally fabulous tempura squash with apple slaw.
The craft signature cocktail list features an innovative creation, the Pool Boy, which combines Don Q Rum with Don Q Coco, blue Curacao, pineapple, coconut water, simple syrup, and housemade lemon-limeade. Wine list selections have been chosen to complement the chef’s menu and to offer celebratory bottles as well as reasonably priced wines for casual drinking.
We only ordered one dessert, and it was outstanding — the Fig and Fiancier with almond fiancier, creme fraiche ice cream, orange blossom honey, and bruleed figs.
This is really an excellent restaurant, and I'm trying to figure ways to get back to Newport Beach for more meals there. It's not all together that frequent that you find a truly outstanding restaurant in a perfect setting with a perfect view.