Moulin will take you to Paris without leaving OC

I’ve been to Moulin as many times as I can count on one hand — perhaps more — since its opening almost a month ago. Maybe it is the quaint French charm, or the very attractive staff owner Laurent Vrignaud has employed, Or just maybe, it is just simply the fact that the food is really good. For me, it has to be the food which draws me in. Decor helps, but it is only secondary to its culinary offerings.

This little French bistro and cafe, which took over the Pascal’s Epicerie spot off Bristol, is everything that appeals to my senses. The food draws me in, the inviting space coupled with warm, friendly people, makes me stay for a while. Put that all together and the result is my desire to keep coming back again and again with friends in tow.

moulin

The food is simple. Typical French fare at a cafe you might chance upon while strolling through the streets of Montmartre, Paris, where Laurent is from. It is his longing for the foods of his childhood which led him here, to open Moulin.

Each visit allows me to try different things. The atmosphere is incredible, just buzzing with energy. Breakfast and lunch are bustling with people, music, and the aromas of something delicious. I’ve yet to come at dinner time, and plan to make it to one of the Tuesday “Chef’s Dinner” that features Chef Anthony Bar’s French specialties in a family-style atmosphere. Reservations are a must — walk-ins will be disappointed.

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For now, I can tell you, the regular menu is pretty enticing on its own. For breakfast, try one of their omelettes. I liked L’Omelette Moulin ($12) which includes roasted chicken (from the in-house rotisserie) with herbs and mushroom. They’ll ask if you want cheese with it, I always say yes. It is a perfectly executed omelette, fluffy on the inside and really light — just like they do it in gay Paris.

omelette

La Quiche du Chef et Salade ($10) is another stellar choice. You’ll get a side salad with a slice of whatever quiche the chef has created for the day. Quiche Lorraine was the daily feature, a wedge of eggy goodness dotted with ham and cheese throughout. I don’t remember the last time I had quiche this good. The texture is light as air and rather impressive.

quiche

One of my favorite items is Le Poulet Roti aux Herbs ($8/lb), rotisserie chicken you can see rotating behind the cashier. The chicken breast tends to be a tad drier so I always choose the leg/thigh, make sure you ask for some jus to go with it. There are vegetables as a side option, but what I do instead is, order a baguette ($3), cut a piece off, dip it into the jus and enjoy.

chicken

Instead of vegetables, I prefer the various salads Moulin offers in its cold case. The salad is sold by weight and there are quite a few to choose from. My favorites include: Le Céleri Rémoulade, sliced celeriac tossed in a remoulade; La Pomme de Terre, Lardons en Persillade, baby potatoes with bacon lardons tossed with persillade (a dressing of parsley chopped together with garlic, herbs, oil, and vinegar).

salade

On another visit, we enjoyed sandwiches. Jambon et Fromage ($9) includes wonderful ham (roasted in-house) and gruyere sandwiched between a house-made baguette. This is also a perfect selection if you’re on the run and wanted something quick to go.

jambon fromage

On my son’s first visit, he stood in front of the cold case and immediately points to the Saucisson Sec and Cornichons ($8) baguette. In fact, he kept muttering “this is so good and so simple” the entire time he was eating it. Some dry, cured sausage topped with baby gherkins between a buttered crusty loaf — simple indeed.

saucisson sec

Croque Madame ($11) is a classic French hot sandwich you won’t want to miss. If you’re not familiar with this, it is a croque monsieur (grilled ham and cheese sandwich) with a runny egg on top. Comfort food at its best.

croque madame

I am a huge fan of onion soup, but unless I make it myself, I have yet to find one in Orange County that’s spot on. The French Onion Soup ($9) here is excellent, with a flavorful broth and just the right amount of onions. The crouton and cheese to soup ratio is also correct. My son proclaimed this one of the best French onion soups he’s had in a restaurant.

french onion soup

There is still a lot to explore at Moulin and new items are added daily. The core menu will always be available, but from time to time, you’ll find some specials such as the Brie Tartine ($8) we found on one of our visits. If you see this, get it! Absolutely to-die-for.

brie lardon

Moulin Bistro is one of those gems destined to become an Orange County favorite. I see chefs grabbing a bite with their families, or just popping in for a quick coffee. To see culinary folk flock here affirms that this is a place to watch out for. After all, isn’t that the best compliment and validation of all?

Moulin Bistro
1000 Bristol N
Newport Beach, CA 92660
Tel: 844-376-6243

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Fig & Olive spring menu

Spring is definitely in the air when restaurants are previewing their seasonal spring menu. Fig & Olive opened not long ago at Fashion Island and although I’ve been to the restaurant several times, I have not written anything on it. Therefore, when I was invited to check out the new menu items recently, I thought it was time to share what we sampled with everyone.

FIG & OLIVE SPRING MENU

Before anything, a plate of focaccia was brought out to the table with three olive oils from different regions for us to try.

bread olive oil

The lunch menu offers a generous selection of Crostini ($12/3pcs) and we were presented with three: burrata, tomato, herbs, balsamic; cured salmon, radish, cucumber, yogurt, dill; carrot, ricotta. My favorite was naturally the burrata with the carrot and ricotta a close second.

crostini sampler

I was so happy that the next course Roasted Baby Beet with Burrata Salad ($17) had a huge serving of the luscious burrata lurking underneath the greenery since the little bit on the crostini was a tease on my palate, but didn’t satiate. The beautiful vibrantly hued roasted beets from Babe farm were absolutely gorgeous. Together with spinach, toasted hazelnut, orange segment and heirloom cherry tomatoes, it was definitely spring on a plate. Dressed perfectly in a raspberry aged balsamic vinaigrette, it was a huge hit all around.

salad

Unfortunately, my photo of Crab & Heirloom Tomato turned out dismally and does not justify how savory and mouthwatering it really was. Jumbo lump crab, heirloom cherry tomato, garlic cilantro, shallot and harissa with avocado basil tapenade was one of those things I wanted more of.

crab

My table-mates and I decided to order different entrees so we could get a taste of a good variety. Salmon Tartine ($14) was a gorgeous open face sandwich with beautifully vibrant cured salmon served on Kenter farm toasted whole wheat bread. Accoutrements of dill cucumber yogurt, radish and tomato were refreshing. Add to that a side of arugula salad and the distinctively flavor of Arbequina Olive oil, voila, a great option for a light lunch.

salmon tartine

I’m not a goat cheese fan, but I took a bite of the Zucchini Blossom & Goat Cheese Ravioli ($26). A generous portion of house-made goat cheese raviolis with zucchini emulsion and tomato confit, the flavors are reflective of the season it represents. I didn’t care for the crispy zucchini blossom which was way too heavily coated completely masking its delicate nature.

ravioli

I loved the White Sea Bass ($25) I selected. Two pieces of white sea bass marinated with lemon thyme is flaky with a nice crispy skin. A colorful bounty of carrot, asparagus, celery root puree and heirloom potato charmoula complete this tasty plate.

sea bass

The restaurant gets very busy so reservations are recommended. Valet parking is available for $6.

Fig & Olive
151 Newport Center Drive
Newport Beach, CA 92660
Tel: 949-877-3005

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Tommy Bahama’s Fish Fridays + giveaway

It’s been a while since I last dined at Tommy Bahama Island Grille. I love the tropical atmosphere and on this day, we opted to sit out on the patio to take advantage of the glorious day we were having here in southern California. The cool breeze made for a very leisurely afternoon indeed. The restaurant has launched Fish Fridays which offers an array of fish dishes for lent and will run until April 18th.

Even though it was lunch, we decided to have a drink because it was just too beautiful a day not to. Raspberries & Rye ($12) with Old Overholt, orange, lime, orange bitters, fresh muddled raspberries was fruity yet strong at the same time. If you like rye whiskey, this is the drink for you. I, on the other hand, loved the Mango Habanero Margarita ($12) complete with Milagro Silver, orange Curacao, mango, scratch sour, habanero and Hellfire Habanero Shrub. Fruity and spicy! Right up my alley.

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If you’re looking for good fish and chips, the one here is stellar but you’ll have to visit on a Friday for this. Stone IPA Battered True Cod Fish & Chips ($18) has really fresh fish pieces dipped in batter and served small enough to eat by hand. The fish is moist and flaky and the batter is seasoned well. Served with a Oaxacan chili vinegar, it was a perfect accompaniment, a Callifornian version of malt vinegar, if you will. The jerk seasoned fries were so addicting we couldn’t stop eating them.

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New Zealand Green Lip Mussels ($16) was incredible and I’m so happy this will be served every single day until the end of the month! Perfectly tender and wonderfully plump, the mussels were spot on in texture and flavor. The miso broth, with hints of tarragon was so umami-filled if was difficult to not fight for every last drop of that broth. I dipped the accompanying garlic grilled baguette into it and left the plate clean.

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I was surprised to see such a generous portion when the Blackened Fish Tacos ($16.50) arrived. I’ve never had these before even though it’s a permanent item on the menu. Topped with a tomato relish, chipotle aioli, lime sour cream and a refreshing Asian slaw, I could only eat 2 of these tacos if I ate nothing else. The tortilla is a special blend of flour and corn giving it a really unique chewy texture. A side of mango salsa adds a sweet tart finish to these awesome tacos.

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Another great fish dish is the Teriyaki Grilled Steelhead Salmon ($24). I loved the citrus soy dressing which looked like it could be too sweet, but I was happy to find that it was salty tart. The baby pea sprout salad was very creative as was the baby bok choy which add more greens but in a unique way to go low carb. This will also be available every single day before they take them off the menu! The mussels are calling my name!

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One of the dessert specials was Hawaiian Malasadas ($6), sugar-coated doughnuts served with a tropical fruit curd. The tart curd was heavy on passionfruit flavors which made us very happy. This was indeed the ideal way to finish an absolutely delightful lunch al fresco!

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Tommy Bahama is offering one of my readers a $100 giftcard to go check them out. Leave me a comment and tell me how you will be celebrating with your giftcard to be entered in this giveaway. Entries close on Sunday 23rd. Good Luck!

Tommy Bahama Island Grille
854 Avocado Avenue
Newport Beach, CA 92660
Tel: 949-760-8686

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A Restaurant is a perfect modern classic

I’ve been to A Restaurant many times in the past, but always during dinner. The restaurant is so dimly lit I’ve never been happy with the library of photos I’ve acquired so I’ve never written about it. Therefore, it was incredibly lucky that Chef Jon Blackford agreed to indulge me in my request to visit during the day so I can take some photos of his incredible food.

On previous visits, I’ve eaten a lot of steaks and comfort foods like mac n cheese, and of course, the delicious Brussels sprouts. This time, I came here for lunch with a friend and enjoyed some things I’ve never eaten before at A.

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We began with Seared Albacore Tuna ($15) and I was amazed at the beauty of the presentation. I joked that usually, I’ll have to pull out my trusty flashlight to get a good look at what I was eating, but my flashlight could not have done any of Chef Blackford’s dishes justice. The perfectly plated slices of tuna with jalapeno emulsion, shaved celery, hearts of palm and micro cilantro was so pretty and tasted delectable. It was light so ladies who are lunching can indulge without ever feeling guilty!

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Now, I’m not a salad person, but when it came to the Tuscan Black Kale ($12) it was a salad even I loved. You wouldn’t have known I’m not a fan of raw vegetables if you had seen me devour this bowl of shaved mushroom, red onion, brioche croutons, country ham, green goddess dressing, parmesan, all topped with a runny fried egg. I think I embarrassed myself a bit when the guy tried to take it away and I wanted to make sure every morsel had been eaten first.

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If you’re a fan of Steak Tartare ($18) this is definitely one to get. Black truffle, arugula, romano cheese, mustard and capers combine to season this ever so perfectly and with the right amount of saltiness to be eaten with the toast. There is nothing worse than under-seasoned meat and raw meat at that! This was sublime!

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But the best dish of this particular meal was Free Range Veal Chop ($38), the ultimate piece of meat executed to such precision it was just genius. Tender, succulent, and just top-notch! Served with Anson Mill’s grits, hedgehog mushrooms, baby spinach, leeks in a marsala reduction, this is definitely a winner in my book. Yes, their steaks are fabulous, but give the veal chop a try! You might just be hooked.

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I didn’t have room for anything else, naturally, no desserts, but you can be sure I’ll return here again now that I know they serve lunch. I never knew they were open for lunch! Silly me! Chef Blackford is a secret Orange County must share because he is masterful in his craft and his menu needs the recognition it deserves!

A Restaurant
3334 W Pacific Coast Highway
Newport Beach, CA 92663
Tel: 949-650-6505

A Restaurant on Urbanspoon

a perfect little spot to Eat Chow in

Those of you who are fans of the original Eat Chow will be delighted to find its second location now open for business off the Pacific Coast Highway. The Hungry Dogg and I paid them a visit to see what the new place is all about.

I was immediately attracted to the beachy feel, the aqua colors, and just the overall relaxed and casual surroundings in which to dine in.

We started with Beer Battered Onion Rings ($4.50), my choice, served with a Point Reyes blue cheese dip. It’s been quite a long time since I’ve had really good onion rings as most places can’t seem to batter the rings correctly. The ones here are simply perfect with a crispy coating surrounding soft sweet onions.

Our server suggested Truffled Parmesan Fries ($5) as well, and I was glad he did because these did not disappoint. I like my fries thin and crispy and these were exactly the way I love ’em. The sprinkling of Italian parsley and cheese gave them added flavor which they didn’t need as they were so good on their own.

I love clams and when I saw something entitled We Love Steamed Clams ($11) on the menu, I was like “SO DO I” and yep, they were definitely exactly how we like them. Steamed with garlic, white wine, pancetta, fresh parmesan, lemon and served with pesto toasted baguette, this was indeed the highlight of the meal. Delicious!

If you’re looking for something lighter for lunch, Ribeye Thai Beef Salad ($14) might just hit the spot. Although the marinated ribeye were sliced a tad too thin and was a little dry, the lime ginger dressing, as well as the lemon grass, basil, cilantro, mint, mixed greens, carrots and daikon, helped alleviate that issue. Crispy onions were a great addition creating a lovely textural contrast to the dish. There was also red pepper roulli drizzled on top, but I didn’t feel it needed to be there.

Austin saw Steak Diane ($17) on the menu and wanted to try it. I’ve had this as a child and wanted to see if it was similar to what I remembered. Seared tenderloin is topped with a sauce of shallots, mushroom, bordelaise and, dijon. Accompanied by cauliflower mashed potatoes and garlic pernod sauteed spinach, it was certainly a more sophisticated version of my childhood dish. A nice generous portion with to-die-for acoutrements.

The most surprising item was the Vanilla Lavender Pot Du Creme ($8) with fresh berry compote topped with whipped cream. Yes I know, I’m not a dessert fan, yet, lately, I’ve found some awesome sweets tempting my palate. This is one of them. Needless to say, I ate my half — ravished actually — and will be back to have it again!

Eat Chow 2 has graciously donated a $25 gift certificate for one of my readers to win. Leave me a comment telling me what you will most likely be ordering there for a chance. For an extra chance, “like” Eat Chow’s Facebook page and leave a comment telling me you’ve done so. Entries end on Sunday, May 27. Winner will be announced on Monday 28. Good Luck.

Eat Chow 2
211 62nd Street
Newport Beach, CA 92663
Tel: 949-423-7080

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