Sunday, November 2, 2008

the crow bar and kitchen - Corona del Mar

One year, two dinners and a lunch later, and I'm finally getting around to writing something. Our most recent visit was last month. Let's start with a few basic pointers.

Valet is cheap, but street parking is better. Walk off those calories you're about to ingest and do the extra block or two. Just don't park in that public lot belonging to Ruby's.

It is not a quiet place. Don't even think for a second that you'll be able to hear the person across from you unless you plan on invading their personal space.

Reservations are a must if you plan on dining. While I thought I spotted a communal table, it's just beyond the entrance. I don't like the wind disturbing my meal, much less having folks stare while I dine.

Lastly, order something cheesy (sorry if you are lactose). They do a nice job of incorporating it in their menu. How often are you going to order dairy in a place like this? There's a daily grilled cheese special. Check it out.

I began with arancini. It's listed as "(two) crispy risotto balls stuffed with fra'mani spicy sausage, aged provolone". Crispy + risotto were two things I automatically say 'yes' to, so in goes the order. Wow. Those were cojones. Share this unless you plan on making it three-quarters of your meal. A few chunks of meat are tucked away, kind of like sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves. I would order these again and again in the future. He ordered his favorite blue crab deviled eggs, served in their own custom dish. He doesn't find deviled eggs at very many joints, so this is always a treat for him. No complaints here.

Note: Not eaten this time around, but ordered previously, I really liked the bistro salad. Maybe it's the poached quail egg mingling with bacon, frisee and aged sherry vinegar? Either way it's a savory flavor combo.

I couldn't decide between fish & chips or duck confit, so we ended up splitting three entrees (once you count the classic crow burger). The roasted fuji apples' sweetness could not save me from the sodium attack of maple leaf farm's duck. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy salt as much as the next person. I gave it three bites before I admitted defeat. Apparently, it's supposed to be like that. I don't ever remember a confit giving me such a reaction before. Maybe I'm getting old.

As a replacement, I went for the grilled cheese: croque madame - aka - grilled ham and cheese with fried egg laid on top. It was like a breakfast sandwich, only better. Easily the best item we dined on that night. His house burger was pleasant as usual, as he munched the sweet potato fries first. Their (requested) ketchup is made in-house, so it was quite the unusual pairing of tangy and sweet flavors. Fish and chips were deceptively served to appear smaller than they are. Three modest pieces of white fish are tucked away and surrounded by shoestring fries. It was a deep fried frenzy on a platter, but their curried tartar gave it that needed layer of flavor.

Note 2: We tried substituting duck fat fries with our meals, but were "politely declined", as all such requests are.

The gastropub is compared to brasseries and izakaya establishments; A relaxed bar with upscale cuisine. While crow bar speaks of affordability and sustainable food supply, they shouldn't forget where they are. CDM is an affluent beach city happy to fork out $7.50 for sweet potato fries in a decibel driven atmosphere. They picked the right niche for their concept.

Note 3: While I didn't even think about discussing the beer or wine selection, they do have a vast listing of both. I was happy with my draft root beer, but I'm here for the gastro experience.

the crow bar and kitchen
2325 E. Coast Highway
Corona del Mar 92625

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