Chef Amy Lebrun’s food will have you swooning as soon as you take a seat.
Lido Bottle Works and Chef Amy Lebrun are massively significant to Orange County’s culinary scene. Before I can explain why though, I need to go on a bit of a tangent. See, there was an unstoppable trend in romantic films of the ’90s…stay with me here.
Countless titles featuring heartthrobs of the era trapped in a constant loop of plot points flooded our screens. The recipe was consistent – boy/girl character who thinks they have it all in life begins a relationship with a character who hasn’t “come out of their shell,” or something of the sort. After realizing their life wasn’t truly full yet, that lead character, hoping past transgressions will be forgiven, usually ends the film doing whatever they can to prove their love is real, and that the unlikely duo, is a perfect fit. We all know the type of rom-com I’m talking about, and we still adore them and hold them in our hearts with nostalgic love. Even viewed through rose-tinted glasses, it’s always fun to see the moment of realization wash over the characters – knowing they have finally found what their heart needs to feel full.
As diners, we too can experience this phenomenon, and when it happens, it is profound. That sense that you have discovered something fantastic – something you previously overlooked, or didn’t know was out there – is rare, but beautiful. It is a combination of elation and bemusement that you hadn’t had this experience sooner. After a recent visit, I can safely say Lido Bottle Works in Newport Beach gave me such a moment, and it will provide you with one too.
Sitting on the backside of Lido Marina Village, Lido Bottle Works (LBW) sits like an unassuming, straight-A student in the back of a classroom – waiting for the right moment to showcase itself to the world. This would be our love interest in this culinary/cinematic metaphor. It is a small, subtle space surrounded by the more stereotypical “Newport” landmarks like Nobu, or Mayor’s Table. I myself have walked by before without a second glance, and I now hang my head in shame for doing so, because what Chef Amy Lebrun puts on her plates may very well be some of the most profound food around.
The reason is simple. Food that tastes good and sustains you is one thing – food that can change you, is another.
There is a quiet force to Chef Lebrun. Her presence courses through the very air of the restaurant. You half expect her to suddenly appear in front of you, like a Jedi ghost from Star Wars, when you least expect it. The restaurant is a wonderfully pleasant space to while away the hours along the water, but there are no frills here – the focus is the food. Even the lights seem purpose-placed to highlight each meticulously prepared dish. You get the sense that other restaurants intend to make the guest feel like the star of the show, but LBW is about the ingredients on the plate, and emphasizing every ounce of flavor Chef Lebrun creates.
Simply put, it is exquisite. Every bite, no matter what you order, is prepared with intense love and respect. Depending on your frequency of visits, you will never be ordering the same dish twice, as the menu is ever-changing except for the Stroganoff. “People would riot if we took that off,” Lebrun bluntly states. In fairness, after having it for myself (Filet beef with egg noodles, seasonal mushrooms, and chive cream), I would likely take up arms with my new-found Stroganoff brethren.
Luckily there is always a multitude of delicious options available. “I don’t wait for traditional seasons,” Chef states, as a dish of ribs dusted in fennel pollen arrives. “As soon as something is ready to use, I’m going to use it – I’m not waiting for some sort of hard date to change out the menu. When a dish is ready, it’s ready.” The belief is proven genuine moments later when, after the ribs were devoured (fiendishly good they were as well), a dish of quail arrives. “This is the last one since that’s the last persimmon on the plate so that one will be gone tomorrow.”
Every flavor strikes you with sublime intention – purposefully placed to not only enhance the other ingredients around it but to be the best representation of itself at that moment. The chef isn’t limited or biased towards vegetables or proteins either, as the best-selling dish is the seasonal vegetables with pistachio butter. At first, I thought this was likely because of the health-forward mindset of the local clientele. Then, I ate the dish and understood that a person would have to be out of their mind not to adore the preparation of these vegetables. It doesn’t stop there as Chef also handles pastry duty for desserts so good Mr. Wonka himself would hand over the keys to the factory after just one bite.
There is a challenging balance in cooking, between not “elevating” an ingredient enough, or manipulating it too much where you lose its integrity. In essence, Chef Amy Lebrun has a seemingly perfect pitch when it comes to finding balance in her use of what is available. Her food is food to be loved and appreciated, and her talent is that of which food lovers dream of finding. Lido Bottle Works is just like that character in the rom-com – extremely talented, beautiful, and full of heart, and we should all be ashamed for not realizing sooner how much we love it. Once you taste this food, you will have no other reaction. Don’t believe me? Make a reservation at Lido Bottle Works for yourself.
It will be love at first bite. This, I promise you.
Lido Bottle Works | 3408 Via Oporto #103, Newport Beach, CA 92663 |lidobottleworks.com | (949) 529-2784