Provenance in Newport Beach’s East Bluff
2531 Eastbluff Dr, Newport Beach, CA 92660
t’s like a secret garden – to find Provenance, you have to look past the grocery stores and salons of Newport Beach’s Eastbluff Village Center, for its unassuming entrance tucked back in the corner. Leave your inhibitions at the door because on the other side, you’ll find a bright and elegant dining room and expansive bar designed in the modern farmhouse style. Multicolored wooden beams and paneling guide the eye to an airy back porch patio and 1,300 square feet of raised beds, where many of the restaurants ingredients are grown.
Executive Chef and Restaurateur Cathy Pavlos, welcomed our group like long lost family members. We were to dine on her newly crafted seasonal dishes in that familial manner as well, so shyness was not allowed.
The focus of the debut was vibrant flavors and colors, while integrating influences from Asian, Latin and Mediterranean gastronomy into her Napa Valley inspired menu to create a healthy, novel California cuisine. Pavlos recognized the multiethnic fabric that comprises Orange County and sought to illustrate that authenticity through her cooking. Her awareness of localism translates to the ingredients she incorporates in her food, but she also understands that we live in a global economy – what’s important is to find farms doing everything right.
And she has found them. After a beautifully light and crumbly biscuit slathered with a calorie free yogurt butter, it’s on to the first plate, breakfast tacos with green chile roasted carnitas from Snake River Farms. I reached for the platter, heaping piles of cage free scrambled eggs, radishes, pepitas, exquisitely cooked breakfast potatoes, and ricotta salata cheese onto my flour tortilla. Squirt some lime and a dash of cilantro and the verde tang of the carnitas comes alive. I would gladly eat this creation every morning.
Next, pan seared Idaho trout, a newcomer to Sunday brunch, came topped with two soft cooked eggs slathered in a mustard-cognac béarnaise, a creamy and salty indulgence that unlocks the flavor of the tender fish. Crunchy yam and sweet potato hashbrowns add texture that reels the bite home for a dynamic mouth experience.
It only seems right that on the eve of Cinco de Mayo, we transition to lunch with more tacos, this time stuffed with wild shrimp and crabcake. This dish is like a vibrant coral reef of savor and hues; exciting surprises appear with every turn of the tongue. At one moment, saline sweetness rolls across the taste buds, quickly followed by a crash of peppery heat, courtesy of smoked paprika and a cashew chili salsa. Fresh yellow sweet corn pops in and the cilantro aioli’s subtle green fragrance anchors it with a different spice.
The seafood theme resumed with an Asian flair in the California bibimbap bowl, tossed with Loch Duart salmon, jasmine rice, garden greens and Brussels sprouts, grilled red onion, butternut squash rounds and fried egg. Ginger soy and sweet sriracha sauces pack a punch that pleasantly left my lips aflame and wanting more.
An unexpected hit landed in the form of hand cut French fries. “They are like snowflakes,” said Pavlos, “no two are alike.” Their delectable crispy on the outside, souffléd on the inside composition is no accident. In France, chefs use a wood cutting tool to carve the perfect slices. Well, American potatoes are different and thus, as Chef Pavlos found, required a different tool to achieve the same effect. After three months of research, her revelation came in the form of a peach pitter. The hard work paid off in a glorious way; lather the soaked and twice fried masterpieces in the sharp house barbecue ketchup and appreciate their genius.
For the “veggie intermission”, we explored tostadas expertly adorned with sweet pea puree, cashews, pumpkin seeds and the true celebrity, a smoky rojo sauce. Tender herb smoked artichokes came to the table in an aromatic rush, the wood char harmonizing with lemon and black garlic miso butter. A grilled avocado and heirloom tomato platter kept the fresh flavor combinations dancing – Prosciutto di Parma, hickory smoked almonds, burrata cheese, and a soon in season roasted peach all made an appearance on the stage.
A toast of limoncello, infused with Mission Viejo lemons, opened up my sinuses as only a citrus vodka palate cleanser could. Magnificent proteins awaited us for dinner.
Scrumptious pork tenderloin with a charred chili-espresso adobe rub paired wonderfully with grilled apricots on a bed of light black beans. The fat rocked on the boneless beef short ribs and the house kimchee made it sing. Whole branzino seared on a layer of basmati rice, green beans and a cumin-based-chermoula sauce conjured images of dining by the shores of North Africa. Our last plate of the night in fact came on a slab, 5 feet long and carrying bacon beer-battered, sous-vide chicken and waffles, an herb encrusted meal of syrupy goodness.
In traditional Italian fashion, Chef Pavlos sent us on our way with a sip of cherries in grappa and a hug, insistent that we come again. Her success and passion for her craft is contagious, and I am not alone in saying that I will be returning to Provenance.