Tradition by Pascal - Newport Beach
As Monster Munching friend and reader JB astutely observed:
Pascal Olhats is to OC what Georges Perrier is to Philadelphia...someone who overlooked world-class meccas like NYC to set up shop elsewhere and sustain a French dining mini-empire to respect, revere, and treasure.But when fellow blogger Loving Annie and I met for dinner at Olhat's flagship restaurant, Tradition by Pascal, we found the place eerily deserted. This was Friday night, prime time for establishments of its ilk. But save for three or four other people who trickled in quietly, the room was as hushed as a monastery. For the remainder of the night, almost all of the pressed table linens would remain unwrinkled, the wine glasses unsmudged, the silverware unused.
One could blame the recession or Tradition's location on a one way street, too far from South Coast Plaza and Fashion Island. But if Olhats was reevaluating his place in OC's dining scene, he didn't show it.
After dinner, the man himself came out to personally check on us and have a chat. A jovial, friendly, down-to-earth chef as any I've met, he struck me as thankful for the business he still had; and perhaps just slightly curious about the weirdos taking pictures of his food. Besides, what else has he got to do after he finished cooking our dinner?
But let's rewind to the beginning of the evening.
While Annie chose to order a-la-carte, I opted for the "Tradition" -- a three-course prix fixe for $40. And since I was to pick my appetizer and main course from three possible options, of course I took the most expensive stuff. C'mon. Wouldn't you?
The charcuterie plate (usually $16) was the most complex and challenging charcuterie plate I've ever encoutered. The most recogizable item? Saucisson, which tasted a lot like salami with the same, slow peppery burn.
The other selections seemed like chapters taken from Julia Child's Mastering The Art of French Cooking.
The pork rillette cooly disintegrated on the tongue with the initially surprising, but not unpleasant consistency of wet tissue paper. And the country pâté were textured with crunchy bits, hammy bits, and bits whose origins were better left unknown.
Next to that, there were comparatively boring thin slices of duck breast, a dollop of bracing dijon mustard to slather over everything, and tart cornichons and haricot verts to jolt my protein O.D.'ing taste buds back into coherency.
But best of all -- crowning the whole pile in a burgundy tuft of sweetness -- were caramelized onions that tasted like gummy worms crossed with a pickle.
My prime beef sirloin (regularly $28) came shortly after, a dish absent of carbohydrates but blessed with a surplus of flavor. Cooked to a supple pinkness, sliced to tender slabs, and fanned out to impress, the steak sat over a poured puddle of green peppercorn cream sauce that sang with the tang of wine. Every forkful that I drug through the brown gravy, terrific.
The meat was flanked by sautéed wild mushrooms that had soaked up the flavors from its pan, and nicely crisp brocolini with stalks that stretched as long as a chopstick.
For dessert, it was Olhat's thin apple tart (normally $9), a warm-out-of-the-oven, flaky baked pastry disc topped with a scoop of vanilla and drizzled with caramel sauce. I've had renditions of this same dessert at just about every restaurant that offers it, and this one was just as good or better than all of them: sour and sweet, crispy and melty, hot and cold.
Now if you've been keeping track and have done the math, you would've figured out that doing the prix fixe amounts to nearly a 25% discount, which along with my charming dinner companion, made for a nice evening out. But it still begs the question: Where was everybody?
To read about what Annie thought:
--->>> CLICK HERE <<<---
Tradition By Pascal
1000 Bristol St N
Newport Beach, CA 92660
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