Sunday, March 29, 2009

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
(949) 263-9400
1000 Bristol St N
Newport Beach, CA 92660

At Last Cafe - Long Beach


At 7:04 PM, Blogger KirkK said...

Hey Elmo - That beef sirloin does look really good.

At 8:46 PM, Blogger Frequent Traveler said...

You are so sweet ! It was VERY nice meeting you and having you as a dinner companion. Would be very happily willing to do so again anytime in the future.

And the apple tart WAS outstanding :) Your picture does it justice !

(p.s. Was at Marche Moderne this week in Costa Mesa for lunch on Friday and dinner tonight - both times the place was packed full.

Pascal's food just wasn't as good by comparison, even with the reasonable prices as an offset.)

Have a good week ahead,
Loving Annie

At 9:08 PM, Blogger EatTravelEat said...

Beautiful presentations! The charcuterie plate has many things I haven't even tried before. Very interesting! It is nice of them to not put too many fillers, like mashed potatoes, on their main entree.

That apple tart looks delicious! I think I need to come here next week. :)

At 1:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 4:58 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


And I didn't even need to Photoshop that pic either.


Likewise. I think Marche Moderne is still spectacular, especially with their $20 Spontanee lunch. That one's very very hard to beat.


If you do end up going, I bet you that you'll also be the only one in the restaurant. The place is really suffering from a lack of business.


Oh man, third grade flashbacks!

At 8:02 AM, Blogger Juliet said...

Wouldn't surprise me if it is because of the recession. Back in December, we went to a high end Brazilian steakhouse for Dave's birthday, and there was maybe one other party there besides us. I think these kind of places suffer a lot now.

But a good meal at an upscale place is a nice occasional treat. Sounds like you had a good experience.

At 11:19 AM, Blogger christoofat said...

wow..that is an EXCELLENT meal for the $$ So sad that this economy may close doors of talent like this. I hope Pascal & others can hang in there. I've never eaten at Traditions
before, but maybe it is time.
Thanks for the great review & even more foodporn

At 11:54 AM, Blogger Menu Taster said...

I went for Valentine's day this year and the place was consistently packed throughout the night. We had the 5-course meal with wine pairing ($145 pp). The food was good, but not great. Wish we had gone to try the 3-course meal for $40 instead of spending a ton of money. Sad to say but, we'd rather go back to Patina or Marche Modern.

At 4:27 PM, Blogger Diana said...

That sirloin is begging for a steak knife. I love seeing perfectly pink meat like that -- I could die happy with that as my last meal! (Not so sure about the pate with crunchy bits though... )

Glad you had a nice meal!

At 11:36 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


One good thing about the recession, it's easy to find good deals on food nowadays. I just found out that Hamamori (that restaurant I reviewed last week) dropped the price of the meal I had by $3!


I'm sure Tradition is far from faltering, but then the same thing was said of a lot of things, like Bear Stearns, et al. And that dining room was pretty damned empty!

Menu Taster,

I love Marche Moderne (I have always considered it the best French in the County). Still, this meal was impressive -- old school French...not to mention reasonably priced. But $145 pp?! Yikes! Steep! Valentine's is like Christmas for places like this, eh?


The crunchy bits kinda threw me off at first...but then it grows on ya! Like an ugly puppy who grows up to be very loyal and obedient friend. Hmm, maybe analogizing the mystery meat to domestic pets isn't the best thing to do...I'll stop now.

At 4:15 PM, Blogger Charlie Fu said...

When I went last year, it was also pretty empty. About 4 other tables there. Maybe it's just a lack of popularity with all the new french restaurants opening in OC.

At 9:04 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Yeah, I figure Marche Moderne gets all the biz these days. Deservedly so.


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