S. Irene Virbila makes her monthly trek to the O.C. and comes up with a tasty find at Blanca in Newport Beach. The restaurant is owned by the Mor Group, a mish-mash of investors that includes some breakaways from the team behind Tengu and Nine Thirty in Westwood. Notable because Blanca sounds like a typical trendy resto-lounge (hot pink accents, late-night crudo bar) but has serious food from chef Nicholas Weber, a Patina Group alum.
The chef's intensity never lets up, and while foodies will flock to this place, I don't know about the beach crowd, which is more prone to seeking out easygoing fare, nothing too challenging. With a menu this large and a small kitchen staff, it must be hard to execute these intricate dishes when and if the place gets really busy. On my visits, there are not so many diners, but later in the evening, the bar and outdoor area is thronged and there's definitely more drinking than eating going on.Miss Irene's wild about the crudo and wild mushroom paella amonth other dishes, but hates the wine list. She finds it destination worthy or she wouldn't be telling Angelenos about it. Blanca gets two stars. Today the "S." stands for "sidetrip." [LAT]
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