Fine dining: The new ‘A’ has elements of the old

Inside A Crystal Cove restaurant, a new high-end eatery in the Crystal Cove Shopping Center.
(Courtesy of A Crystal Cove)

A Restaurant in Newport Beach is known for steak dinners and a dimly lit dining room while CdM Restaurant in Corona del Mar is known for a sleek perspective on New American cuisine. A Crystal Cove in Newport Coast intends to offer the best of both.

The restaurant, open for about a month in the Crystal Cove Shopping Center, is the latest offering from River Jetty Restaurant Group partners, Joseph “McG” Nichol and Jordan Otterbein, whose group includes A Restaurant, A Market and CdM Restaurant.

“A Crystal Cove is a different vibe,” said Staci Beech, a server who works lunches at A Crystal Cove and dinners at A Restaurant. “It is a combination of our CdM and A Restaurants menus.”

A Restaurant opened originally as the Arches in 1926, and the red booths and mood lighting create a feeling of nostalgia that Nichol and Otterbein preserved when they took over in 2008, while CdM boasts a more trendy vibe with a “Speakeasy” bar downstairs.

A Crystal Cove is 5,400 square feet and has interior seating for 200, with the red leather booths of A Restaurant on one side and the signature blue banquets of CdM on the other. The centerpiece is a 24-seat, oval-shaped bar with drink rail. A complimentary antique photo booth, like the one found in CdM Restaurant, is also available, and there are plans to host DJs on Saturday nights.

The bar at A Crystal Cove, a new restaurant in Newport Beach.
(Courtesy of A Crystal Cove)

“Each of our dining concepts is tailored to the unique communities in which they are located, and we’re thrilled to introduce our Crystal Cove neighbors to their favorite new hangout,” said Otterbein.

The menu is helmed by Executive Chef Elvis Morales, who has worked at both A Restaurant and CdM Restaurant, and includes a seasonal rotation of greatest hits from both establishments. Favorites from the other locations that can be found on A Crystal Cove’s menu include the duck liver pate with huckleberry gelee and spicy yellowfin tuna with tempura eggplant and sriracha ailoli.

And then there are some surprises, like the chicken piccata, only available as a special on Tuesday nights at A Restaurant, but served daily on the lunch and dinner menus at A Crystal Cove.

Chicken piccata at A Crystal Cove.
(Courtesy of A Crystal Cove)

Beech, who has worked with A Restaurant for nine years, said she sees clientele dining at the restaurant group’s multiple locations.

“Some faces I see here at lunch and then I actually see them at dinner,” said Beech. “There is kind of an A for everybody at any time.”

Beech has worked in the Orange County restaurant industry for 48 years, starting at the Jolly Roger on Balboa Island where she served ice cream and tacos out of its to-go service window at age 15. A Restaurant holds special meaning for her too.

“I actually got engaged at that restaurant 39 years ago,” said Beech, who is still happily married. “So I am constantly waiting on people in my booth. It is a special place in my heart.”

The A Crystal Cove team hopes guests will make just as many happy memories at their new location, which Beech imagines won’t be too difficult.

“When you walk in, you know you are going to have happy faces,” said Beech.

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