The Gossiping Gourmet: A lighter alternative at Silver Trumpet

The latest addition to the restaurant scene around the Segerstrom Center for the Arts is the harmoniously named Silver Trumpet. Located in the Wyndham Orange County Hotel, the restaurant faces onto a small man-made lake surrounded by a huge courtyard, replete with grassy lawns, tall palms and abundant foliage.

Who knew? The charming patio is a lovely spot for dining on a warm evening.

Beautiful floor-to-ceiling windows framed in shining stainless steel dramatically open up the interior space. Gorgeous eco-friendly bamboo floors, a trumpet assemblage on the entry wall, black-and-white photos of musicians and display cases of musical instruments complete the themed décor.

The newly refurbished room is now the home of Chef Robert Bierbirch's modern seasonal California cuisine, which seems to mean, in addition to seasonal and local, lighter and healthier. He also believes in using sustainable, organic produce from their "symphony of local farmers," so the menu changes frequently.

We dined during Costa Mesa Restaurant week when the Trumpet featured a three-course prix-fixe menu, which they also do from time to time in coordination with special theater productions.

We began with a chicken consommé, dotted with a few little cubes of skin-on potato, sautéed leeks and a "truffle quail egg." The broth was very light and seemed to be salt-free. We saw the evidence of truffle oil in the broth, but we couldn't taste it. With the addition of a little salt, it made a delicate first course.

Our other appetizer was seared hamachi with a spice rub that overpowered the small pieces of fish. The tasting sized portion was accented with a garnish, which we quite liked — crunchy green apple batons and Vietnamese herbs tossed in a sweet and tangy coriander vinaigrette.

Chef Bierbirch has a predilection for broths, especially in his fish dishes. This is a lovely way to serve fish. Our moist juicy halibut came in an unusual and nuanced sweet onion broth perfumed with laurel and thyme.

The advertised corn pudding was nowhere in evidence, although our waitress said, "It is just a small bit that dissolves in the broth."

Could have fooled us, but we thought the dish was delicious without it.

If served as a first course, the tasting of vegetable cannellonis would have been an adequate portion but it was simply too light for a main course. There was no indication on the menu that there would be no pasta involved. This was definitely not something your nonna would have made.

The "noodles" were very thin slices of zucchini wrapped around three different chopped vegetable fillings. None of them were in any kind of sauce. Our favorite was the well-seasoned cubed squash flecked with farro (a dense and chewy ancient grain of the wheat family with a nutty flavor). It provided an interesting texture.

The mushroom duxelles was also quite tasty. Only the red pepper filling seemed a bit over dressed with balsamic vinegar. It was definitely a creative take on "cannelloni" but it left us still hungry.

We ordered chocolate soufflé with chocolate sauce for dessert, but it was actually a vanilla soufflé with chocolate chunks and a coarse sugar topping. The sauce was crème Anglaise (custard sauce) presented in a Chinese soupspoon.

Our other dessert was a trio of butterscotch puddings each served in a Chinese soup spoon, one topped with a raspberry, one with a few freeze-dried blueberries and the last with a dollop of caramel sauce. The problem was that the pudding was neither creamy nor smooth.

Chef Bierbirch's cuisine is inventive and features a light hand. Some dishes might even be called spa cuisine, but there are still many heartier menu items like short ribs Bourguignonne with potato puree, hanger steak with twice-baked cheddar bacon potato and jidori chicken with gnocchi.

ELLE HARROW and TERRY MARKOWITZ were in the gourmet food and catering business for 20 years. They can be reached for comments or questions at m_markowitz@cox.net.

Silver Trumpet

Where: Wyndham Orange County Hotel, 3350 Ave. of the Arts, Costa Mesa.

When:

Breakfast: 6 to 11 a.m. Monday through Friday; 6:30 a.m. to noon Saturday and Sunday

Brunch: 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Lunch: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday

Dinner: 5 to 10 p.m. daily

Prices:

Appetizers: $7-$14

Entrées: $15-$32

Desserts: $8-$14

Wine:

Bottles: $22-$211

Half-Bottles: $23-$73

By the glass: $6-$16

Corkage Fee: $15

Information: Call (714) 442-8593, or go to silvertrumpetrestaurant.com

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