The Gossiping Gourmet: Hit Bayside for great bar food menu

How can you get a reasonably priced meal at a very nice restaurant in these difficult economic times?

Many fine restaurants are offering pre-fixe dinners and early bird specials, but we have found a particularly delicious and extensive bar food menu at Bayside Restaurant in Newport Beach.

The food is excellent and the room handsome. As you enter the bar area in the center of the dining room, you are confronted with a dramatic steel and glass wine tower. Overhead, large billowing sheets of fabric create a tent-like feeling or perhaps suggest a montage of sails on the bay.

In addition to the seating at the bar itself, there are nicely upholstered booths and comfortable wicker chairs at small marble tables. The ambience is warm and friendly and also conducive to dining solo at the bar.

Chef Paul Gstein has been serving consistently fine food at Bayside since it opened 12 years ago, but we were drawn back by the tempting offerings on the small plate bar menu.

Well within our budget, we were able to order five dishes to share that were surprisingly generous in size and beautifully presented. To begin with, you usually don't get hot rolls with bar food but we were served crunchy warm and very tasty sourdough rolls with excellent butter.

Lobster salad bruschetta was notable for the substantial amount of sweet, tender lobster without the distraction of cheap filler and the large slice of sourdough bread on which it rested was perfectly toasted. It was garnished with thin slices of avocado, sun dried tomato and roasted baby yellow bell pepper.

The salad was very lightly dressed; however, there was an additional dollop of lemony mayo on the plate for those who like more sauce. We were delighted and impressed with the flavors and attention to detail and eagerly awaited the next plate.

Ahi tuna was composed of four nice thick slices of first-rate tuna that had been seared with a peppery crust. The rare, velvety fish was set off by a mound of sautéed spinach and a head of baby bok choy drizzled with citrusy ponzu sauce. The combination was a surprise but it all worked beautifully together.

A large mound of chicken chop chop salad had a confetti of wonton slivers, cabbages and carrots with black sesame seeds and little cubes of tender tasty grilled chicken. The fresh tasting crunchy Asian slaw was very lightly tossed with a most unusual dressing; not the sweet one that we expected but rather a spicy sesame dressing with a touch of mayo to thicken it. It was quite delicious.

We were wowed by the lemon risotto, which accompanied a generous piece of grilled salmon. The grains of rice were perfectly distinct (as they should be in a proper risotto) and were gently accented by a delicate lemon sauce with a hint of cream.

More of the vibrant sauce rested in a small pool at the bottom of the plate. We used it to nap the well-prepared fresh fish with its lovely light char. Long thin strips of asparagus proved a textural contrast. It would have made a nice sized entrée for one.

As good as everything else was, the delectable, cast-iron seared quail shone above the rest. It was glazed with a complex sauce that was fruity and spicy, sweet and sour, all at once with great depth of flavor. The little bird was beautifully presented resting on an earthy Portabello mushroom that sat upon a thick buckwheat blini. All the flavors married perfectly.

We finished our meal with dessert from the regular menu. (You can always order from this menu as well, in the bar.)

We were not, however, able to finish our dessert, which was a humongous banana bread pudding with a wonderful light texture. It was topped with little chunks of banana and drizzled generously with excellent caramel sauce. And if that wasn't enough, it came with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a large thin almond crisp.

All in all, a great deal for great food!

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

The bar at Bayside Restaurant

Where: Bayside Restaurant, 900 Bayside Drive, Newport Beach

When: Open daily

Prices: $5.95-$15.75


Bottles: $33-$1,450

By the glass: 6 oz. $6.50-$19.25

½ bottle: $31-$58

Corkage Fee: $15

Information: (949) 721-1222,

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