The Gossiping Gourmet: No canned dishes at this Cannery

I thought it was time to check out the Cannery restaurant because it has a new chef, Nick Weber, and a new menu.

The original building was an actual fish cannery beginning in 1921. In 1973, it was remodeled as a restaurant and sold in 1999 to current owner Ron Salisbury. Much of the interior still retains the factory look, but now it is a very attractive factory, painted in pale gray and white, with soft lighting and a wall of windows overlooking water in Newport Beach.

Guests can dine on the nice deck patio while watching the constant parade of boats. Upstairs is a crowded and very buzzy entertainment lounge with a sushi and seafood bar. A sports TV and happy hour with half-price drinks and food keep the place humming.

All the fish is wild line-caught, and the beef is certified Angus. You can start your meal with a classic platter of chilled shrimp, lobster, crab salad, oysters and accompaniments or, perhaps, New England clam chowder or ahi tuna poke with wakime salad, sesame seeds, Maui onions and wonton chips.

My companion and I shared a large portion of especially good fried calamari with a very light crust on the varied parts of the seafood, including my favorite, the tentacles. Scattered throughout the calamari were slivers of sweet and spicy red peppers along with green olives. The calamari were served with a cilantro lime aioli on the side and a red sauce that tasted like ketchup and was great on the very good French fries that came with our other starter, mussels.

We found these shell fish to be very disappointing. The mussels were quite small and quite bland, without plumpness or sweetness. They were served in a brownish broth in which floated little rounds of chorizo that added no spice to the liquid. And the broth had an unpleasant burnt-taste undertone.

A lovely piece of Skuna Bay salmon was perfectly cooked and served in a delicious miso brown butter emulsion. Resting atop the fish was toasted pearl barley mixed with little rounds of scallions. Some wonderful caramelized Brussels sprouts provided a bed for the moist fish. It was a great combination.

Less interesting was the thin piece of sea bass. The fish itself had little flavor, although the skin was very crispy and well seasoned. A sweet piquillo pepper emulsion provided a nice compliment to the fish. On the side were some tasty little potato "bricks" filled with finely diced potatoes and deep fried, as well as excellent, thin French green beans mixed with a bit of lettuce.

Although we didn't order it, Jack's bouillabaisse, loaded with half a lobster, scallops, clams, mussels and market fish in a saffron lobster broth topped with a saffron rouille, sounds like a must-have for next time.

In addition to fish and seafood, you will find steaks, hamburgers, short ribs and roast chicken. You can add a lobster to your $48 steak dinner for a mere $26.

We topped off our meal with two delicious desserts. The salted caramel pudding was lush and creamy, topped with a rich brown butter chantilly cream and a bourbon caramel sauce. The final touch was a crunchy toffee crumble.

Of course, we couldn't pass up the original Balboa sundae, which consisted of vanilla bean ice cream, caramelized bananas and a big drizzle of chocolate sauce. What could be bad?

On Sundays, the Cannery has a bottomless champagne brunch with a menu that has everything from huevas rancheros to filet mignon. It's a lovely spot for dining on a sunny day.

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

The Cannery

Where: 3010 Lafayette Road, Newport Beach

When: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Wednesdays, 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Thursdays, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays

Prices:

Appetizers: $9 to $18

Entrées: $16 to $48

Desserts: $9

Wine:

Bottles: $36 to $425

By the glass: $8.50 to $23

Corkage fee: $15

Information: (949) 566-0060 or cannerynewport.com

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