Barbara’s Bits & Bites: New Ritz fails to live up to its name

The interior of Ritz Prime Seafood in Newport Beach.
(Barbara Venezia)

On my quest to discover and rediscover fun restaurants in Newport Beach and Costa Mesa, this month I was eager to try the new Ritz Prime Seafood, 2801 W. Coast Highway on Mariners Mile in Newport Beach.

I’d been a fan of the iconic Ritz restaurant in Fashion Island for many years.

I’d also followed the saga of its closing since the beginning in 2011 when it lost its lease, won an extension in 2013, and then finally closed in February 2014 with the promise the Ritz would rise again and be given new life by the company Grill Concepts.

So has it?

Not by a long shot.

The only thing similar between this new place and the old restaurant is the Ritz logo on the building. That’s where the similarity begins and ends.

Last week a friend and I headed there for dinner.

By the end of the evening I’d regret this decision.

Valet parking is shared with Billy’s By Beach, which remains a popular hot spot, so maneuvering through the crowded lot was a bit challenging.

Parking costs $6, and the Ritz doesn’t validate.

The interior is high design and plush, adorned with dark wood, glass and stainless; it’s obvious they spent big bucks here.

There’s an outside glass-walled patio with dining tables and heaters.

I asked the hostess if the patio was pet-friendly. She said no.

That surprised me because I could see nowhere food could be prepared on the patio, and it had a separate entrance via the walkway outside the restaurant.

According to California law, patios meeting both these criteria may allow pets.

Normally I’d debate the issue, but since Stasha the Wonder Dog was home, I didn’t.

Strike one in my book.

Strike two came a few moments later.

A bubbly waitress approached our table welcoming my male guest, calling him “Mr. Venezia.”

I’d made the reservation on The hostess welcomed me by name so why this gal decided not to address me and not him is anyone’s guess.

My friend told her he wasn’t Mr. Venezia.

She asked, “Aren’t you married?”

At this point I stepped into the conversation, informing her I was married, but not to this guy.

Guess she couldn’t figure out the handsome man with me was gay!

Talk about awkward!

Heads up: If you’re going to cheat on your significant other, this probably isn’t the joint for you.

Kidding aside, we laughed about it and turned our attention to the menu. Everything is a la carte.

We decided to share the Chopped Wedge Salad, $13, with kurobuta bacon, tomatoes and Roquefort.

It was tasty, but not what we expected. Usually this salad is a wedge of iceberg lettuce, but it was chopped romaine here.

Menu dinner selections consist of mostly seafood, as indicated in the restaurant’s name.

Offerings include Georges Bank Sea Scallops, $39, with smoked carrot puree and Faroe Islands Salmon, $38, with kohirabi cream.

There’s also a sushi and raw menu which includes ahi tuna, hamachi, salmon and sashimi. Depending on how many pieces you order — three, six or nine — prices range from a low of $12 to a high of $54.

Among the choices for meat lovers are the dry, aged prime rib New York Strip, $55, umami butter, fennel pollen, blistered camparis, and the bone-in filet mignon, $64, with foie gras butter, hen of the woods, black garlic marmalade.

There’s also filet medallions, $38, grilled broccolini, wild mushroom demi-glace.

My friend had the John Dory, $35, a lightly breaded fish with blistered tomatoes, mango and coconut curry.

I opted for the Block Island Swordfish, $42, with roasted tomato vinaigrette.

Among side dish selections are Yukon Gold Mash, creamed corn, grilled asparagus, Brussels sprouts, mac and cheese sautéed or creamed Kale, and roasted vegetables, all $12, French Fries, $10.

We tried the sautéed Kale and Mac & Cheese.

One salad, two entrees, two sides and two Diet Cokes came to $138, which is pretty pricey, considering we had no wine, coffee or desert.

I liked the food but on the drive home I could tell my tummy did not.

Strike three for me.

Not exactly a ritzy experience and one I won’t repeat anytime soon.