We knew that when The Ritz Restaurant by Fashion Island closed last year, it would return in grand fashion. However, we did not anticipate the makeover that took place in the former home of Chart House along Pacific Coast Highway. Guests still experience polished service in a formal atmosphere; hints of the original menu are present in the form of a familiar egg and smoked salmon dish (served in the shell, of course). We collected a few photos to whet your appetite.
Seafood is a heavy influence on this menu, whether we're talking fresh fish, oysters or sushi. A tempura lobster roll ($32) was finished with toasted coconut and mango. For the remaining carnivores, shaved burgundy truffles, short rib and crab in another sushi roll make it apparent that this ain't your grandmother's Ritz-- explaining the updated name to The Ritz Prime Seafood.
Dinner and weekend brunch service are offered in a visually stunning dining room. At its core, a glass wall wrapping around the immaculate kitchen. Diners are treated to a glimpse inside the intense atmosphere. Unexpected pairings are formed here, like braised short rib and seared scallops ($21) from the appetizer selection. Brussels and celeriac puree enhance this unlikely surf and turf combo.
More glass surrounds guests, directing your gaze to the harbor and its many vessels parked outside. While the Pacific plays an important role on their menu, a supporting cast of sustainable options rounds out the restaurant experience. Prime New York strip ($55) is indulgently finished with fennel pollen and umami butter. To keep it company, a blend of roasted veggies ($12) is pleasing all-around.
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Block Island swordfish ($42) and red miso cod ($41), a couple of heavy hitters in the Sea section, are bathed in vinaigrette. We drifted in a different direction, savoring whole branzino ($38). The generous serving is served skin-on, accompanied by pickled cauliflower caponata. These modern preparations are executed with great care by Phil Kastel and Michael Stewart. As Vice President of Culinary for Grill Concepts (including the Daily Grill brand), Kastel helped create a menu that Stewart will maintain under his Executive Chef role.
Additional observations include a heavy (nine ounce) wine pour, piano man and valet only option after turning at the Riverside stoplight. Our initial take on The Ritz Prime Seafood is that they will give their neighbors at The Winery and A Restaurant a run for their money. Their biggest challenge will be the potential backlash of old-school Ritz diners, mixed with welcoming a newer generation of culinary appetites. The holiday season will tell us if they succeed.
The Ritz Prime Seafood Restaurant is located at 2801 W Coast Hwy, Newport Beach, (949) 720-1800; www.ritzrestaurant.com.