Crystal Cove Ups The Restaurant Ante

You know that plaza– down the street from (Ruby's) Shake Shack. It's the one best known for car shows and cougars. Where we mourned the loss of Pacific Whey and Red Mango, two better-than-good dessert spots. Things were getting ho-hum out on this stretch of Newport, but it's like someone lit a fire under a decision maker to make changes. What kind of changes? Well . . .

The obvious one is Settebello. Or as we translate it: Big ass bar. If you're able to locate parking inside the promenade, walk by the former Ann Taylor Loft spot and see for yourself. The mini-chain takes up so much room, you almost think they house two concepts. They even stuck an olive tree right into the ground in the dining room. When did this become a thing around here– Fig & Olive?


Serving dinner, plus lunch on weekends, Settebello's uber-thin crust Napoletana cooks in barely a minute. And without the do-it-yourself option of other places, this speeds things up nicely. Their casual menu also includes salads, deviled eggs and (for those with a sweet tooth) desserts filled with Nutella or lemon pastry cream.

One of the less-than-obvious updates is the surprise rating of Tamarind of London on Zagat. Out of a possible 30 in each category: Food, Decor and Service, our uppity Indian spot earned a 20 or higher in all three. However, the showstopper is that for food, they earned a 28. Since when? We have no idea (Maybe after Jonathan Gold sang its praises last year?) The traditional, but pricey fare served in a luxurious setting was a tough sell to locals. Personally, we think it still might be. With your typical office drone accustomed to $10 or less lunch buffets, an expensive tikka doesn't exactly compute. Yet they prevailed. It could have something to do with primary Chef Ali, but those semi-regular visits by founding chef, Alfred Prasad, seem to be doing the trick.

Lastly, the New York state of mind travels west this month as Babette's (originally Babette's Feast) out of East Hampton decides to open. Serving all meals, plus a full bar, our hopes are high as we semi-stalk the almost complete space. Photos and a better idea of the menu are forthcoming. One dish is confirmed, though. A Tunisian salad with cous cous, green beans and choice of papadum-crusted tofu or pomegranate seared salmon has us salivating. As with Tamarind, this is Babette's first foray into California. Their local, organic and seasonal vibe are on par with what diners in the area crave. We'll just have to see how it thrives survives in the neighborhood.

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