Chef Cathy Pavlos’s new restaurant, Provenance, is not at all where one would expect to find a garden. Located in the corner of the Eastbluff Village Center in Newport Beach, it’s more utilitarian errand-running than fine seasonal dining. But given what we know of Chef Pavlos and her past venture, Lucca Café in Irvine’s Quail Hill Shopping Center, the CVS a short stroll away should pose no conflict with her ability to craft fine cuisine made from her very own on-site garden.
At 1,300 square feet, the garden is all-organic, growing much of the seasonal produce diners will find on the plates assembled a few steps away in the kitchen. The night we’re there, that means lettuces and beets, and the start of what will be a bumper carrot season. There are also herbs and lemons, which are muddled into the drinks we’ll soon be consuming.
As pretty as it is tasty, the house-crafted three-berry blossom fizz with mint and lemon balm arrives at the table, a heap of liquid fruit and herbal essences whose sparkling backdrop pairs perfectly with garden-fresh salt-roasted beets. Plucked from the patio garden, the red bulbs are artfully assembled with burrata, avocado, mandarin aigre-doux, snipped garden greens, and sherry-maple vinaigrette. It’s a beautiful tableau, but not too good-looking to eat. Flavors of sweet and savory mingle with textures ranging from crisp to soft – a complete cross section highlighting the best of each component.
It’s a skill Chef Pavlos does well. Her charcuterie board, with potted rillettes, duck pâté, salami, pickled vegetables, and two mustards reads like a list of the most irresistible edible items to put on a plate. It’s all perfectly calibrated for pungency and spiciness, and satisfies a deep urge to put it all on a piece of freshly-baked bread.
Larger plates like the New Zealand sole on the plancha – a lightly crusted piece of flaky white fish with crispy prosciutto, squashed potatoes, spinach, and tarragon-infused brown butter show off a talent for cooking proteins of the marine variety; the earth talent comes in later, with the maple-cured kurobuta pork chop, a thick chop served atop creamy mascarpone polenta and chard and accented with apple-gin relish and cippolini au jus. Cooked through but tender to the bite, it’s indicative that Provenance’s roll of delicious is no accident.
As good as the pork is, however, the meat standout is Chef Pavlos’s Provenance burger. Made with a hand-cut proprietary blend of four premium beefs, the patty is hefty and full of flavor. And when topped with caramelized onions, chard, gruyere, and tomato jam (with an optional fried cage-free egg, to which we happily obliged), it’s one of the best burgers in town, without a doubt.
And then, dessert. What could go wrong with an apple pie baked in cast-iron, with salted caramel and Calvados ice cream? Not much, it turns out, the duo of apple flavors complementing one another in both taste nuances and temperature. Smooth and chocolatey was the theme with the s’more in a jar, layered with dark chocolate budino, butterscotch budino, brownie bites, graham cracker crumbs, chocolate sauce, and topped with a roasted house-made marshmallow. Not so much a throwback to camping days as it is a twist on a classic, the sophistication was welcome – just as a garden and fine dining is in a Newport Beach shopping center.
Drink :: Don’t expect to find any watered-down well drinks at Provenance. Sidling up to the bar here means sophisticated takes on classics like the Bloody Mary, with housemade mix, chipotle, vodka, and a good portion of the restaurant’s garden. There are even a host of enticing house-crafted sodas. Our pick? The three-berry blossom fizz muddled with mint and lemon balm.
Eat :: If a leisurely weekend brunch is more your speed, Provenance’s Sunday Farm Breakfast is where you’ll want to be. Start with cinnamon ricotta donuts with housemade jams before moving on to short rib corned beef hash with sunny-side-up eggs, butternut squash succotash, cabbage, wasabi cream, and rosemary.
Grow :: It doesn’t get much fresher than produce right from Chef Pavlos’s on-site garden. From tomatoes to beets and lettuces, and the fruit and herbs that get muddled into drinks made only steps away, almost every dish incorporates some of the season’s bounty.
949.718.0477 :: provenanceoc.com