Foodie at Newport Beach Restaurant Week 2014

The final day of Newport Beach Restaurant Week (i.e. the day before this article) was the only available day free for myself and a good, fellow foodie friend.

From my experience with a certain city or county’s RW, I am one of those fussy gourmands who scour through innumerable online menus from participating restaurants, so that each earned dollar is worth exchanging.  For this particular coastal city, out of the numerous offers to seal the 2 or 3-course meal, we settled with an Italian eatery place intertwined to the Crystal Cove Shopping Center, which is a few miles distant to the nearest [toll] freeway, the 73.

Modo Mio, which in Italian means the famous title song from Mr. Sinatra, directly faces the Pacific Ocean, though outdoor dining is not included.  Sets of neutral colors surround the single room, with 2 cabinets of wine bottles–at 3.5 feet in height?! (If it’s my shoulder height, it would’ve been approximately 4 feet)–set central, staring at each other while leaving middle ground for the back kitchen or the restroom, whichever is more prioritized.

Thanks to my dining friend in crime, 6 different plates were in our store.  Starting with…

Course 1

The Caprese e Pomodoro surely appeared too minimalist, but freshness gracefully raised its arms high. The menu did list a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, but looking upon the dish, this drizzle sank very deeply into the velvety-looking cheese.  Speaking of which, the mozzarella executed different thickness compared to one another, but the creaminess and faint taste of the oil were fair.

In the past and in many personal cases, smoked salmon has been a miss due to its proclivity to become overpowering.  This tender and thinly silky Carpaccio di Salmone, however, proudly conveyed that fine-tuned smoky sensation, with a touch of fresh lemon juice, onions, capers, and tossed-up arugula as the complements, both in texture and flavor.  It’s certainly safe to say that this is one of the best smoked salmon/lox I’ve eaten thus far; the regular price for lunch is $9, but don’t automatically assume it’s the exact same size as Restaurant Week’s version.

Then our waiter unexpectedly presented us a bonus Amuse-Bouche.

Combining the same, sleek, and drenching olive oil with the dry herb-sprinkled raw mushrooms provided a taste that illustrated sophistication and amusement occurring at the same time.

Course 2

I took a few bites from my friend’s Cotoletta alla Milanese.  Breading was evenly coated, and with another spritz of lemon juice, the pan fried chicken was still decent for my palate.  The seasoning with it could be slightly more peppery, though the fresh arugula may be the reason for the flavor vitalization.  By the way, regular cost is $14.

As for my dish, not all of the ingredients of the Fusilli Rustica were available, as listed on the menu.  If you paid attention to Noodles 101, it was supposed to have the spiraled carbohydrate.  On that Sunday, though, our accommodating and apologetic waiter gave me the option of penne or linguini.  I preferred the al dente bite of the latter, eventually resulting in benevolent amounts of freshly grated and delicately nutty parmesan over this decadently savory, borderline rich, and slick pasta paradise–tossed with chopped, caramelized onions; herbs; basil; Portobello mushroom slices; and nurturing yet oval-shaped slices of pungent goat cheese.  Again for the record, the regular price is $12.

Though I must admit, I deliberately economized my pasta for the next day’s meal, so that my tummy could defragment for the desserts, i.e….

Course 3

My friend gladly honed onto a traditional, saccharine Tiramisu, embedded with choppy amounts of soft ladyfingers and a moderate splash of this decadent liqueur, which I’m guessing it’s brandy.  That saccharine level was on light-medium scale, which perfectly fits into the 5-Footer’s sweet standards.  I could tell it was additionally made and presented soon after its baking steps and heated sauna; otherwise a refrigerated temperature would have left an undeniable feeling.

Meanwhile, the Apple Tart awkwardly resembled the American classic.  The main difference is that cinnamon wasn’t conspicuously present.  I adored the careful stacks of these sliced fruits and the pie-like crust, but overall the flavor was rather flat, even with the equally liberal drizzle of vanilla sauce.  Moreover, the strawberry garnish straightforward helped out.  Perhaps a dollop of vanilla bean gelato would assist, which reminds me: I’d probably buy a small bucket for this leftover–that’s right, I don’t waste unless the food physiologically traumatized me–and other important factors.

(Unfortunately I didn’t write/took a photo of the desserts’ money mark, but if you added up the app and main course, that’s already over the RW’s pricing.)

If local-based Italian food is in your OC radar, you’ll likely enjoy the rustic repast, no matter the occasion.  If the OC is realistically out of bounds for you, another coastal city of West LA will suffice.  You’ll nonetheless have either way.

Grade: B-

Modo Mio Cucina Rustica
7946 E Coast Hwy
Newport Beach, CA 92657
(949) 497-9770
http://www.modomiocucinarustica.com

Modo Mio Cucina Rustica on Urbanspoon

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