The Gossiping Gourmet: New chef, new menu items at Crow Bar

June 01, 2011|By Elle Harrow and Terry Markowitz
  • Mary's scalloped chicken at the Crow Bar and Kitchen in Corona Del Mar.
Mary's scalloped chicken at the Crow Bar and Kitchen… (DON LEACH, Daily…)

We've been fans of Chef John Cuevas since we dined on his inventive and delicious fare when he took over as executive chef at The Loft in the Montage Hotel. His departure for the new Montage in Beverly Hills struck a sour note for us.

So his return to Orange County to take the helm at The Crow Bar and Kitchen in Corona del Mar has been music to our ears. He has been tweaking the menu since his arrival, and we feasted on his new additions. This man really knows how to cook!

This casual, attractive hangout in CdM is always abuzz and sometimes downright cacophonous with its busy bar and tall tables at one end of the room. The menu is very casual as well.

Nibble on a flatbread, order the daily taco, munch on a Cuban sandwich or chow down on one of their great burgers; but if you'd rather, you can put together a lovely leisurely meal with say, wild rocket salad featuring braised pancetta, lardoons, poached egg, banyuls vinaigrette and rustic toast, followed by roasted wild striped bass with braised artichoke, English peas, pickled ramps and herb butter. Finally, top it off with bananas Foster bread pudding with rum caramel sauce and caramel gelato.


We began with a marvelous brick-oven flatbread topped with earthy crimini mushrooms, buttery tender leeks and a whisper of seven-cheese sauce. Although the cheese sauce was barely visible it somehow suffused the vegetables with a rich cheesy undertone. The flatbread is up there with the best of them with its blistery browned, paper thin, crunchy crust. There are also three more varieties and a daily special to choose from.

It's hard to get excited about a simple chicken dish, but John's free range, organic paillard (thinly pounded chicken scallop, quickly sautéed or grilled) was outstanding. His was a de-boned, small half-chicken and we enjoyed both light and dark meat, all perfectly seasoned and especially succulent with a crackly skin that was irresistible. The Mediterranean style accompaniments included organic cherry tomatoes, red onions, kalamata olives and fingerling potatoes — perfect complements except for the flavorless potatoes.

Our second entrée was called "pork 'n beans" but it was as far from Van De Camps as a Lamborghini is from a VW bug. Pork belly is on every other menu these days, but this one was an outstanding example of the genre.

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