Farm fresh are buzz words heard often in the restaurant industry these days, thankfully. And fortunately, at Lark Creek Newport Beach delicious and healthy are not an oxymoron. Lark Creek even takes it one step further with SPE Certification of selected items on their menu, including a three-course prix fixe dinner that changes seasonally.
Lark Creek Newport Beach is the first West Coast restaurant to partner with SPE Certified. Through this certification process, menu items are analyzed to conform to a preset standard of nutritional goals for fat, sodium, vitamin, and fiber content. When planning each dish, nutritional and seasonal ingredients are identified and locally sourced as much as possible. Dishes bearing the SPE certification have fruits and vegetables as the foundation and are prepared in a way that maintains their nutritional integrity. Chef John Ledbetter and team have created a menu that is unique and that defies the oxymoron of delicious healthy food. You can even satisfy your sweet tooth without any guilt – the Strawberry Shortcake and Valrhona Bittersweet Chocolate Raspberry Parfait are SPE Certified!
Some of the photos here are from a media tasting I was invited to (so I did not eat all those desserts), but I’ve also dined there twice since. Since Lark Creek Newport Beach is my kind of place – excellent guilt-less dining and fabulous cocktails with a comfortably casual ambiance 😉 – I chose Lark Creek for my birthday celebration dinner. Plus, if you have special dietary restrictions, like my husband, Lark Creek is able to adapt certain dishes to accommodate gluten free, diabetic, dairy-free or low sodium diets.
I also did not imbibe in all the cocktails above. The skilled bar chefs can whet your whistle with favorites such as the Mojito (left) or more complex handcrafted cocktails such as the Snake & Swizzle (upper right) Zaya rum, Green Chartreuse, St. Elizabeths all-spice Dram, lime and maple syrup ($14); or the Dublin Dawn (lower right) Jameson whiskey, Benedictine, grapefruit, lemon, bitters ($12). Both of these cocktails had a perfect balance of sweet, bitter and citrus that I enjoy.
After the tasting, I knew exactly what I wanted to order from the starters: the White Shrimp Ceviche ($14) is a delicate balance of bright acidity, luscious avocado and a hint of heat from habaneros. The other must-have is the Chick Pea Fries ($6.50) which are actually listed under Seasonal Sides. I never dreamed of being so enamored by seasoned pureed garbanzo bean sticks – but dip into lightly spiced harissa aioli and each wonderfully crisp bite gives way to creamy hummus inside.
The Ahi Tuna Tartare ($15) served with taro chips was a pleasant departure from the norm with sweet pear, a subtle spiciness from Fresno chiles, minty, fresh shiso and tiny pops of bright citrus from finger limes.
But the starter that stole the show was the Watermelon “Carpaccio” ($11). Vacuum sealed to form an incredibly thin, vibrant crimson disk; my palate danced between the juicy, sweet watermelon, salty Valbreso feta, peppery radish and clover sprouts, splashed with balsamic and a fine dusting of tongue tingling Piment d’Esplette. The menu changes seasonally and I’ll be sorry to see this one go, but it’s etched in my taste memory for next summer.
For our entree, I suggested someone order the Alaskan Halibut with a crust of black trumpet mushrooms, pillowy potato gnocchi, English peas, and pea tendrils ($28) because I remembered it being one of the standout dishes at the media tasting. College Girl loves mushrooms, peas and gnocchi and was not disappointed. Consistency rules, the fish was every bit as delicious as before.
Chef prepared Don a perfect medium-rare Prime New York Strip steak ($38) with sauce on the side and pole beans with toasted almonds with no salt. Steaks are served with your choice of seasonal side and are almond wood-grilled.
I went all out carnivore for my birthday and ordered the Cider-Brined Pork Chop ($26) that the server highly recommended. Cooked to medium with a tangy, sweet stone fruit glaze and luscious figs complementing each tender bite, plus at 12 oz. I had enough left for a tasty lunch the next day.
Thank you, Lark Creek, for this trio of desserts for my birthday! Pictured are the Lemon Meringue Pie with Blueberry Compote, Brownie Ice Cream Sandwich, and Strawberry Shortcake. Where to start?!
Since my birthday, hubs and I returned to Lark Creek for date night. We both ordered the Head-On Gulf Prawns a la Plancha – he as part of the SPE Certified 3-course prix fixe dinner that includes dessert and I, having had a refreshing Moscow Mule as my dessert calories, ordered the prawns a la carte. Again, we could find no fault with the dish. The grilled prawn were paired with a delightful medley of roasted corn, chunks of smoked poblano chile and a tomato vinaigrette brought a nice acidity to the party. The heads of the prawns were even removed for you, then artfully placed to appear as whole prawns. Nice!
During the month of October, Lark Creek is celebrating Autumn with a Mushroom Pinot Noir Festival – pairing unexpected and delicious wild mushroom dishes with luscious Pinot Noirs.
Chef Ledbetter’s dishes will include the following:
- Alaskan Halibut with chanterelle mushrooms, roasted sunchokes, piquillo pepper rouille, almonds, and herb salad
- Porcini Tart with gruyere cheese, hazelnuts, and watercress
- Duck Confit and Mushroom Risotto with hedgehog mushrooms, fine herbs, and sage
- Vegetable Lasagna featuring house made pasta with wild mushroom and artichoke “Bolognese”
- Organic Three-Egg Mushroom Omelet with Hen of the Woods mushrooms, cherry tomato sauté, and goat cheese
Some of the wines being featured are:
- Cambria Julia’s Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley
- High Hook, McMinnville
- DuMol, Russian River Valley
- Etude, Carneros
- MacMurray Ranch, Russian River
This wonderful fall celebration is the perfect opportunity to visit Lark Creek, if you haven’t already.
Lark Creek Newport Beach
957 Newport Center Dr.
Newport Beach, CA 92660
Below Island Cinema