The chile lime-rubbed Hawaiian mahimahi’s tropical fruit chutney and lemongrass-gewürztraminer butter are delish.

Water and Wine

by Jamie Gwen | Photography by Andrea Bricco | Modern Luxury Orange County magazine | August 1, 2014

When you’re hot, you’re hot. The buzz began almost the moment The Winery Restaurant’s three power players (that would be Managing Partner JC Clow, Executive Chef Yvon Goetz and sommelier William Lewis) secured Villa Nova’s supreme location on Pacific Coast Highway. And the buzz hasn’t stopped yet. The evidence: a packed house almost every night since their new establishment docked overlooking a chichi stretch of Newport Harbor. O.C.’s coastal denizens no longer have to drive inland to Tustin to enjoy what is widely considered one of the region’s top fine-dining restaurants.

Yes, The Winery Newport Beach offers stunning harbor views, a second-floor open-air deck, and upstairs and downstairs bars (made of amber-hued agate) that are so busy you’ll need to fight your way to the front. A two-story wine cellar houses 6,000 bottles. You’ll spot labels like Spring Valley among the mix of domestics and varietals from abroad. The place has private dining spaces galore, impressive service and a great vibe—swanky, classy and so very Newport. And the setting is matched by Goetz’s cuisine. Here, Alsatian culinary talent meets Cali ingredients. The menu boasts fresh seafood, big chops and daily specials featuring exotic meats. 

On my first visit, we sit at a comfy booth along a waterfront wall of windows. The sound level is a bit excessive, and we learn that they’re working on the acoustics. Our server calms our concerns with cocktails and shares details about the day’s specials. My guests and I decide on dishes, and conversation ensues.

Then the symphony of sustenance begins. Indulgence in the form of YG’s Alsatian Pizza, aka tarte flambé, arrives first. The rich flatbread is slathered in creme fraiche, bacon and caramelized onions—sinful. Next up: the Colorado buffalo carpaccio. Well-seasoned lean meat, greens and raw zucchini ribbons hit the tongue with a luxe sensation. And the seared rare yellowfin tuna is excellent—it’s swimmingly fresh and served with a killer cucumber slaw dressed in a cilantro-orange vinaigrette and an avocado egg roll that’s the prized portion of the dish. It’s a crunchy, creamy complement to the fish.

Wine is poured by a third-level certified sommelier (impressive) as boats cruise by on the water. Dinner is served when the New York-cut Colorado bison is delivered, accompanied by roasted red bell pepper spaetzle and huckleberry cabernet gastrique. Oh, take a walk on the wild side! The bison is perfectly gamey and phenomenal in texture, and the sauce adds color and sweet acidity. The haricots verts are cooked impeccably, and we lick the plate. I’m exhilarated that Goetz has stepped out and is offering a bevy of wild game—from New Zealand venison to Cali ostrich, they’re all palate pleasing.

Then there’s the rack of lamb. It’s scrumptious when paired with the signature gratin dauphinois. And this is a naughty creation—layers of potato married with butternut squash, swimming in cream and scented with thyme, and topped by a crispy-cheesy crust. It originated in the southeast of France—and I’m thankful it’s now available nightly just blocks from my house!

Our third entree is the chile lime-rubbed Hawaiian mahimahi. This dish is typically stellar and a favorite among many. The roasted tropical fruit chutney and lemongrass-gewürztraminer butter are tasty. Broccolini, cooked al dente with sun-dried tomatoes, is a hit too.

An indulgent meal is never complete without dessert, so we choose the warm vanilla beignets. Resembling the much-loved American doughnut, they’re light, crisp and lip-smackingly good, and when paired with my espresso, they make for a refined way to end a delightful meal.

The menu is polished—just as one would expect from a decorated chef who has always held humility as one of his principles. The radical makeover of the building is eye-popping (in a good way), and the waterfront views gild the lily in a city where open air is treasured. So untie your Duffy and take it out for a spin—the boat valet at The Winery is waiting for you.

The Winery Restaurant & Wine Bar
3131 W. Coast Highway, Newport Beach, 949.999.6622

Beginnings: $10-$95
Salads: $10-$15
Sides: $10
Main Courses: $22-$47
Desserts: $8-$12

Sun.-Thu.: 5-10pm, Fri.-Sat.: 5-10:30pm

Who Goes There
A who’s who of Orange County, including Angels baseball team owner Arte Moreno, best-selling author Dean Koontz and former Ambassador to Spain George Argyros

Best Seat in the House
On the second-floor patio or inside at a booth along the wall of floor-to-ceiling windows

You Must Order
The Colorado buffalo carpaccio

Fun Fact
The agate for the bar counters was mined in Madagascar and pieced together in Israel.

Look Familiar?
You may remember the GM, Thad Foret, from his days at Antonello Ristorante. He’s a polished restaurant pro.