Monday, July 25, 2011

Costa Mesa: Eat Chow

Eat Chow is one of those ambitious little restaurants that ignores its boilerplate backdrop of retail outlets that include a gun and donut shop, and row upon row of franchised fooderies. In doing so, it brings to Newport Beach, a tempered version of minimalist ambience and New American meals with a little bit of big city thinking.
While in appearance Eat Chow’s ambience is a slightly metro version of Hillcrest’s Crest Cafe, its menu lineup is multiculturally influenced - including the usual Asian and Latino twists - it is clearly New American in taste. Priced at $10-$15 a dish, most entrees play it safe enough for any type of eater.


At nine dollars, Eat Chow’s baja fish tacos with a side of black beans are reasonably priced. Using strips of locally caught Mahi Mahi, they’re as good as fish tacos can get, but far from showstoppers in terms of preparation, taste and presentation.

On the other hand, Eat Chow’s ancho chili and coffee crusted steak and shrimp enchilada might just be one of those the more interesting preparations one always sees on food shows, but seldom on an actual menu. How does coffee crusted meat taste? Smoldering with earthy richness. How does it taste crusted with ancho chili peppers? Super smokey. The meat’s taste and texture are both familiar to the palate, but unfamiliar to its situation, which results in a wonderful eating experience.


Above: The 5 oz piece of steak is served with a sweet tomatillo tasting shrimp enchilada and a mound of field greens.
Below: That’s not char you see - It’s a wonderfully tasty coating of coffee and ancho chili.


Eat Chow’s service is receptive, but at times seems understaffed during busy nights.


Eat Chow’s popular dessert is the Choco-Taco. This homemade take on the ice cream treat is the real deal: Chocolate chip ice cream is wedged into a light (almost flaky) shell and drizzled with chocolate and caramel syrups, then powdered in sugar.


Below: No stale cones here, this elephant ear is a flaky flour concoction that feels guiltless to the tongue.


Sadly, back in May, Eat Chow’s co-owner and rising chef Eric Doran was killed in a hot rod crash on his way to a car show. As it is now, Eat Chow’s efforts to bring interesting eating to an unlikely place are nothing short of a minor legacy.

Eat Chow
1802 Newport Boulevard
Costa Mesa, CA 92627-2710
(949) 650-2469

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