A Legend Revisited

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Executive Chef Nick Weber breathes new life into The Cannery, a Newport Beach institution.

By Tess Eyrich

NBM_26_Dine_The Cannery_By Jody TiongcoIt’s rare to find a Newport Beach local who hasn’t experienced a meal at The Cannery Seafood of the Pacific. The waterfront space opened in 1921 as a commercial fish cannery—hence its name—and since 1973 has housed multiple editions of the same restaurant, each operated by various owners and chefs. But only recently—under the tutelage of restaurateur Ron Salisbury, whose family opened the successful El Cholo in Los Angeles in 1923, and Executive Chef Nick Weber—has The Cannery truly hit its stride.

Nick, formerly of Lido Isle tapas bar Blanca, cut his teeth in several of Patina Restaurant Group’s kitchens, including those at Costa Mesa’s renowned Pinot Provence and the Mediterranean-inspired Catal Restaurant at Downtown Disney. Keenly aware of the limitations of traditional seafood, he’s reworked much of The Cannery’s menu to reflect international influences since joining the restaurant in late 2012.

His first selection, a Japanese sashimi of “hamachi” (yellowtail), reveals just one of these influences. Paper-thin slices of hamachi are accented by citrus, olive oil, ginger and Thai chilies for added kick. Mint leaves—used in many of the dishes—provide subtle refreshment. A side of sorbet allows diners to cleanse their palates before the next course.

The chef switches regions with his second offering: grilled shrimp, which evokes a distinctively Southern sensibility and arrives saturated in a chili garlic marinade. Following it is one of the restaurant’s tastiest items, a dish that surprisingly doesn’t involve seafood at all. Spanish piquillo peppers, hollowed and stuffed with velvety goat cheese, are sprinkled with pine nuts, balsamic pearls and golden raisins. “Those are my favorite,” our server says of the peppers as he clears the empty plates.

The global tour continues with ahi tuna, seared rare and soaked in a bowl of Vietnamese-style broth with a healthy serving of rice noodles. The mixture benefits from a variety of unique flavors, with shaved carrots, jalapeno, Thai basil and cilantro all contributing to the ensemble.

NBM_26_Dine_The Cannery_By Jody Tiongco-3While the restaurant specializes in seafood, its meat dishes are far from second-rate. The confit of suckling pig, for instance, is an exploration of juxtaposed textures. Though encased in a hardened glaze, the pork cut’s interior is tender to the knife’s touch. A serving of the restaurant’s silky salted caramel pudding, topped with a dollop of fresh whipped cream, is the perfect finish to a marathon of a meal at The Cannery.

The cuisine and ambience—an airy, multilevel building with picturesque views of the Newport Harbor—make it easy to understand why The Cannery has persisted through the years despite changes in ownership, financial woes and other issues. Now, with Nick at the helm, the restaurant is poised to further prove itself worthy of its recognition as a local landmark. NBM

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