Off the Menu

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  Chefs share their favorite dishes you won’t find on the regular menu, but can get if you ask.

NBM_23_Off the Menu_Mi Casa_By Jody Tiongco-38Whether it’s a personal favorite, an inspiration when the ingredients are right, or just a semi-secret bonus item—many Newport chefs offer off-the-menu choices you can ask for if you’re in the know.

Jonathan Blackford, executive chef at A Restaurant, turns to Spain for inspiration. Ask him if any Iberico pork has arrived lately, and be prepared for something unique. “It’s probably one of my favorite things,” Jonathan says. “It’s a pork from Spain, produced in one region where the hogs graze on acorns that have fallen from the trees. It’s a very marbled pork that almost looks like beef. It’s one of the few porks that you can sear and eat rare.”

Ask Sindi Rae, the executive chef at Muldoon’s Irish Pub, for a real warmer, the Black Bush Irish stew. A wintertime special, but prepared other times on request, it’s made with Angus beef in Guinness stout, with carrots, peas, mashed potatoes and—for extra punch—a side of baby lamb chops and a shot of Black Bush Irish whiskey.

Another item that dropped off the menu, this time at Quiet Woman in Corona del Mar, is cioppino—a rich and satisfying stew made with different kinds of fresh fish, mussels, shrimp and crab, all in a tomato-based broth. Owner and chef Lynne Anthony-Campbell says the restaurant’s regulars with long memories still ask for it, and their wish is the Woman’s command.

NBM_23_Off the Menu_Muldoons_Irish Stew_By Jody Tiongco-13At 21 Oceanfront, Executive Chef Miroslav Rusev works with a widely varying palette of ingredients and is always eager to assemble something you won’t find on the restaurant’s extensive menu. A recent find: duck confit with baked potato, carrots, pearl onions, green beans and morel mushrooms. “It’s the French way of braising meat,” Miroslav says. “You actually braise the meat in duck fat for up to three hours.” A lover of the surf-and-turf combo, Miroslav also recently painted outside the lines with a salmon stuffed with king crab meat, served with a saffron bearnaise sauce, wild rice and chopped bok choy.

If he wasn’t restricted by the small size of the kitchen at Mi Casa’s Costa Mesa location, head chef Angel Velazquez says he’d make his citrus-marinated chipotle skirt steak a regular item. He’ll make it on request if the ingredients are available, and this fiery entree—a pork shank with salsa borracho (“drunken” salsa with roasted peppers, tomatillos and garlic, infused with beer)—might make it on the menu in the future. “The salsa penetrates the pork shanks and there’s enough heat to give you a kick at the end,” the chef says. NBM


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