Out of the Blue

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Fly ‘N’ Fish serves up an unexpected trove of flavor for those serious about seafood.

By Linda Domingo

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Pomegranate martini

In these food-centric, hipster-dominated times when everyone knows everything there is to know about food, avoiding a certain air of snobbery is an art form. Thankfully, the 10-month-old Fly ‘N’ Fish Oyster Bar & Grill, adjacent to the Newport Beach Hotel on Oceanfront, executes the delicate balancing act of providing fine dining in an unpretentious atmosphere where diners are welcome to “roll up [their] sleeves, get down, get dirty and dig in,” says Julio Hawkins, executive chef at the restaurant. “That’s what it’s all about.”

The boutique eatery is an unexpected treat for those who venture past the crowds that gather outside Mutt Lynch’s—Fly ‘N’ Fish is a small, 11-table, 56-seat restaurant with a bar and a couple coveted high tables by the large windows, perfect for people-watching and taking in the sunset over the beach.

The menu isn’t particularly unique—diners will find expected dishes like oysters and fish plates along with salads, sandwiches and steak. The surprise comes in the food’s execution: Chef Julio, a Seattle transplant, and the culinary team at Fly ‘N’ Fish serve up fresh, flavorful and artfully-plated seafood that exceeds the normal expectations for tourist-heavy areas like this stretch of Oceanfront.

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Bacon wrapped scallops

The New England clam chowder is a good example of the chef’s keep-it-simple philosophy—it’s creamy without being overly thick, and a good start to dinner at Fly ‘N’ Fish. The chef takes care to bring in quality ingredients such as environmentally responsible seafood from Santa Monica Seafood (a partner of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program) and sourdough bread from Venice Beach’s Etxea bakery. These ingredients shine through in plates like the spicy ahi poke, a twist on traditional poke dishes with macadamia nuts added for texture. The bacon wrapped scallops are a standout small plate with three perfectly-wrapped, plump scallops served with generous dots of achiote pepper aioli and a small side of greens.

Popular specialties include the cioppino—a medley of savory shrimp, clams, mussels, crab and more, simmered in red wine sauce. For a hearty serving of fish, try the macadamia-encrusted halibut, a large cut served in Grand Marnier fumet. The house scalloped potatoes are a clever side dish that’s conducive to sharing; of course the classic cole slaw or French fries are also available.

Regulars populate the bar, drinks in hand—and as the saying goes, when in Rome … have a martini. All cocktails are made with fresh-squeezed juices—the pomegranate martini is a must-try, void of any artificial fruit flavor. The Salty Dog is also a popular choice, made with grapefruit juice and vodka with a salted rim.

And while the dessert menu is small, it’s hardly lacking. The dark chocolate lava cake or bread pudding in combination with the Newport sunset and friendly atmosphere will have you sold—hook, line and sinker.  NBM

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