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Ocean-Front Charm and Baja Cuisine in Newport Beach

newport beach 054 -Photo by Greg Aragon

It hit me as I leaned back, sipping a cucumber -jalapeno margarita, and watching yachts bob in the water a few feet away. This was no ordinary excursion. The dinner I just had at SOL Cocina was Baja California cuisine at its best, and my room at the Newport Beach Hotel was the epitome of classic beach charm.

My getaway to the seaside city began when a friend and I checked into a cozy room at the Newport Beach Hotel. Dripping with beach atmosphere, the boutique hotel is located in a turn-of-the-century building with hardwood floors, staircases and large windows looking to the ocean.

Our second-story room came with a queen bed, flat-screen TV, free wireless Internet, and marble bathroom with oversized spa tub. Outside the room a hallway leads to a cozy sitting area, where guests can relax and look over the ocean. On the first floor is the lobby, where a cozy bed-and-breakfast-type front desk, sitting area and small bar can be found.

The hotel sits on the eclectic Newport Beach boardwalk, alongside hot dog vendors, clothing stores and beach-front bars. Directly across the street is the ocean and iconic pier. The proximity was great because we could go to and from the sand and our room in only a couple minutes. During our visit, we also walked to the end of the pier, where we encountered numerous people fishing. Many of them had buckets full of white croaker, perch and mackerel.

And speaking of fish, when it came time for dinner, we got lucky and hooked SOL Cocina, one of the best seafood restaurants around. Specializing in Baja style cooking, SOL features and open kitchen and serves up dishes that celebrate fresh fish from the Gulf of California, slow-simmered meats, colorful, vibrantly flavored salsas, and satisfyingly simple sauces. Everything on the menu is made fresh from scratch daily, including more than 12 different salsas and sauces.

The menu is highlighted by Baja classics like Ensenada Beer-Battered Fish Tacos, Carne Asada Street Tacos, Cocktel de Mariscos, and innovative creations such as Taco Vampiro and Panuchos, which are little empanadas stuffed with Mexican cheeses and zucchini flowers, and topped with things like beans, chipotle or cilantro.

Our meal began cucumber / jalapeño Margarita’s and a harbor-front table, overlooking beautiful yachts. We then went a culinary adventure through Baja California. We began with chorizo and mushrooms con queso, with with garlic, three Mexican cheeses, serrano peppers and scallions.

This was followed by an incredible Hot and Raw Tropical Ceviche with raw sushi-grade fish, fresh lime, orange, habanero chiles, tropical fruit, avocado and cucumber, served in a tall glass with sweet potato and red beet chips. For a main course I went with the restaurant’s famous slow-roasted short ribs Barbacoa Encazuela. This masterpiece features tender angus shortribs braised with guajillos, avocado leaf, nopales (cactus) and tomatoes. My friend devoured Fish Pibil, with seasonal fish roasted with yucatecan adobo, pineapple salsa, and tequila avocado butter salsa.

The Newport Beach Hotel is located at 2306 West Oceanfront Blvd, Newport Beach, 92663. For more info and reservations, call (949) 673-7030 or visit www.newportbeachwalkhotel.com.
For more info on SOL Cocina Restaurant, visit www.solcocina.com.

July 30, 2012

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