newport beach gastropubGoing out in the middle of the week is a tough sell for me due to my work schedule. Throw in coordinating with my husband, who works an hour east, and the commute at rush hour from LA to Orange County, and the expectations grow exponentially. So, when I got the opportunity to cover the grand opening event for A&O Kitchen + Bar, let’s just say the expectations were pretty high. Lucky for me, A&O more than delivered!

Balboa bay resort newport beachA&O is located at the Balboa Bay Resort in Newport. I’d never been before, but Newport is known for it’s swanky ways and the Resort lived up to my expectations. We entered through the beautiful lobby to get to A&O, and were cheerily welcomed with live music and glasses of champagne.

Long commute…don’t mind if I do! From the spacious bar to the unique glass and rope fixtures, you can tell immediately that the owners took their time to create a beautifully open space, paying close attention to detail. The back of the restaurant spills out onto the back patio, with plenty of seating, heat lamps, and stunning fire pits. To add to the ambience, A&O is located right on the marina, overlooking massive, beautiful yachts.

So let’s recap – waterfront, beautiful details, live music, champagne – and that was just the first 30 seconds of entering. Then there was the food…oh…the food!

As a food photographer and blogger, I have a huge appreciation for what it takes to not only make something delicious that’s familiar, yet interesting, and to present the food in such a way that you want to eat it, but not too fast…because it’s soooooo pretty! A&O nailed it.

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I started with the ribs, dubbed, “Nice Rack.” Oven roasted pork ribs topped with bbq sauce…made the way where you get it on your hands but not all over your lap. They were moist and delicious. Both my husband and I went back for seconds of these!

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Next up were the Kobe Beef Sliders – I don’t eat beef generally, so Chef Michael Doyle got to meet Captain Questions (aka: me) and he handled it with grace. The mini-buns were toasting real time on the griddle, then layered with romaine, a bacon béarnaise sauce, and caramelized onions. Husband tasted and approved!

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We shuffled over to the next table and tried Bacon Wrapped Dates, which were glazed with balsamic and stuffed with blue cheese – a great combo of crunchy, savory, and sweet! FYI – I had 4.

shishito peppers
The Shishito Peppers were equally hardy and delicate – fresh, crispy on the outside, and the perfect amount of salt.

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They also served some crisp veggies and a delicious stracciatella and tomato arugula salad with a drizzle of balsamic and olive oil. I really loved the cheese – it was fantastic and I was told they make it in house. Then came dessert and I’ll be honest, I took full advantage of this situation. I found myself, the next day saying to my coworkers, “I had 6 desserts last night.” And that, friends, is awesome.

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They go as follows:

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Popcorn & Pig

Technically, this is not a dessert, but it’s popcorn…so it is…but then there is bacon…so maybe breakfast? I don’t know, but I had always scoffed at the bacon desserts – like chocolate covered bacon and bacon donuts…you know…but I must say, I’m a convert. It was such an interesting and delicious combo that I actually went back for a few more pieces!

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Twisted Sisters

Layers of salted caramel, dark chocolate, and pretzels crumbles. This was my fave. I love dark chocolate + anything. When the anything involves salted caramel, we have a winner.

Breakfast for Dinner

If this could be breakfast every day, I’d switch from my egg whites and salsa. This was layers of strawberry marmalade, milk panna cotta (which was amazing), and topped with candied cornflakes.

mini desserts
 

Tobacco & Whiskey Brulee

The menu says you have to be over 18 to order this one. In one bite, I figured out why…whiskey mousse and chocolate streusel. It was like eating an after dinner drink. It was great and unlike anything I’d ever tried.

Guinness Stout & Salted Caramel Ice Cream Float

I know – It’s like I wrote the answer to the question, “What makes everything right in the world?” This is it. I asked Chef Vincent Lesage some questions about the ice cream and A&O works with a local ice cream maker that produces both in CA and HI because they couldn’t quite find the right fit. Props for local sourcing!

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blue moon and mango sorbet
 

Blue Moon & Mango Sorbet

Sweet and smooth – even my husband who isn’t a fruit fanatic liked this one!

kiss my grass cocktail
Finally, I couldn’t leave without at least one cocktail, so I was introduced to “Kiss My Grass” – a refreshing balance of citron vodka, sweet and sour mix, lemon juice, and a green super juice made of healthy green things like kale, spinach, etc. The drink was delicately garnished with fennel fronds and fennel pollen {which I accidentally snorted in all my sensory excitement}. It was the first time in my life I ever had an alcoholic beverage where I sorta felt like I was being healthy.

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I will also say there was some drinking with a cause happening too. A&O has a partnership with ONEHOPE Wine, where they donate some of the proceeds from the sales of their sparkling wine, chardonnay, and cabernet to children in need through World Food Programme as well as Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County.

A&O Kitchen+Bar
So – one more recap: great food, open ambience, water front, dessert that I could count on two hands, and healthy drinking with a cause. I’d say that was a GREAT night! I could totally see myself bringing family/friends to this place for a kick back afternoon or a dreamy evening at the fire pits. If you’re a local or visiting – stop in – you’ll love it!

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19 comments

  1. Looks very sophisticated and the way they served their food shows creativity and skills. Not only the place looks relaxing but entertaining too. My hubby will go crazy over kobe beef. He had it once only over here and it was very delicious.

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