Serious fun: two words that best describe what is going on at The Crow Bar and Kitchen in Corona Del Mar. The Crow Bar bills itself as a “gastropub”, a small neighborhood bistro that emphasizes good grub, good grog, and good friends.
The firt thing you notice about this gastropub is that it’s wildly popular. On any given evening, the place is packed. Singles and couples mix at the small bar, and strangers tell stories and even their plates at two large communal dining tables. The second thing you notice is the noise level. This isn’t the place for a quiet, intimate meal. However, after wading through an impressive wine list, and an even more impressive beer list, you will eventually get to one of the most inventive menus in Orange County.
The kitchen is where things get serious. Owner Steve Geary lured chef Scott Brandon from nearby Oysters to design and execute a hefty offering of inventive plates with an emphasis on superior, locally grown and simple yet explosive food combinations. Cheese plates, a cured olive plate, blue crab deviled eggs, and ham- wrapped dates start the evening. Seasonal salads come next; my pick is the exceptional roasted pear salad with mache, baby spinach, almonds, and Cabrales bleu cheese. Then there’s the Cubano sandwich, a tasty combination of thinly sliced pork loin, Nueske’s ham, house-made pickles, mustard aioli spread, and Havarti cheese stuffed into a compressed torpedo roll and served with a side of perfect oven-roasted sweet potato fries.
For more substantial fare, there are the larger plates including the Fra’ mani premium sausage plates: the bangers and mash or the grilled Italian sausages with Tuscan white beans and braised escarole. And to finish there’s the “Not Just a Ding Dong” dessert, a rich, frosted Belgian dark-chocolate mini-cake stuffed with a creamy vanilla brioche and served with a side of vanilla gelato.
– Pete Johnson