Zinque, Lido Bottle Works, Circle Hook, Nobu… Of the entire range of casual, laid-back-luxury, indoor/outdoor restaurants to open at Lido Marina Village, none has fully captured the joie de vivre of this revitalized harbor-side complex as perfectly as Malibu Farm.
The restaurant opened at the beginning of September and has been jam-packed every day since. If you don’t run in certain circles, you might not be familiar with the original Malibu Farm, which opened several years ago at the pier in Malibu. They have since expanded to four locations, including a branch inside the Four Seasons resort on Lanai and another in the Nobu Hotel in Miami.
The concept is “fresh, organic and local.” And for the most part, the food is very good. They’re selling charm and a certain luxury lifestyle as much as they’re selling good taste. Literally. You can buy their tableware and napkins at a retail shop next door.
At the moment, they serve only breakfast and lunch, and weekdays this place is mobbed. The dining room is a sea of blonde — blonde wood tables, polished cement floors, wooden benches covered with blonde sheepskin rugs, plus every blonde housewife in Newport Beach. This is gossip central.
Except for private events, they don’t accept reservations, so be prepared to stand in line. The first time I show up lunch is on a Tuesday, and I’m told there’s a 20-minute wait for a table. “Is it always like this?” I ask the hostess. “Oh, this is nothing, she says. “It’s usually busier than this. You should see it on the weekend.”
And I eventually do. On weekends, the crowd is much more diverse, both culturally and generationally.
There are a dozen different ways to get your daily intake of arugula here. Arugula shows up as a garnish on everything from pancakes to chocolate cake. But the best way to eat the peppery weed is in a salad topped with quivering orbs of burrata cheese and super-ripe peaches and figs and candied pecans, plus half an avocado.
From the breakfast menu, the mini pancakes are very good. Just don’t be fooled by the “mini” conceit. While the pancakes are indeed tiny (slightly larger than poker chips), a single order comes with about 24 pancakes topped with fresh blueberry sauce and a giant glob of freshly whipped cream.
I’m not thoroughly convinced that broccoli is the best possible ingredient to stir into scrambled eggs. The broccoli scramble is satisfying, but not better than what I imagine those same eggs could have been with a different starring ingredient.
The crab cakes are perfectly fine, and while they are certainly prettier than the crab cakes next door at Circle Hook, they are frankly not quite as delicious.
Likewise, the burger is good but in no way comparable to the incredible burger just around the corner at The Mayor’s Table. The server might ask how you want it cooked, and you might tell her you want it medium-rare, but it’ll arrive well-done.
My favorite thing on the menu is the fish tacos. It’s a Rorschach test. Some people might actually see tacos. Others will see a beautiful fillet of sea bass served atop a bed of shredded cabbage with a garnish of several small tortillas. No matter how you choose to see it, I think we’ll all agree that it is delicious — even when the fish is completely burned around the edges.
Two things this restaurant does extremely well are coffee and cocktails. I can’t remember another restaurant where I’ve seen so many people ordering cocktails at lunch. Or breakfast. The servers are very persuasive.
Dinner service is coming soon, I’m told.
Where: Lido Marina Village, 3420 Via Oporto, Newport Beach
When: Breakfast and lunch daily
By Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register