We Americans are still getting used to the concept of the gastropub. To the uninitiated, the concept of enjoying artisan cuisine in a casual tavern setting may seem a little intimidating, if not unnatural, simply because we have been taught for so long that culinary creativity and casual comfort is meant to be mutually exclusive. Thankfully, The Crow Bar in Corona Del Mar turns this stodgy mindset into an outright misconception by serving their own unique brand of bar food prepared with the kind of culinary innovation that would be right at home in a more buttoned-up establishment.
The Crow Bar’s inventive approach to their cuisine is well established from the outset, as witnessed by the Pot of Pickles appetizer my wife enjoyed while quaffing respective pints from their impressive selection of artisan beers. The starter, served in a smart sliver container, came crowded with carrots, radishes, and asparagus all soaked in homemade brine created by executive chef Scott Brandon. Normally, I am not a fan of radishes, yet I could easily sustain myself for a week on nothing but the rooted morsels provided they are all wrapped in the tangy, slightly sour juice of the brine. If all vegetables tasted this good, parents would have a hard time preventing their children from overindulging. We followed this up with a trio of cheeses as recommended by our engaging, knowledgeable server. The ensuing plate provided an excellent mixture of sharpness, textures, and consistencies, which were perfectly punctuated by the accompanying dollops of quince paste, walnut pesto, and cranberry chutney. For the main entrée, we both decided to explore a few classic concepts that were decidedly spun with The Crow Bar’s singular vision, and we were met with a phenomenal success. The ahi in the ahi nicoise burger my wife ordered perfectly combined with the sandwich’s tomato, onion, egg, and tapenade aioli to create an amazingly bold flavor that was more akin to a rare cut of beef. The robust burger was ideally tempered by the mild sweetness of her Vidalia onion rings that were coated in just the right amount of crunchy batter. The cubano sandwich that I had was not exotic as my wife’s choice, but it was every bit as delicious, as the flavors of the ham, pork, pickles, and Havarti all worked in spot-on harmony to create one of the finest Cuban sandwiches I’ve ever had. I accompanied my entrée with an order of duck fat fries, and they were exactly what the name implies. If you love, like, or even have a mildly passing interest in fries, these delectably dense treats are a must order. We finished things off by enjoying a Not Just a Ding Dong, Scott’s ingenious creation in which he replicates the childhood treat by infusing a coated circle of dark chocolate cake with a sweet filling. The dessert was tasty, but it did not blow us away. However, that may be due to the fact that the rest of the meal left our jaws slack in amazement.
For those of you who are not sure of whether or not a gastropub is a good idea (especially in Orange County), it truly would behoove you to make a trip to The Crow Bar. It will remove all kernels of doubt that you may have about the concept.
Visit the crow Bar online at www.thecrowbarcdm.com