Russ Bendel is introducing Olea, his third wine country-themed dining establishment in Orange County, set to Thursday, November 30. Named for a genus of trees that flourish in warm and tropical regions, Olea gives Bendel’s award-winning Napa and Sonoma wine country concepts at Vine, in San Clemente, and Ironwood, in Laguna Hills, a European accent with extensive wine selections from Italy, France and Spain.
Chef-Partner Jared Cook has created a menu of modern California cuisine that perfectly complements the “global wine country” approach the Bendel team has taken at Olea.
“It’s great to return to the community where my business partners and I began our careers,” said Bendel, a graduate of The Collins College of Hospitality Management at Cal Poly Pomona who spent nine years at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar at Newport Center/Fashion Island before striking out on his own.
“Olea represents the continued progression we have created with our other two wine country-inspired cuisine restaurants,” Bendel said. The restaurant will be Bendel’s largest, seating 130 guests, and like the other two locations is open for dinner nightly. Kevin Franke will be the operating partner.
Both Vine and Ironwood were named in Brad A. Johnson's 2017 “75 Best Places to Eat” in the Orange County Register. Ironwood also was named one of the six restaurants in “Best of the New” in Orange Coast Magazine's April 2017 “Best Restaurants” issue and was honored as “Best New Restaurant” in 2016 by the Golden Foodies.
Cook has created new dishes exclusively for Olea, including blue crab baked oysters with champagne tarragon butter (pictured above); terrine of duck liver, bacon and bourbon; wild-caught Pacific Blue Nose sea bass; herb-roasted prime beef cheek stroganoff with house-made rosemary pappardelle; Pacific Northwest filet mignon with black truffle and blue crab Béarnaise; and seasonal apple and pear cobbler with oatmeal crumble and cardamom ice cream.
Also on the menu at Olea will be Vine/Ironwood crowd-pleasers such as Meyer lemon & honey duck wings and jumbo lump blue crab with roasted heirloom beets.
Appetizers at Olea will run from $11-$19, and entrees $16.50-$43.50, with most priced in the $24-$27 range. Desserts will be $9.50.
Beverage director Gabe Whorley created several signature cocktails for Olea that are priced at $12.25, including Rich Girl (rosé wine, vodka, lime, yuzu, basil, St. Elder); Last One (vanilla and orange bitters infused with bourbon, Drambuie, Lillet Blanc, orange and lemon peel); and Jorge Lucas (tequila, mezcal, lime, orange juice, egg white, serrano, Tajín salt rim and Angostura bitters).
Olea’s interior, created by Los Angeles-based Bitton Design Group, is Tuscany wine country meets California Cuisine. An eclectic blend of timeless natural backgrounds includes antique French white oak floors, Black Mountain ledge-stone, black walnut millwork complemented with contemporary decorative lighting, and clean soffit lines and a warm taupe color palette.
Dining areas are divided with sculptures instead of walls, made from natural tree branches on steel bases that lend privacy. The completely weatherproofed dining patio has a parkway setting with swagger light fixtures and citrus trees and herbs in large planters. Two olea (olive) trees flank the entrance of the restaurant.
A focal point of Olea, which totals 3,647 square feet, is a custom-made captain’s table in the wine room that can seat 10. Visible from the front of the restaurant, the captain’s table is surrounded by working wine storage and wine displays, artwork and beautiful lighting fixtures.
Four seats will be available at a chef’s counter, and 25 barstools will ring a center island bar. Private and semi-private dining also is available. The restaurant will employ 45.
Olea is located at The Walk, 2001 Westcliff Drive, Newport Beach, CA 92660, by Kéan Coffee. Reservations are accepted on OpenTable, or by calling 949-287-6807. There is self-parking in a newly-constructed 300-car parking structure adjacent to the restaurant. www.oleanewportbeach.com