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Royal Hen

311 Marine Ave. (Balboa Ave.) Send to Phone
Orange County chef Tim Goodell’s bistro-esque “gastropub” makes a big splash on tiny Balboa Island.

Dinner Tues.-Sun.
  • Dress code: Casual

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Royal Hen, Newport Beach, CA

Royal Hen Restaurant Review

: On the outside, this compact restaurant fits right in with the quaint charm of Balboa Island’s two-block main drag. Yet once you pass its red wrought iron fence and enter the intimate black-and-white space, you’re transported to a culinary experience this man-made island hasn’t seen in quite some time. The engine that drives it is Orange County chef Tim Goodell, the man who launched Aubergine, Troquet and several other eateries of OC’s past. Although the concept is technically described as a gastropub, the combination of Goodell’s contemporary cuisine and approachable aesthetic carries a strong bistro vibe. Regardless of classification, there’s no question that the chef is at the top of his game here. Starters such as chicken cracklings with avocado and 'nduja and the crispy prawn strudel with tom yum paste and cilantro display compositional intricacy in small presentations. Other first courses, like the oysters warmed with seaweed butter, show restraint in their use of naturally first-rate elements. Larger selections, for example the daube of short ribs with “neeps & tatties” and the Colombia river sturgeon with salt roasted beets, are a study in epicurean craftsmanship: every item that touches the plate has a purpose, and its role in building an ideal bite never threatens to overwhelm or compromise other components. Those in the know may also be lucky enough to explore a few off-menu, quick-to-sell-out items. Desserts aren’t taken for granted; delights such as the coffee-cardamom pot de crème await at meal’s end. The compact wine list is full of intriguing boutique labels worth exploring, and the bar slings craft beers, ciders and liqueur-driven cocktails.


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