251 E Coast Hwy, Newport Beach, CA | Directions 9266033.615902 -117.901474
Good press unfortunate results – The beauty in most Latin American fare is it is bursting with flavors from chili rubs to exotic fruits and grain and it’s preparation can awaken your senses and transport you to another region.
Sol Cocina, however, is NOT one of those restaurants. Upon my initial arrival, I was impressed. The decor is unique, the set up is inviting, until you look up - stucco. At least in the dining room. Unfortunately, I’ll never understand why such a promising theme could nose dive so quickly with such a rookie mistake, but I was willing to look past it.
It took about 10 minutes before my Cucumber Jalapeño arrived, which under normal circumstances would have been fine. However, there were maybe 20 people in the entire restaurant, including staff, and our server still forgot about the drinks. (One can only imagine what happens when it’s busy.) Minute 10, the drinks arrive (mine and my guest’s whom ordered Sangria). She ran down the items on the menu and the few she was familiar with, she did a great job selling. We looked at the menu, which I have to say is fantastically presented in a thin, raw organic material that looks almost like wood. Upon scanning it, we ordered some appetizers to start: White Corn and Pablano Soup and an order of Ceviche. In the interim, a basket arrives with large tostado shells that look like someone dropped a shaker of chili and pepper on it by accident. It is accompanied by a fabulous display of 3 dips: black bean, salsa, chili sauce. The black bean dip was good, presentation fabulous, but the shells were mediocre at best. Finally we taste our drinks. Mine is refreshing but in no universe could I even taste a hint of Jalapeño; the Sangria —- not really worth a second sip. (While I’m aware there are many versions of Sangria, after being in Barcelona and having dozens of different blends, when it’s good, it’s good. When it’s not, it’s really not.)
So onto ordering. The menu, as I mentioned, seems so promising… However, they are out of the 1st three items I’m attempting to order. Not because they ran out, just because they don’t serve it anymore and they hadn’t changed the menu. At least that’s what the server told us. Clue #2. Still, I’m not ready to give up. I order:
T A C O V A M P I R O
CHICKEN FAJITA CLUB TORTA
I anticipated the flavor exploding in my mouth. Nothing. The tacos were mediocre, the idea however was fantastic - just poorly executed. The server promised a “very spicy” taco and it tasted like someone threw in a bell pepper and called it a serrano chili. And then the torta - while I read the description of a garlic roasted telera roll - we weren’t expecting the OVERSIZED roll with some ingredients thrown in between. My guest ate only the insides of this strangely made torta because in truth, most anywhere in Latin America, when you think torta, you don’t think of a hoagie. Clue #3.
The only thing left to do was order one more beverage and cross our fingers dessert wasn’t a total bust. Flan. What can possibly go wrong with flan? How about a flan that is so stiff and “bready” - yes, bready - that there little to no resemblance to the notion of traditional flan. It was a disappointment to say the least. We instead ordered the creme brulee with guava and berries and the Perfecto drink. The creme brulee was ok, just massive in size, which was a little overwhelming though the berries were incredibly fresh. The Perfecto - a little on the Less than Perfecto side but did it’s job.
So all in all, Sol Cocina was not as bright and tasty as I had been led to believe. First impression was a sheer let down. Great decor (minus the stucco ceilings in the dining area), authentic idea, poor execution - and in my opinion, not worth the $130 price tag of a meal for two. So there is my first review of a restaurant that has not lived up to the hype.
Written by Dawn Garcia
Citysearch Editorial Review – Located on the docks of Newport, this upscale-casual eatery turns out Baja coastal cuisine that emphasizes traditional ingredients. The space evokes old-time Mexico with a modern twist: Earth tones are punctuated with bursts of color while the bar lounge and indoor fire pit provide the perfect spots for sipping drinks. Menu starters include guacamole offered three different ways (you can get it with shrimp and bacon!) and specialties like the mariscos (Mexican seafood) and carne asada "street tacos" keep OC locals coming back for more. Along with weekday lunch and dinner specials, Sol Cocina offers weekend brunch and a nightly happy hour from 3pm to 6pm with $5 margaritas, $3 beer of your choice and discounted appetizers.
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