Was looking for a new place to check out last night and ended up at Driftwood. My neighbor had told me about it a few weeks weeks ago. His review - the food was good but he spent a lot of money and left hungry. Portions just weren't big enough for him. He lost me at good food, so I figured what the heck.
Driftwood focuses on seafood and is helmed by Omar Flores on Davis, down the street from Bolsa Mercado. We pulled up and obtained rock star parking in their small parking lot. A good sign, we wondered?
We walked into the restaurant and were impressed. Two large driftwood sculptures were hung on the main wall, which is washed in blue. The restaurant is designed with that upscale beachy feel - blues, khakis, silvers. It tries to be calming but the noise level doesn't really make it so.
The menu is divided into several different sections Crudo Shellfish, Small Plates, Big Plates, To Share and Sweets. We had decided on getting some oysters and the ahi tuna crudo but then changed our minds after speaking to our server about the starter specials and getting more information on the oysters. The special included a beet cured Copper River Salmon crudo with jicama, asparagus and serranos which sounded great so we decided to switch that for the ahi crudo we had originally planned. After hearing the oysters came in a serving of 3 (that's $4 an oyster, fyi. My neighbor had complained that his serving was 4 oysters. He apparently got the big portion), we decided to skipped the oysters and try the Maine Lobster Roll instead.
The Copper River crudo was a delicious couple of bites. Four quarter sized slices of salmon, so 2 bites each was all with got. Regardless, it was a tasty dish. The fish was very fresh and the cool crunch of the jicama was a nice contrast to bite of the pepper. The lobster roll was fashioned after the more traditional East Coast lobster roll. It's basically a lobster salad on top of a dense roll, which had almost a popover consistency. I found the lobster to be fairly bland. I could not even taste the small piece of gherkins which was included.
But its the seafood entrees where Driftwood really excels. L had the chargrilled octopus with marble potato confit, manzanilla olives, watercress, pickled onions with a smoked tomato vinaigrette. Don't be afraid to try this dish. The octopus was cooked to perfection, and it had a wonderful smoky char to it that just made you forget you were eating something that had tentacles.
I had the crispy seared Wyoming Golden Trout with serrano ham, pimenton roasted fingerlings, English peas and a sherry vinegar pan sauce. When I first received my dish, I thought I had been given the wrong plate. The fish on the plate was pink like salmon, not golden like the name implied. Is this the trout? Yes, the server explained, it's ruby red trout, she stated. (Well, not quite. Wyoming Golden Trout is actually pink, not golden like the name states, but I didn't know that until after I googled it to write this review. The ruby red explanation worked just fine for me at the time.) The fish was great - filleted, deboned, then re-wrapped in its own skin to keep it moist and flavorful. The potatoes added a heartiness to the dish and the sauce walked the delicate balance of not ending up too sweet. I don't know why the peas were there. There simply wasn't enough of them to make any type of impact on the dish.
We also ordered the brussels sprouts, as I always do. These were crispy with pork belly and fish sauce. While I really enjoyed them, I wish chefs would stop trying to sweeten my favorite vegetable. They taste amazing on their own as far as I'm concerned. But this is coming from an unabashed brussels sprouts lover so I guess you have to sweeten them to apply to the masses.
So my take on Driftwood as we walked the five steps from the restaurant to our rock star parking? I left full but feeling a little empty in the pocketbook. If you are in the mood for seafood, I recommend you check it out, but if I had to do it all over again, I would avoid the left side of the menu entirely and just stick with the entrees. While the starters are beautiful and tasty, I just don't want to spend that much money for so little food when I'm in the OC.