Great Maple Restaurant in Fashion Island
“Great and Miserable” is how I sum up my experience at Great Maple restaurant in Newport Beach. I loved their seasonal approach to their menu with exciting dishes like portobello fries, grass-fed beef and venison.
Having seen this restaurant in the past, I was very excited to give it a try. Although my entire party was impressed by the flavor of the food, by the next day my perceptions of the restaurants would be tarnished.
Located in the middle of Fashion Island, the restaurant’s ambiance lives up the area code. The restaurant décor is a highly stylized rustic ambiance with grained wood beams and accents, red hued chandeliers. The décor provides a warm feeling; although the clean lines and balanced design reminds you that you are still in trendy Newport Beach.. The noise level was a bit high when we arrived for our 8:30 appointment, so we opted for their heated patio.
The service was friendly and knowledgeable. Our server was able to offer recommendations based on our preferences. We all ordered their famous burgers, although we each ordered a different protein (Turkey, Lamb, Venison). All the burgers were delicious, I personally really enjoyed my venison. (Note: I sampled everyone else’s burger, no one ate the venison but me, remember this for later in the post)
Portobello Mushrooms were battered in a panko tempura sauce, deep-fried, and dusted with parmesan. The result of this preparation is one of the better vegetable fries that I have tasted. The flavor of the Portobello took center stage, although the batter, oil and parmesan provided a rich savory experience on the tongue. The portobello fries were paired with a garlic pesto mayo, which complimented the flavors of the dish.
Free Range Turkey Burger on a Chiabatta Roll –
Although this dish was relatively simple, it was executed nicely. Free range turkey meet was ground, spiced and formed to a patty and served with cheddar cheese over a grilled chiabatta roll. It was served with a aioli dressing, tomato, lettuce and onion. This dish was ordered by our friend who is a turkey burger fanatic, she said it was, “very juicy and tasted really good.”
Moroccan Lamb Burger –
The Moroccan lamb burger was very pleasant, with the natural lamb flavors dominated on the palate. Although the lamb burger was delicious, I felt that the name “Moroccan Lamb Burger” did not truly represent the dish’s flavor. I felt that the seasoning was much too mild. My wife, who ordered this burger, said it was juicy and enjoyed the flavoring just the way it was. She represents the palate of most dinners at this restaurant who do not like spice forward flavors, so I can’t blame the restaurant.
Venison Burger –
The venison burger was pretty darn tasty with its “Fresh Venison” providing a balanced gamy flavor to the burger. Even though the Chef overcooked my burger from the requested medium, it was still juicy and nicely seasoned. I ordered it with the optional goat cheese ($2 extra) and it provided a nice contrasting tart and creamy flavor. The burger tasted wonderful and we all agreed that we loved the food.
Then things turned for the worse…
We had a late appointment and were finishing our wine by 20 minutes after closing. The staff made it obvious that they wanted us to leave by turning on a very bright spotlight above our table. Considering that this was the only bright light turned up in the entire restaurant, their message was clear, “Get out.” We felt very unwelcome to be there and I ended up waiting outside in the cold while my wife used the washroom. Our perception of the restaurant went from very positive to mixed within seconds.
“Fresh” Venison Burger, I hope.
I woke up at 3:45 early that morning with one of the worst cases of food poisoning in my life. I will spare you the details, but the onset was about 6 hours after eating the meal. By 11:00 am the next day I was seriously considering checking myself into the emergency room for dehydration. My biggest regret is not calling the Manager the very next day, although I was too sick at the time. Considering that no one else became ill from the meal, the only possible contaminated items could be the goat cheese or the venison.
Note: I called Management a week later, after I fully recovered. He asked me to me to fax in my receipt, contact information so that he could investigate the problem. I was told that they would call me back. I called the restaurant a couple weeks later and the person on the phone said that they Manager would call me back. I still have not heard back from them. :/
My Final Thoughts
I do not know if I will visit Great Maple again. Right now I am still getting over my aversion to red meat as a result of this experience. I am just one more food poisoning away from hitting my goal weight; too bad I dropped a pants size through contaminated food. If the restaurant checks their food handling practices and brushes up on their customer service skills, I will be happy to recommend this restaurant. For now, I encourage my readers to make their own decisions based on this review.