The Boathouse collective sails the Orange County restaurant scene into uncharted territory
The Boathouse Collective is Silver Lake cool in Orange County. The boathouse is in a small handful of restaurants in Orange County that have intentionally broken the cookie cutter mold to create a new type of restaurant experiment. Past trend setters included The Playground, ARC, and Taco Maria. This was my reaction when I first visited The Boathouse on media night.
I have since visited the Boathouse twice, incognito and on my own dime. After these subsequent visits, I still think the restaurant is impressive and out of the box, although my enthusiasm slightly tempered by the realities of a new restaurant still finding their sea legs. If The Boathouse continues on their current projection, this restaurant could start a trend.
Say what, a restaurant in an industrial park?
Finding The Boathouse can feel like you are searching for rave in the 90’s, turning down industrial side streets looking for an old warehouse with the hopes of finding awesomeness on the other side of the chain link fence.
The Boathouse Collective is off the beaten path of the Costa Mesa restaurant scene. It is located next door to an auto salvage shop off 17th and Pomona, with very little signage to guide you to the parking lot. Don’t let this dissuade you; a restaurant in middle of an industrial complex has a definite edgy cool X factor. Their location allows late night dining and live performance since there are no residential neighbors around to complain.
This location literally used to be a boat construction warehouse. Owner, Clayton Peterson, has owned the space for the past 10 years and has been using it as a special events location. His vision has to bring in a family friendly restaurant with great food and live entertainment. The space is undeniably cool, bringing in an edgy industrial vibe to the normally pristine Orange County restaurant scene.
The space feels like you are visiting the Silver Lake neighborhood in Los Angeles instead of Orange County. With that said the laid back surf culture of Newport Beach oozes from the choices of décor and friendly natured staff.
The Courtyard is formed by lining the perimeter with painted shipping containers. This patio also doubles as their herb and vegetable garden which grow out of raised garden beds made out of reclaimed wood. Even the tables are made out of reclaimed trade show shipping containers. At night, the string lights make the location feel surreal and like you are visiting another city on vacation.
Menu at The Boathouse Collective
Theprogressive Modern American Menu with strong hints of Japanese and world influence. The Boathouse’s Executive Chef is Mathieu Royer whose restaurant pedigree and influence shows in his cuisine. Past engagements include famed Hinooki and the Bird, Pizzeria Ortica, and Morimoto in Napa Valley where is learned under famed master sushi chef Gen Mizoguchi. The fusion elements are sometimes obvious and other times very subtle; the cuisine is uniquely Californian. Here is what I tried over the course of my three visits.
Tortilla Crisps and Bean Puree (free)
One of the more generous answers to free bread and chips is the Boathouses free tortilla crisps and bean puree. I personally love the white bean puree and chile sauce with the house crisped tortillas. I would easily pay $3 for this complimentary starter.
The Chicken Katsu is technically a side, although there is enough chicken there to make it a small meal or bar bites to share. I personally would not share, no offense to my friends. This dish is essentially a fried cutlet prepared in the Japanese style, which uses panko crusting resulting. $8
I really liked the texture and juiciness of the chicken. The accompanying Asian plum BBQ sauce and hot mustard added a sweet and spicy umphh to the flavor profile. Take it easy on the mustard sauce; just a little goes a long ways. I tried this item twice, once at the pre-opening event and once as a customer. It was delicious both times.
The seasonal sashimi is delicately crafted for a dynamic flavor profile. The version I tried was with Hamachi (yellow tail tuna) and garnished with heirloom tomato, fermented soy, lemon verbena, horseradish all served on a shiso leaf.
This sashimi eats like a hand roll, with the aromatic shiso leaf serving as the delivery vessel. The shiso leaf adds a slight anise flavor to the fish and plays very nice with the fermented soybean and lemon verbena. The Sisho leaves are grown in their onsite urban garden. This dish is Market Price and definitely worth a try.
Calbi Short Ribs with Chimichurri Sauce
The calbi short ribs were perhaps my favorite item on the menu. Boneless segments of short ribs are flavored with a fusion style marinated that is delicate yet deeply rich in flavor. The meat is tender and juicy. The accompanying chimichurri sauce which is made from ingredients from their own garden. I have tried this item twice and love it each time. $10
This dish is true California cuisine. The Chop is made with wild mushrooms, cauliflower, broccoli, squash, zucchini, lettuce, avocado, herbs into blended wet salad. Smashed avocados and vinaigrette form the base of the sauce that ties together the flavors of the vegetable salad. The dish is topped with a soft boiled egg, perfect for an egg slut like myself.
I highly recommend that you mix up the egg yolk into the dish for an umami hit. I like this dish, although the $12 price tag is a tad little high for the portion size. With that said, this dish is a perfect portion size for a light dinner. I ordered this dish three times, once at the media event and twice on my own with a group. This dish continues to get better and better at each visit.
The boathouse burger is the only missed opportunity at The Boathouse Collective. The burger is constructed with a potato bun, aioli, gruyere cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickled onions and pickled beet slices.
At a conceptual level, this burger was well constructed and I like the flavor elements of the gruyere cheese, aioli and pickled veges; although, the burger patty was the weak link of the dish. The burger meat tasted like a high-end frozen hamburger patty. The patty was perfectly symmetrical and the meat has a dense consistency, akin with processed food. I am not saying that it is frozen hamburger, but it tasted and looked like it,
The burger was very juicy, but lacked some natural beef flavor that comes with in-house beef grinding. For me, the burger was good and fine if I paid $8 ; although, at a price tag of $10 I would expect a fresh ground burger or at least a side. I encourage The Boathouse to be known for a great burger that would help draw in the both “veto vote dinners” and burger aficionados. If this was their only food blemish, they are still doing good.
Roasted Fingerling Potatoes
I ordered the roasted fingerling potatoes ($4) with my burger. The fingerling potatoes are simply roasted with a salt based savory seasoning and served with a delicious aioli based sauce. The potatoes were perfectly cooked, creating a pillowy soft potato flesh in the center of the bite sized treats. These are a great replacement to fried French fries.
I did not get to taste this dish, although it was out for display at the media event so I am including the image. A friend who previously tried the dish told me that she liked the nuttiness of the shitakes with the rice porridge.
The Cocktails at The Boathouse Collective were perhaps one of the best draws for The Boathouse. The cocktails are fancy, although extremely approachable in flavor. During happy hour, the cocktails are only $8 instead of the regular $12. That is a great deal!
The Boathouse Sour
The Boathouse Sour is made with bourbon, fresh squeezed lemon juice, pasteurized egg whites, angostura bitters, house made simple syrup. This is a great rendition of a bourbon sour letting the bourbon take a lead role and the bitterness of the lemons wrapping around the flavors of the bitters, egg whites and sugars.
Their Old Fashioned is made with rye, orange bitters, angostura bitters, and rock sugar cube. I liked how it is well balanced, with the rock sugar creating an even sugar flavor in the cocktail. The cocktail was properly served with a large ice cube and orange peel.
The Basil Greyhound is made with vodka, hand squeezed grapefruit juice, grapefruit bitters, luxardo cherry liqueur, house mad simple syrup, fresh basil, and crushed ice. As a general rule I am not a fan of grapefruit cocktails. Although The Boathouse makes a version used muddled basil leaves, which added a nice contrasting flavor that transformed it into something I really enjoyed.
My Final thought about The Boathouse Collective
After three visits to The Boathouse, I have seen the restaurant evolve and shake off new restaurant service issues and slowly tweak their menu. My first lunch experience was a minor disaster, when the kitchen became backed up and it took 1 hour 30 minutes to prepare me a chop salad. During my next visit, the kitchen staff and wait staff appeared to iron out these issues. They are quickly gaining their new restaurant see legs.
Overall Tom’s Foodie Blog highly encourages my readers to check out The Boathouse Collective in Costa Mesa. The restaurant is quickly evolving and if they continue their focus on optimizations of their food and service. The Boathouse Collective may become the best new restaurant in Orange County.
The Boathouse Collective
1640 Pomona Ave Costa Mesa, CA 92627