Newport Grill elegant, delectable

02/25/2011 12:00 AM

07/06/2011 3:16 PM

Review: Newport Grill
Rating: Three and a half forks
Where:1900 N. Rock Road, 316-636-9555
Hours: 4 to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 4 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 4 to 9 p.m. Sundays. Bar open one hour past kitchen close nightly.
Type of food: Seafood, steaks
Alcohol: Full bar
Reservations: Accepted

Newport Grill has a lot of fine-dining expectations to meet.

It opened in December in one of Wichita's most beautiful restaurant spaces — the former Cibola spot, situated beside a fountain and a scenic lake in the upscale Bradley Fair shopping center.

It's owned by PB&J, the restaurant group responsible for one of Wichita's most enduringly popular restaurants, Yia Yia's Eurobistro, also in Bradley Fair.

And it's also one of the few restaurants in landlocked Wichita serving a wide variety of fresh seafood, which is flown in six days a week.

ON THE MENU: Newport Grill's focus is fresh fish, and it has a lot to choose from — Ahi tuna, shrimp, crab cakes, mussels, calamari, mahi mahi, scallops, salmon, striped bass and trout among them.

The menu also includes offerings for the fish averse, including steak tartar and duck appetizers plus entrees anchored by steak, chicken, pork and pasta.

DON'T-MISS DISHES: First, news you can use: Newport Grill isn't inexpensive.

Entrees average $25 to $30, and if you and your date add an appetizer, bottle of wine, salads and dessert, your bill will quickly climb to $150, after tip.

But the service, presentation and quality of food will definitely make your meal memorable.

One of the most attractive dishes we tried also was one of the most delicious — and the most expensive. The seared scallops ($29) featured a circle of perfectly seared jumbo diver scallops alternated with black truffle arancini, which are fried and coated rice balls formed in the shape of scallops. A halo of yellow pepper romesco circled the dish, and it was attractively topped with crispy leeks.

We also ordered the grilled rib-eye steak ($28) which came with another unusual side dish: smoked tater tots, which had a crispy outer coating and a mashed-potato smooth center. The 10-oz. prime grade meat was wonderful and topped with a perfectly balanced au poivre demi glace. A side of broccolini finished the plate.

The waiter recommended the seared Scottish salmon ($27), insisting that the fish melted in the mouth "like butter." It was excellent — perfectly cooked and served atop a fluffy pile of house-made ricotta-filled ravioli and topped with pine nuts, radicchio and black pepper balsamic reduction.

The vegetarian in our party couldn't find a single meatless entree on the menu, but the server accommodated her request for the ricotta ravioli, topped with a spicy, kicky marinara sauce.

Salads don't come with the meal, but the baby arugula salad we added was well worth the extra $7. Arugula salads are a rare find around Wichita, and this one featured fresh and peppery arugula topped with shaved fennel celery, Belgian endive, sweet pomegranate, goat cheese and a sherry vinaigrette.

The appetizers we tried were the only weak spot in our meal. We started with a serving of fried calamari ($11), served with a side of smoked tomato sauce and Cajun aioli. The calamari pieces were large but dry, and the breading was under seasoned. Seasoning also was an issue with the steak tartar ($9), a disc-shaped serving of chopped filet meant to be scooped with accompanying crackers. A little table salt fixed it, but it was still pretty unremarkable.

We finished with two desserts, both made in-house by a staff pastry chef and both among the best desserts we've ever had in a Wichita restaurant. The first was a banana bread pudding, topped with a dollop of ice cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce. Equally impressive were tiny beignets filled with warm, melted chocolate and a side of hazelnut dipping sauce.

AMBIENCE: The restaurant feels small, but it's gorgeous. Owners gutted and remodeled the space, appointing it with tables and a mixture of large booths and elevated half-circle booths in the back. The lighting is dim, and the furnishings and fixtures are modern and classy.

PRICE RANGE: Expensive

SERVICE: Friendly, attentive and knowledgeable

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