Take a closer look at the chef’s table in the Belo-Orange County Register

Last week I published my annual Dining Guide to Orange County, the 75 Best Dining Places. For the first time since 2019, restaurants have been rated, and for the first time, this year’s guide includes star ratings.

At No. 7 (with 3 stars), Belo Guide’s was the tallest Italian restaurant in Newport Beach. I described it as “two restaurants in one, working from the same kitchen, one bar and staff sharing”. The basic idea behind Bello, run by chef / owner Sandro Nordon, is “Italian cuisine the way it is served in Italy”, meaning the kitchen doesn’t seem to impress New Jersey. But they make a pizza hell, and Branzino is the best fish of any Italian restaurant in OC. But that’s only half the story.

Chef’s table at Bello in Newport Beach (technically kitchen counter) (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register / SCNG)

The restaurant’s secondary concept is the chef’s table in Bello, an intimate six-seater dining counter that overlooks the same kitchen but with the help of chef Andrew Adams and a 12-course specialty dining menu supervised by Chef Zack Shearer.

Inspired by local farmers’ markets and with their ever-changing menus, Shearer challenged the red sauce stereotype of Italian cuisine even more than Nordon. If you take a closer look, you’ll see hints of Italy’s slow-eating philosophy and vaguely familiar ideas or ingredients – for example, porcini mushrooms paired with oak, or a clever reference to ravioli – but In the end, it is more difficult to categorize this food. . It does not immediately recognize it as Italian. It’s not a modernist at all, nor is it a fusion, although you may find curiosity like the Himachi cooked in Dashi or the mussels offered in oxidized wine mixed with milk powder.

Since I didn’t have the space for details in the dining guide, here’s a closer look at some of the highlights of my last dinner at the chef’s table.

First course: Oyster. It was an incredible way to start, with one oyster being removed from its shell and served in a cup of tea filled with celery water. This sounds funny, but it was a revelation. I will never see celery like that again.

Oyster in celery juice at chef's table in Bello, Newport Beach (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register / SCNG)
Oyster in celery juice at chef’s table in Bello, Newport Beach (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register / SCNG)

Third course: caviar, parsnip, wild rice. It was a wonderful little tart, its shell was made of rice, custard was some kind of parsnip cream, in which caviar played the role of salt. Beautiful and delicious.

Caviar, parsnip and wild rice at the chef's table in Bello, Newport Beach (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register / SCNG)
Caviar, parsnip and wild rice at the chef’s table in Bello, Newport Beach (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register / SCNG)

Fourth course: Himachi. With a hint of grapefruit and walnuts, this little piece of fish was one of the simplest dishes of the night. It was also one of the best.

Hamachi cooked with grapefruit and walnut essence at a chef's table in Bello, Newport Beach (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register / SCNG)
Hamachi cooked with grapefruit and walnut essence at a chef’s table in Bello, Newport Beach (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register / SCNG)

Sixth course: Mussels. I recently teased these mussels. They were served in an oxidized wine sauce with milk powder. Excellent mussels in recent memory.

Boiled mussels in oxidized wine and milk powder sauce on Bello's chef's table (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register / SCNG)
Boiled mussels in oxidized wine and milk powder sauce on Bello’s chef’s table (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register / SCNG)

Seventh Course: Ravilo. He was dressed like an Italian but spoke in a French-Scandinavian accent. Hidden under this sheet of pasta is a spoonful of cabbage roasted with bone marrow, the whole of which is buttered. One of my favorite dishes.

A freeform rave at a chef's table in Bello, Newport Beach (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register / SCNG)
A freeform rave at a chef’s table in Bello, Newport Beach (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register / SCNG)

Eleventh Course: Kamkat and Strawberry Semi-Fredo. It was probably the most Italian thing of the night, a classic semi-friedo made from the backyard of Shearer’s mother’s house with oversized camouflage. This may be the best Semi-Fredo I’ve ever encountered anywhere in the world.

Semi-Fredo at Chef's Table in Bello, Newport Beach (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register / SCNG)
Semi-Fredo at Chef’s Table in Bello, Newport Beach (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register / SCNG)

Scherer himself chooses, pours and explains all the wines, a different bottle for each course, all of which are absolutely wonderful. Unfortunately – and with experience this is my biggest argument – fresh glasses are not provided for every new wine. Rather, the same two glasses are simply empty and refilled over and over again, even changing from white to red. Some people may not think this is a big deal, but eating at a chef’s table is not cheap. Prices start at $ 245 per person. Call me a snooze, but such prices should guarantee a clear glass jar for every continuous drink. And I didn’t wear lipstick like the other guests.

Chef's table at Bello in Newport Beach (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register / SCNG)
Chef’s table at Bello in Newport Beach (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register / SCNG)

Still, it was easily one of my favorite foods of the past year. No one else in Orange County is cooking like that. I look forward to seeing this one flower.

Bello

Where: 1200 Bison Avenue, Newport Beach

When: Thursday, Friday and Saturday night

The phone: 949-520-7191

online: bellobysandronardone.com

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