Covering the dining scene in and around the OC
We’ve written about Rustica Restaurant in Fashion Island several times, so imagine our surprise when Rustica closed last month only to reopen a week later with a new name (Great Maple: Libations and Seasona Plates), new menu, and a new chef: Laurent Ferre, the former chef/owner of Pleasant Peasant Restaurant in Newport Beach (now the site of Il Barone restaurant).
Turns out that Ferre came to Great Maple by way of Brasserie Pascal, where he plied his culinary art after closing Pleasant Peasant. Ferre made the move to Great Maple, and by all appearances couldn’t be happier.
We decide to have a look at Great Maple while visiting Fashion Island recently, and
ended up sampling several menu items. A handful of dishes remain from the old
Rustica menu, but most are new American-themed dishes—although Chef Ferre is
putting his distinctive French stamp in the kitchen.
We swooned over the Creamy Polenta with Pancetta and Shaved Figs, while the Seasonal Melon & La Querica Prosciutto with Rustic Bread Crostini was a delicate yet hearty taste
The Fresh Seasonal Salad of the Day was a refreshing chilled mix of rice, peas, beans, corn and tomatoes, while the East Coast Pulled Pork Sandwich with Sweet Onion and Mixed Peppers was a mouthful of flavor and – unlike many local Pulled Pork dishes – not overdone with glops of sauce.
We were too full for dessert—or so we thought. Chef brought us the Peanut Butter Banana Split, which put us in peanut butter heaven. The banana came baked in phyllo dough, while the peanut butter ice cream adorned with peanut toffee and cherries was bursting with peanut butter flavor. Chef Ferre even came over and poured hot chocolate sauce over the dish!
We learned that Great Maple is installing a large bar (complete with big screen TVs) later this fall, making Great Maple a combination sports bar and restaurant. The packed dining
room on the night we were there signaled the fact that Great Maple may have found the niche that Rustica never quite discovered.
Will we be back? Absolutely!
Thanks for reading!