The Island is a recently renovated Five Diamond luxury hotel in Newport Beach, directly across from Fashion Island, the OC’s most elegant shopping center. Both are owned and operated by the Irvine Company and make for an ideal destination for a weekend getaway, where you can relax, go shopping and enjoy fine dining.
The Island is an ultra modern hotel nestled in a tropical enclave with exotic flora, including a the Dioon Spinulosum, a type of fern with seeds that resemble giant pomegranate seeds.ï»¿ï»¿
A popular destination for vacationers and business folk alike, The Island boasts a suite to room ratio of 83 to 295 – pretty uncommon. And the suites are indeed “suite”: spacious rooms with views of the pool and Saddleback Mountain.
There are large patios, Berber carpeting, textured upholstery, Bose 3-2-1 sounds systems, Sony hi def plasma TVs, hi speed internet and a data port built right into your desk. They even wrap your unopened bathroom tissue in its own linen…never saw that before!
Despite the popularity of the hotel (it’s almost always 90% booked on weekends), you’d never know it, with guests either heading to the beach, Fashion Island, the Orange County Art Museum, also across from the hotel, or a zillion other destinations in the vicinity.
There’s a beautiful pool with its own fireplace to add warmth on chilly evenings, private cabanas and poolside salon services such as manicures and pedicures. You can also dine al fresco with special summer feasts by the pool. In July there’s the Surf N Turf BBQ featuring grilled steaks and an assortment of shellfish for $44 per person, and in August they offer their stadium-style BBQ with hamburgers and hotdogs for $24 per person to welcome in baseball season.
If you prefer dining indoors there’s the Four Diamond Palm Terrace surrounded by an array of tropical plants outside in the gardens, mirrored in the upholstery and wall hangings in the dining room. Very relaxing ambiance. Executive Chef David Man told me the Palm Terrace is the number one destination for the Power Breakfast crowd. In fact, he says, as many people come to dine from the local community as they do from out of town.
Chef Man says the kitchen is a team effort with four sous- chefs and twenty cooks preparing breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week.
It’s not your typical hotel restaurant, in that the menu changes frequently and features seasonal cuisine offered in smaller portions at lower prices. Chef Man says he encourages patrons to share several small dishes, then perhaps then have their own entrée and again share a sampling of desserts.
For instance we shared what David Man calls the “New Edamame” ($8) made from roasted fresh garbanzo beans, sea salt and the Tunisian chili paste Harisa. It’s pretty messy to eat, but oh boy, is it addictive!
We also had the Pear and Blue Cheese Flatbread ($11) topped with Point Reyes blue cheese and wild arugula. And he insisted, as well, on the Island Ahi Tartare ($12) combined with Asian pears, pecans, cilantro and mint and served with crispy tortilla triangles.
We asked if he could also prepare small portions of the main entrees so we could sample more than one, and he presented us with a sort of tryptych. On the left, the Prime Beef Short Ribs ($28 if served as a main course) Sous Vide (the meat cooked in an airtight plastic bag filled with 140 degree water for 48 hours) and prepared in a red wine sauce and gremolata (parsely, garlic, lemon zest and olive oil) and served with baby kale and potato puree. OMG!
In the middle of the divided plate was a Filet of Salmon ($24) poached in California sparkling wine and served with a spring succotash, potato puree, mache (aka lamb’s lettuce) and sauce vierge (a French sauce made from olive oil, lemon juice, chopped tomato and basil). Extremely tender and definitely not overcooked. The last sampling was my favorite, Soft Shell Crab ($16) dusted with seasoned flour and sautéed in butter, tossed with pea shoots and a little lemon juice and served almondine with fresh haricots vert (green beans).
And if that weren’t enough, Chef Man persuaded us to sample his most popular desserts. Well, if you insist, David! Pastry Chef Andy Delacruz proceeded to bring us an Almond Cheesecake with Black Honey Coulis and a sour cream topping; a Lemon Curd Tart with a cream cheese filling and Marscapone ice cream topped with raspberry sauce; a Blueberry Orange Crisp served with a scoop of ginger ice cream, topped with a white chocolate milk streusel, AND the piece de resistance: a Salted Caramel S’mores served in a jar with homemade graham crackers sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. Who said gilding the lily is a BAD thing????
If you can possibly stand up after a dinner like that, I suggest you amble over to the Palm Lounge where on weekends Jimmy Hopper and his trio entertain his loyal following and others with an eclectic hour long set of songs from pop to Broadway to rock. No cover charge!
It wouldn’t be a bad idea to book a nice massage the next day or perhaps one of ten types of facials available. There’s also an incredible Island Boreh Remedy popular with athletes and helpful in relieving jet lag. Clove, ginger and other spices are applied to the body to increase circulation. The spa is not cheap. Treatments range from $150 all the way up to $300, but your body will thank you.
The Island Hotel is considered the social center of Newport Beach, and for good reason. The atmosphere is relaxing, the food is great and the service is top notch. Some of the employees have been part of the staff for over twenty years, like LaDonna Whipple, who’s been greeting guests upon arrival for 26 years and is still smiling! So am I!
The Island Hotel
690 Newport Center Drive
Newport Beach, CA 92660