Restaurateurs, please stop using The Real Housewives of Orange County as a marketing tool. Posch—the restaurant that marks the return of Jimmy “Z” Parvin of Forty Carrots, Garden Bistro and Jimmy Z Grill—does exactly this to its detriment. Why it chose to align itself with a group of fickle, overprivileged fame whores who regard restaurants as another throwaway Botox treatment is beyond me. To watch the YouTube video of its grand-opening party hosted by one of the show's token blondes is to find out too little about the restaurant and too much about the Housewives. Throughout the segment, the Housewives did what the Housewives do best: promote themselves.
Posch has a lot to overcome without the distraction. The location is still fresh from the failure of iLounge OC, which lasted about as long as a Real Housewife's relationship with Slade. In the sprawling property, a series of labyrinthine rooms is themed by way of paint and color-matched furniture. A red lounge has low lighting, couches and coffee tables. A wine room showcases leather and wood. Those who visit typically choose the latter. It's the most hospitable area save for the bar. But anywhere you sit, your cocktails will be delivered by a statuesque blonde in a slinky, figure-hugging, black minidress—a strutting caricature of sex, legs and double-D cleavage.
The boobs mesmerize, but they're not enough to compensate for the building. For a place that wants to be popular with the in crowd (whatever that is), the largeness becomes a liability rather than an asset. Should you arrive when the restaurant isn't filled to capacity, its emptiness leaves the impression you have arrived too late or too early for a party. It really shouldn't be this way; Parvin's food deserves better. There are flashes of brilliance here that, in a different venue, would inspire fawning reviews and declarations of genius. This is intimate cuisine begging to be served in a less ostentatious setting.
You wonder, for instance, how the bacon-wrapped scallops would taste if they were served in a smaller, more personal space like that of Basilic, the closet-sized restaurant on Balboa Island. The dish has the makings of a classic: crisp bacon jacket protecting fleshy, supple scallops, with an assertive orange syrup splashed on the plate that condenses the sour, sweet and bitter of the citrus fruit and its zest. And what if you had Parvin's “crustless herbed quiche soufflé” at a Persian hole in the wall, where it would be called kookoo sabzi? Would you think this appetizer, which resembles square patches of sod, was a wondrous, fiber-packed pancake made almost entirely of compacted herbs? Yes, you would.
With that dish and a few others, Parvin disguises the Persian leanings of his food, but the man, who looks a little like Art Garfunkel, does not hide the flavors. Do not be surprised, then, that the Kobe beef rolls—stubby, ground-beef-filled, crunchy-shelled stogies—are soured by a ton of sumac, its addictive tang rendering unnecessary the sweet-and-sour sauce he provides. To this he adds fried noodles covered in powdered sugar, which becomes the zap to the sumac's zip. Parvin's best dish is his Chilean sea bass, a pristine fillet burnished with a crispy, browned crust. The rest melts the way a crème brûlée does after your spoon gets past the burnt sugar—like blubber. He stacks a coarsely mashed mound of potatoes, spinach and Japanese pickled ginger on top that eventually topples, but it's the fish and its well-formulated teriyaki-molasses sauce you covet. Get that dish instead of the chewy, gristle-plagued shish kebab, a dish narrowly saved by its accompanying diced-cucumber-and-heirloom-tomato salad called shirazi and fluffy basmati rice topped with cognac barberries that might be the best-tasting compote in the world.
In the event any Real Housewives actually make it back to Posch to eat, the halved papaya filled with grilled shrimp and salsa would be sufficiently carb-deficient. Never mind that the papaya, its side salad and thin-sliced grilled vegetables seem more apt for a day spa than a nightclub. It's still better than a main course called “Z's Seafood.” With its flaked salmon, clams, overcooked scallops, close-to-ammoniated mussels, sundried tomatoes, rice and grated cheese, it's a dish that has grand ambitions but fails because of its own excess. Let's hope it's not an omen for the restaurant itself because, unlike your typical Housewife, there's something salvageable beyond the gaudiness.
This review appeared in print as “Pish Posch: Jimmy 'Z' Parvin's flashy John Wayne Airport-adjacent restaurant needs a lot less Real Housewife and more him.”
Before becoming an award-winning restaurant critic for OC Weekly in 2007, Edwin Goei went by the alias “elmomonster” on his blog Monster Munching, in which he once wrote a whole review in haiku.