Canada has given the world so many wonderful things: Neil Young, ice hockey, Keanu Reeves and poutine.
Yes, nothing says Canada like a nice serving of French fries and cheese curds drowned in gravy.
I had my first helping of poutine some 20 years ago at a food truck in Vancouver during a vacation, and then watched seemingly endless coverage of curling on Canadian television in my hotel room.
It’s been a love-hate relationship ever since—I love poutine, but have my doubts about curling.
So, when I learned that Canadian restaurant OEB Breakfast Co. was opening a location in Newport Beach and had poutine on the menu, naturally I was intrigued.
The location—at Irvine Co.’s Westcliff Plaza shopping center, near the Newport Beach and Costa Mesa city line—is only the second OEB in the U.S.; the first is in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Italian Chef Mauro Martina, who emigrated to Canada in 1992 and worked at various fine-dining establishments, opened the first OEB in 2009 in Alberta, followed by eight more throughout Canada.
According to Martina, “During my childhood in Italy, I was exposed to fresh, rich ingredients every day and learned the value of being able to shake hands with farmers and purveyors who produced those foods. I created OEB as a way to foster community and connection—with our guests, the food, and the people who work tirelessly to make our dishes possible, and hope that one day we can become the first Michelin star breakfast restaurant.”
A lofty goal, to be sure, but the dishes Martina has concocted are creative, exotic and in many ways Michelin-worthy.
Examples: Gold Digga Breakfast Poutine with duck fat fried potatoes, poached eggs, fresh local cheese curds, Berkshire roast pork and brown butter hollandaise, or French Toast Trifle made with thick-cut brioche French toast, lemon curd, market berries, pistachios and torched pavlovas.
Those are just two of the lengthy list of breakfast delights available at OEB. Martina uses ingredients such as scallops, lobster, truffle, caviar and duck in many of his morning mixtures.
Irvine on Tap
The Newport Beach location is the first of many planned OEB restaurant franchises in California to be developed by OC residents and brothers Walid Daoud and Antoine Daoud of Newport Breakfast Concepts LLC.
“I fell in love with OEB at first bite and knew it would be a wonderful addition to Orange County’s breakfast scene with its innovative dishes being unlike anything else I’ve experienced,” Walid Daoud said.
Daoud told the Business Journal he has been in the food business for 30 years, and has owned many restaurant concepts. Now, he’s focused on breakfast, but he wanted something different than what others are doing.
“I looked at a concept from Florida called Broken Egg, it was okay but not what I wanted. I was visiting a friend in Vancouver and we had breakfast at OEB, and I said ‘this is the concept I want.’”
Daoud plans to open an OEB location in Irvine next, followed by Los Angeles and San Diego.
Easy & Excellent
So, what do the initials OEB stand for?
According to the OEB website, it stands for Outstanding People, Embracing Evolution and Bold Food Integrity.
Daoud said that originally it was Over Easy Breakfast, but apparently another restaurant in Canada had that name so it was shortened to OEB Breakfast Co.
Ask the restaurant’s customers and they might say it stands for Outrageously Excellent Breakfast.
“Our most popular items are the breakfast bowls, which is our version of Canadian poutine,” Daoud said. “Instead of gravy we use hollandaise sauce.
You can have it with potatoes or half and half with vegetables. Our Croque Madame is an elevated version of the French dish. We use a lot of high-end items—micro greens, black truffles, aged Manchego cheese.”
Daoud said the reaction from customers has been very positive. “We have the ‘wow’ factor. Customers tell me they are coming back and telling everyone about us.”
The OCBJ Review
My first time at OEB Breakfast Co. I ordered the Get Shorty breakfast bowl: poached eggs, duck fat fried herb potatoes, fresh cheese curds, beef short rib, bell peppers, mushrooms, and brown butter hollandaise. This was an excellent choice—a hearty, tasty dish that satisfied my poutine craving.
I returned a week later for lunch (OEB is open 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily) and had the lobster and shrimp crepe with truffle pearls, and the Notorious B.I.T. burger with white truffle mayo.
The crepe was sensational and as decadent as they come thanks to the scoops of brown butter hollandaise poured on top. There were generous chunks of lobster and shrimp wrapped inside the thin pancake. The burger was top notch, made more decadent with the truffle mayo. The wedge fries that accompanied it were perfect, crisp on the outside and soft inside.
After spotting hand-pinched pierogis on the menu (served with sour cream), I mentioned to Walid Daoud that I was Polish and my father occasionally made pierogis, so Daoud surprised me with a plate of them. They were perfect and—sorry dad—better than homemade.
OEB: 1104 Irvine Ave., Newport Beach, (949) 438-7337, us.eatoeb.com