Oceans and Earth is an innovative restaurant in Yorba Linda, growing and serving organic and gluten free ingredients from a personal, environmentally friendly garden that focuses on sustainability.
About an hour and a half into my drive to Oceans and Earth, I thought about turning back. Rush hour in Southern California is the worst, but what was I thinking accepting an invite to try a restaurant in Yorba Linda on a Wednesday at 4pm? I was thinking that if this chef and restaurant are as good as they both sound, it'll still be a shorter trip than the one's I've taken where I've needed to board a plane.
The chef is Adam Navidi and he's spent time in high-end kitchens from the OC up to Napa Valley, but what makes Chef Adam truly unique is his passion for farming and sustainability. Navidi owns 65 acres of land in Brea, not far from his one year old Oceans and Earth restaurant.
On initial glance, his land, called Future Foods Farm, doesn't look like much. It's off a busy street on working oil land. There's no trees or grass, or really anything green, until you step inside one of Navidi's giant self-created greenhouses. He uses the most environmentally-friendly system of aquaponics to grow a diverse group of organic greens, vegetables and even tilapia. There's no synthetic ingredients or pesticides used on the property and minimal water is used on site. In fact, one head of lettuce at Future Foods Farm uses just one gallon of water over a one month period vs 10-15 gallons of water used for lettuce in conventional, soil based farming. Navidi's water bill is less on his farm than it is at his personal home.
Adam's focus on sustainability extends even further into the tilapia he's growing on site. With the world's fish population diminishing at alarming rates, not to mention the accumulated toxins and mercury found in much of the predatory fish, Adam decided to take matters into his own hands. He has an on site hatchery at Future Foods Farm where the fish excrement feeds the plants and the plants in turn feed the fish. It's the circle of life alright, and a darn good way to set-up a truly sustainable food system.
The majority of the produce for his restaurant Oceans and Earth comes from the farm, and he still has a surplus to sell at farmer's markets and to other local restaurants. After seeing firsthand, the care and thought Chef Navidi was putting into his ingredients, I was more than anxious to sample this farm fresh, truly local food.
Oceans and Earth is a gluten free restaurant where Adam makes his own flour for use in a homemade brioche and it also serves as the batter for the lightly fried crab croquettes that had just the right amount of crisp exterior to pillowy fresh crab inside. The croquettes are a great way to start the meal, but then there's seared sea scallops in a wildly addicting orange ginger reduction that had me reaching for my spoon to grab every last drop.
This "Tasting of Tides" starter platter had a best-of the sea medley that continued with spiky sea urchin and stinging nettles with lobster in mugwort stock. Yeah, never had that before. Chef Navidi's personally grown tilapia made a welcome addition to ocean rose abalone ceviche with bright citrus notes and punctuated peppers. After the first dish, I completely forgot about how long it took me to drive there.
You'll find Adam's fresh greens throughout his menu and you'll want to try the Thai Chicken salad with Future Farms' baby greens and organic grilled chicken. The special grapefruit butter lettuce with saffron shrimp and spiced shells made up a tasty and crunchy chicharron that was wildly addictive.
The Chilean sea bass is one of those entrees that Chef Adam has had on his menus for many years and many restaurants, with good reason. A perfectly crisp exterior gives way to a lush, soft interior, sitting on a sweet, but balanced basil mashed potato, encircled by a red wine reduction and topped with caramelized onion. It's a dish that I can understand how many would be disappointed if they could no longer eat it.
The duck delivered every iteration I could have wanted. The pretty presentation was inspired by Van Gogh's Wheatfield with Crows, but this wheatfield had local wild mustard greens as a much more edible and enjoyable bed. The duck leg and breast were served confit alongside duck pate and a fig glaze. The dish was decadent and worthy of the Justin Cabernet Sauvignon wine companion. Oceans and Earth has a California heavy wine list with major players represented, as well as few from the Pacific Northwest.
Chef Adam has also made a name for himself with his Evolution Burger. He's basically taken all of your favorite burger ingredients and put it in the meat, that's inside the meat. Then he takes the super stuffed meat and wraps it in gluten free pastry. It's baked and dangerous as I could easily pop several of those, especially with the barbecue truffle sauce.
The Ron Burgundy marinated skirt steak packed a ton of flavor and was artfully presented on a hot rock with an avocado chimichurri that I was astounded didn't contain any dairy. I'd order just a side of that whipped chimichurri.
There are meatless options at Oceans and Earth like their veggie burger that includes foraged greens, seaweed, locally grown avocado and quinoa to make for a fully satisfying dish.
There's also handmade desserts like fluffy light, gluten free madelienes that are even further enhanced by homemade cardamon, rosemary and strawberry ice cream.
What Chef Navidi is doing at Oceans and Earth is truly inspirational. He's creating a sustainable food system to not only feed diners at his restaurant, but he's also sharing his learning and technology at Future Foods Farm so people can be nourished without depleting the earth's natural resources. I can only hope more people follow this approach so we can continue to eat healthy, responsibly produced food long into the future.
Oceans and Earth
20305 Yorba Linda Blvd., Yorba Linda
I was hosted at Oceans and Earth, but all opinions are always my own.