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Dining Review

YOUNG CHANG --

March 29, 2001

I have a thing about pretty-looking French fries -- they shouldn't be

pretty. They should be greasy and fat, a little browner than the chef

intended and indulgent in their wonderful, caloric way.

The fries at Newport Beach's newly opened Lido Diner were too pretty

for my taste. They were thin and a classy beige color, sprinkled

delicately with pepper and tasting only moderately of grease. Way too

high brow for the comfort food French fries were meant to be.

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But they perfectly represent the style of this American-fare diner.

The art-deco interior, with glass-covered lights dropping from the

ceiling and polished, modern furniture, gives the restaurant a

diner-turned-bistro look. Menu items include such tempting classics as

beer-battered onion rings, Marilyn's macaroni and cheese, the Lido Deli

dog, and an apple crumble pie that can be ordered with cheddar cheese.

Each comes aesthetically set -- not slopped -- on chic plates.

Most the entrees are artful in their presentation, healthier than I'm

used to them looking -- remember the fries? -- and fresh. The Not Your

Mama's Meatloaf plate ($9.95) looked positively Californian, as hard as

that may be to imagine. Accompanied by slender strips of colorfully

sauteed vegetables and buttery mashed potatoes, my friend said the

moderately sized loaf of meat "rules."

I tried a bite and agree. The ground-up medley of beef, sausages,

herbs, spices and mushrooms tasted old-fashioned and home-cooked.

My Jim's California Chicken Sandwich ($7.95), on the other hand,

wasn't so easy to taste. It went under the knife, literally.

Stacked at least three inches high with profuse amounts of lettuce,

tomatoes, avocados, bacon and cheese, I'm sure the sandwich would've

tasted even better as an ensemble. As I had to eat it -- sawing at the

layers separately and getting most, but not all, of the flavors in my

mouth at a time -- the sandwich was tasty.

The chicken wasn't dry, the bread wasn't overpowering, the vegetables

were fresh and the avocados were plenty.

The side of fries, as we already know, could've been more decadent,

but it accompanied the sandwich well. And when I asked for a side of

ranch dressing -- because I'm a strong fries-in-ranch believer -- the

order arrived quickly and in a sterile-looking, cute metal pail.

What really made my Lido Diner trip memorable was the Ghiradelli

Cookie Monster sandwich ($4.95) -- two truly monstrous chocolate chip

cookies, with chocolate chips so soft you could see them start to melt,

hugging a layer of vanilla ice cream.

It was gluttonously large the way desserts should be and rich, but not

sickeningly so, in its taste.

My friend ordered the chocolate pecan pie ($4.95), which she said had

generous smatterings of pecans and plenty of "gooey filling," but not

much chocolate.

So my final recommendation? You'll like the Lido Diner if you've got a

conscience. If you're like me and get guilty about eating (and loving)

grease-soaked diner food, then the Lido version is perfect. If you're

looking for the real (but not slim, nor shady for that matter) American

diner experience, you may find this restaurant a bit too refined.

* YOUNG CHANG is a features writer for the Daily Pilot. Kathy Mader

is on vacation. Her reviews appear every other Thursday.

FYI

WHAT: Lido Diner

WHERE: 3461 Via Lido, Newport Beach

HOURS: 6 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday, 6 to 2 a.m. Friday

and Saturday, and 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.

COST: Moderate

CALL: (949) 723-8777

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