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NEIGHBORHOOD EATERY

It's a Short and Succulent Journey From Tank to the Table

February 14, 1991|SONNI EFRON

If you can get a table at Newport Seafood, try to sit near the live lobster tank.

Spot one you like, and it will shortly be served up chopped in the shell and smothered in garlic, tangy spices, red chili and green onion.

The house lobster is only one of the dishes that has made this Chinese restaurant a favorite of Orange County's Asian community. In fact, since opening two years ago, Newport Seafood has become so popular that its Cambodian-Chinese owners haven't even bothered to advertise in the English-language press.

The chef, Hua Ly, is a native of Phnom Penh. Most of his dishes are Szechwan, but some have hints of French and Cambodian cuisine. Many are original creations, and everything is perfectly fresh.

Though both the Maine lobster and the live crab are outstanding, the very best dish on the menu is the French-style beef. It is marinated until tender in garlic and spices, grilled, and served with onions, fresh tomatoes and lime.

Two clam dishes are also excellent. The clams with spicy hot sauce are served with red chilis and Vietnamese mint, and the clams with black bean sauce are salty and succulent.

The Szechwan-style shrimp is good, but the shrimp with garlic sauce is even better, served with crunchy tree ears, scallions, bamboo shoots and carrots.

The only disappointment is the chicken curry. Mixed with green pepper, carrot and onion, it is serviceable but uninspiring. But the mixed seafood with crunchy noodles, a lunchtime favorite, is sensational.

Newport Seafood is also open for breakfast, serving won ton and other noodle soups.

Appetizers are under $5, and most entrees are in the $6.50 to $9.75 range. Lobster is sold by weight ($7.99 per pound at press time). On Saturday and Sunday evenings, be prepared to wait a few minutes for a table.

Newport Seafood, 4411 W. 1st St., Santa Ana. Open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday through Thursday; Friday and Saturday till 10 p.m.. (714) 531-5146.

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