Posts Tagged ‘Laguna Beach’

“Coto Voice – Food Finds” – December Issue 2011

Tabu Grill, Laguna Beach                        

The holidays are upon us and an adventure down Pacific Coast Highway through Laguna Beach is a great way to see how this Orange County artistic community celebrates in their casual, yet sophisticated, beachy style.  December is a perfect month to treat someone special to a wonderful unique dinner experience there.   Our recommendation:  make a reservation for a romantic or “special occasion” dinner at Tabu Grill (located on PCH, between Hinkle Street and Nyes Place).  There are many restaurant options to choose from in Laguna Beach, but not everyone has food complimented by their service.  Arrogant, or ungenuine service leaves a long lasting, bad taste in my mouth during my dining experiences; it’s, should we say, taboo (defined as “proscribed by society as improper or unacceptable”).  On the contrary, at Tabu Grill, I was impressed with meeting the new Executive Chef, Joshua Hasho, who creates beautiful, high quality “refined rustic meals, with a global influence”, and, I’d like to add, “with a beautiful tropical flair”.  As the definition describes, Tabu Grill is set apart as “sacred” or a truly special dining experience.

The Ambiance

Once the sun sets over the Pacific horizon, the candles are lit one by one, the accent lighting is turned on underneath the parasols on the bamboo ceiling, and beyond the exotic plants on the front patio, the doors are opened.  You will enter into a colorful, hip, yet sultry environment.  In the background is relaxing “Buddah Bar” music playing.  Deep, oceanic blue walls are decorated with unique tiled Moroccan mirrors and collectables from distant places.  A beautiful painting of “CoCo” – the beautiful Tahitian woman who represents the look, tone and feel of Tabu Grill – has a special place on a main wall.  We were greeted by a lovely hostess – (Note:  hostesses and receptionists are always called the “director of first impressions” in my book, and she set the tone beautifully) and the gracious and very accommodating Michael Digiovanni, the General Manager.  We were seated close to the grill, against a stone wall, accented with more candles.  The aroma coming from the masterwork of Executive Chef Joshua and his team were as settling and relaxing as the environment.  Maile, our server, took excellent care in educating us on the restaurant’s history and the evolution of the food.  Maile, who had just come back from a trip home to Hawaii, described the staff at Tabu Grill as Ohana – family.

Owner – Nancy Wilhelm

Tabu Grill was created by the owner and entrepreneur, Nancy Wilhelm nine years ago.  In 2009 and 2010, Tabu was rated as one of the best restaurants, overall, noted by receiving a 29 Zagat rating.  Nancy just opened another unique restaurant in Laguna this past summer, located across from the Montage, called Starfish; Maile described it as “sexy Asian”.  Already I’m intrigued and am adding it to our review list.  Ms. Wilhelm is one to keep an eye on as she was recently named one of Orange County’s “Hottest 25” by OC Metro (November 2011 issue) – the only restauranteur to be honored!

Executive Chef – Joshua Hasho

Another person to keep our eye on is Executive Chef Joshua Hasho, whom Nancy hired to fulfill the Tabu Grill legacy.  Having recently come from the Ritz Carlton in Marina Del Rey where he held the position of Chef de Cuisine, as well as stints at BLT by Laurent Tourondel in New York City, and The French Laundry in Yountville, Chef Hasho brings a refined level of quality to Laguna Beach and Tabu Grill.  His experience will bring changes to Tabu’s delicious offerings.

The Food

After reviewing their carefully selected wine list and making our choice, we started our culinary adventure with Hawaiian-Style Ahi Poke, grilled Scallops done just right adorned with avocado, cilantro, grapefruit emulsion, chared onion aoli, and their signature Short Ribs with goat cheese polenta, kale, rosemary crunch, and lemon tempura – all rich in exotic, complimentary flavors, but not too overbearing.  Next we had Ribeye with mesquite smoked bacon and brussel sprout hash, celery root, whiskey braised onions and horseradish butter – highly recommended!  We also had tender, fresh Swordfish, caught off the seas of Australia, with a sesame butter and ginger carrots, AND amazing Halibut with cranberry, edamame, and hari coverts beans, prawns, and blackened hollandaise – oh yeah…  Another tropical choice was Seared Pork Tenderloin, paired with slow cooked pork belly with root vegetable mash, fennel, watercress, and orange.  Chef Hasho knows what he is doing and we were honored to share in his culinary gift.

Chef Hasho says, “As for the direction of the food, I like to describe my style as a refined rustic cuisine with influences brought by the changing of the seasons and multi-cultural flavors.”  On that note, we experienced a different sort of dessert, but one I would have again, especially around the holidays.  We sampled not only a lovely Pumpkin Brownie with milk chocolate & sour cream, ice cream, banana rum anglaise, pistachio brittle, but an unforgettable Carrot Cake accented coconut panna cotta, espresso ice cream, roasted pineapple, and madras curry caramel – are you kidding me?!  Yes, it was beyond warm and delicious, to say the least.

The Reviews

As I was doing my research for Tabu Grill, I found people’s comments quite flattering and worthy of a top rated restaurant:  “notable wine list”, “special occasion”, “romantic”, “neighborhood gem”, “late night find”, “fit for foodies”, and “top shelf staff”, just to name a few.  I would like to add “a beautiful and delicious experience”.

Pricing

Compliments, Salads and Desserts starting at $10.  Entrees starting around $32.

New Year’s Eve

Tabu Grill is taking reservations for three different seatings for New Year’s Eve:  5:00pm, 7:00pm and 9:00pm.  I’d call sooner than later as I know they will book up.

In Closing…

Instead of a tropical vacation to a faraway place, experience an evening at Tabu Grill this next new year, and let the locals take care of you and share their gifts of hospitality and high quality food.

Mele Kalikimaka & Hauoli Makahiki Hou!

n Christie Lynch

Visit Tabu Grill on their web site:  www.TabuGrill.com (under reconstruction at time of publication)

2892 South Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, CA  92651

(Located between Hinkle Street & Nyes Place)

949-494-7743 (Reservations Recommended)

If you’ve eaten at any of the places we’ve reviewed or have a place you’d like to recommend, please let us know on our blog:  http://www.dinendesign.wordpress.com.  We’d love to hear from you!

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We are truly fortunate to be living in this beautiful community of ours, in a climate that rivals any in the world.  As the summer approaches we can look forward to warm evenings and Southern California sunsets.  When the weather gets warm, my family goes to the beach, and more often than not, we go to Laguna, because Laguna has my favorite beaches.  For this month’s Food Finds, we’re going to venture outside our little sphere, to the incredibly beautiful town of Laguna, to tell you about a new restaurant with a familiar name:  Tommy Bahama.  Some of you may be thinking that you have already been to Tommy Bahama, and that they are all the same, but the one in Laguna is different.  The food can be best described as a lighter healthy fare exclusive to the Laguna location.

We just happened to go to Tommy Bahama on a very hot and balmy Saturday night, the perfect night to go into Laguna Beach.  The ambiance of the Laguna Tommy Bahama gives you the feeling that life’s just one BIG weekend with its laid-back décor and airy atmosphere.  The entry foyer looks and feels as if you are visiting a friend’s beach home with a very inviting and cozy feel.   The walls are all adorned with the most fabulous photos of Laguna’s beaches, the boardwalk, as well as long ago shots of downtown.  No matter where you are seated within the restaurant, there are perpetual views of the ocean from the surrounding sparkling windows.  We truly lucked out the night we went and were able to catch the sunset from our table while entranced in the amazing flavors being served to us.

Tommy Bahama in Laguna Beach has it’s own unique menu, which is on the lighter side and features seasonal changing dishes.  Executive Chef Marcus Lage has come up with many incredible fusions of tastes to tantalize any newcomer to the restaurant.  We started off with the Muscles (which I have never had before…) they are served with an amazing broth that you can soak up with some of the tastiest garlic bread around.  Yup I will definitely be having muscles again.  The Lobster Corn Dogs are perfectly fried (not too heavy), and definitely the bomb at Tommy Bahama, which are served with Sriracha Mustard (Nice N spicy) and Mango Ketchup dipping sauces.  You must try them!  My favorite appetizers of the night were, the Lobster Corn dogs and the Ahi Tuna Tacos.  The Ahi Tacos are served with a lightly fried wonton shell with the most amazing Asian slaw and perfectly topped off with a Wasabi-Lime infused avocado sauce.  Seriously I really could have eaten the whole plate myself. 

Dinner was on its way and we were already in food heaven.  We had the Atlantic Char, which is a cross between Salmon and Trout.  It was extremely delicate and lightly prepared with a Sweet Pea Risotto and Fennel slaw.  Atlantic Char is farmed here in the US and considered very safe to eat, a new favorite of mine.  The Mahi Mahi was served with Grilled asparagus and Meyer Lemon Beurre Blanc Red Quinoa.  The Mahi Mahi was cooked excellently giving it the perfect lightness that you want from Mahi Mahi, and the Quinoa  was very tasty.   All the Seafood and Meat served at Tommy Bahama is locally sourced and humanely raised whenever possible. Next we had the Filet and Shrimp, which was the most  tenderest Tenderloin topped with herbed cheese, served with Chipole-lime shrimp, the fluffiest whipped mashed potatoes and a cracked pepper demi glaze.  If you’re a steak lover, then you have to try the Filet.  The meat was very tender and moist and cooked to perfection.   I know it sounds like we had everything on the menu… but that’s what you MUST do to during a review.  Lucky us, we even got to have the Steak Salad, which was served with their mouth watering tenderloin, watercress, baby greens, cucumbers, roma tomatoes, all drizzled with sweet onion vinaigrette dressing.  The Tenderloin salad is the perfect salad for a light appetite.

Ok, Ok, on to the desserts!  We had the Root Beer Float, which brings back childhood memories, and is served with drizzled caramel on top and definitely a great treat after a long warm afternoon at the beach.  The Banana cream pie is nestled in a graham cracker crust drizzled with caramel sauce.  If you’ve never had Banana Cream pie, then this is the place to indulge.  You will be hooked and begging for more.   The triple chocolate cake has three different kinds of chocolate with four layers of chocolate perfection.  Definitely large enough to share but it might be hard to give up one bite of this delicious cake. 

Tommy Bahama in Laguna Beach is committed to being an Eco-friendly company, and are constantly working on ways to reduce waste by using sustainable systems such as a high tech compost system and donating their compost to the a local elementary School.  Nutra, an environmentally friendly water filtration system, is used to serve the most delicious water in a reusable glass bottle that is placed on your table while you dine. The Natura water filtration system eliminates the impurities and retains the healthy minerals in water.    We ate EVERY last bite of our meal and had no need for To Go containers.  However if you cannot finish your meal, the good news is, their To Go containers are made from biodegradable cardboard.  Tommy Bahama is definitely on the for front of the Green movement with their Eco-Friendly ways and sustainable commitment to our community. 

Tommy Bahama of Laguna Beach, a great place to take the family for an extremely delicious meal and as well as a great place to go after a long and warm day spent on the beautiful beaches in Laguna.  Where you can feel like you’re on vacation without having to go far from home. 

Also don’t forget to check out their retail store, which is just steps up from the dining room on a mini replica of the boardwalk from main beach.   Tommy Bahama has always been known for their fashionable clothing and will not disappoint here in their new Laguna location.

We hope to see you at the new Tommy Bahama next time we’re in Laguna!

                                                        Cindy and Christie

Tommy Bahama

400 South Coast Hwy

Laguna Beach, CA 92651

949-376-6886

www.tommybahama.com

Open 11:30 AM-11PM Sun-Thurs

Open 11:30AM-Midnight Fri & Sat