Posts Tagged ‘romantic’

“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!

Advertisements

“Coto Voice – Food Finds” – February Issue 2011

Simply Fondue

 

 

February is traditionally the month of celebrating LOVE with our special sweetheart.  For a special dinner experience, we recommend you get a reservation (not required, but suggested) at Simply Fondue at one of their two locations (off Los Alisos in Mission Viejo, or across the street from the historic Mission in San Juan Capistrano).  Both locations have a dark, sultry and romantic feel and a European food experience that is unforgettable.

What Simply Fondue wants you to know…

“Recently voted as one of the Most Romantic Restaurants in Orange County for both locations, Simply Fondue has become a popular destination for food lovers who enjoy an interactive dining experience while indulging in their savory cuisine.  With its bright, eclectic décor and savory fondue cuisine, Simply Fondue is quickly gaining a reputation among patrons and critics alike as one of the coziest and most intimate restaurants to debut in Southern California’s recent history.  Experience the difference with over 100 designer martinis, award winning wines, homemade crepes and exceptional fondue!  Our Old World Eclectic San Juan Capistrano location or our European Chic Mission Viejo location is a perfect fit for an incredible evening with family and friends.  Simply Fondue recently won five awards in the “Best of Citysearch 2010 including Best Wine List and Best Dessert.”

Our Experience

Nic, the wonderful general manager at the Mission Viejo restaurant, warmly greeted us on a busy Sunday evening.  With a booked evening as it was, we couldn’t really tell because of the great service he provided and the great way the booths are designed – tall sides, so you’re not distracted by all the other guests around you.  Another unique feature is the small stove in the middle of your table for the fondue experience.  On this stovetop, two pots of fondue can be heated.  Fondue, by the way, by original definition is “a saucelike dish of Swiss origin made with melted cheese and seasonings together with dry white wine, usually flavored with kirsch: served as a hot dip for pieces of bread.”  As a kid I always wondered why I didn’t care for my parents’ fondue and now I know why – those are mature flavors for a kid! Well, welcome to 2011!  Simply Fondue has taken traditional fondue to new flavor levels (even kids like Simply Fondue)!

After ordering a couple designer martinis, we started off with four traditional salads:  The Greek, Classic Caesar, Spinach & Strawberry and Gorgonzola Field Greens.  All were full of fresh flavors and homemade dressings.

Next, Nic educated us on cheese fondues.  Each fondue is served with an assortment of fresh bread, crisp vegetables and fruits.  We experienced two.  First The Mediterranean which, in a fondue pot, melted together sharp cheddar cheese, beer, basil pesto, garlic and sun-dried tomatoes.  Secondly, we had The Italian Fontina, which, combined a rich blend of Fontina d’Aosta, grated Romano cheeses, tomato sauce, white wine and vegetable broth.  Both were very enjoyable.

Next, Nic suggested we order the Fondue Feast – a four-course sampling of their finest fondues and meats ($49/pp).  On the table he began heating up a pot for a vegetable boil and a skillet to cook the meat.  A platter of assorted meats and vegetables were brought to us and the interactive cooking began.  The four of us divided up the meat and had our assignments.  Together we cooked, with garlic butter and oil: beef tenderloin, sea scallops, salmon, pecan-crested mahi-mahi, coconut shrimp, bacon-wrapped tenderloin, seasoned chicken, ahi sesame tuna, Jamaican jerk chicken, herb-crusted pork tenderloin, roasted garlic chicken, and teriyaki sirloin salmon!  They served at least six tantalizing sauces for dipping as well.  The aroma coming from our table was drop-dead heavenly and the taste was extraordinary.

After wiping our mouths, rubbing our bellies, and clearing our table, Nic brought, for dessert, chocolate fondue ingredients and a tray of pound cake pieces, triple chunk brownies, marshmellows, rice crispy squares, rolled cookies, peanut butter balls, pineapple, strawberries, bananas, maraschino cherries and sugar bites.  Fire up the pots!  Yet, another fondue experience!  Ready for this?!  Reeses Peanut-Butter Fondue – Reeses Peanut-Butter added to their already famous milk chocolate as well as Kahlua Heath Krunch – creamy milk chocolate, swirled together with Kahlua liqueur and topped off with crunchy Heath Bar toffee bits.  Other dessert options are (and you can let your imagination flow with these titles): Raspberry Cabernet, Snicker Fondoodle, Thin Mint, Chocolate Grand Marnier, Chocolate Bliss (dark chocolate), Chocolate Confusion (white & milk chocolate swirled together), The Grand White (silky white chocolate swirled with Grand Marnier), Rocky Road, Pecan Caramel Swirl, and Campfire Chocolate, just to name a few!  I can see why they received the Best Dessert award in 2010!

Two and half hours later, we were done.  Cooked.  Stick a fork in us.  Our four course meal left us overly satisfied.  We all slept well that night and feared the scale in the morning.  All in all, Simply Fondue was a very unique, romantic, intimate dining experience that was simply pleasurable.

Visit them on their web site:  www.simplyfondueoc.com

Mission Viejo (in the same shopping center as Piccolino’s)

28719 Los Alisos Blvd, MV, CA 92692

949-707-5200

San Juan Capistrano

31761 Camino Capistrano, SJC, CA  92675

949-240-0300

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:  dinendesign.wordpress.com.  We’d love to hear from you!

Bon Apetit!

Christie & Cindy