Mozambique’s Durban Room, with piano bar, is sure to be the LB speakeasy “where everyone wants to be” 

Story and photos by LAURA BUCKLE

Mozambique Restaurant has just launched the opening of their new “Durban Room,” modeled on the speakeasy culture of old.

One year ago Mozambique owner, Ivan Spiers had the restaurant’s lower rooms (which had been used primarily for group dining events) fully remodeled, along with the addition of the full bar, and chose to call it the Durban Room, a nod to his South African past. (Durban is a large port city on the country’s east coast.)

Spiers’ vision was to create an evening and late night lounge for people who might not be interested in the larger crowds and louder music on the second floor of the incredibly popular Mozambique.  

Cocktails by the sea: could life get any better?

The Durban Room was beautifully redone with this vision in mind. Then Ivan asked for the creative input of Laguna’s wonderful marketing guru, Diane Armitage. With her input, it was decided that the Durban Room should be marketed as its own distinct personality, given that it had all the makings of a classic speakeasy – but it needed to reflect more of that gritty, old school image.  

The “speakeasy” concept has origins that date back to the first decades of the 20th century, in the city of New York during Prohibition. During that era, New York  was governed by the dry law, a controversial measure that prevented the manufacture and consumption of alcohol. Demonstrating that all law is born to be broken, hidden bars began to appear behind closed doors, which over time evolved into night restaurants.

Generally, speakeasy bars are bars behind closed doors that offer exclusive cocktails and food menu items in an environment that is only accessible to a few. 

The speakeasy-style bar will feature entertainment three nights a week

A few years ago when speakeasy-style bars started popping up around Los Angeles, the trend may have seemed destined to be short-lived. But now with secretive watering holes opening nearly every month -- each with an entrance more elaborate than the last -- it’s clear we have an obsession with drinking in hidden places. 

And while LA has long been full of exclusive bars and clubs that demand you be on the “list,” these clandestine spots offer a fun and often low-key alternative to the velvet ropes and only require a bit of curiosity and resourcefulness to get in. 

With this in mind, Diane enlisted the help of a good friend (who just happens to live here locally) to take a look at the place for ideas on how they could make this concept happen here. He is one of Hollywood’s top production designers and Diane says, “He immediately started talking about how simple tweaks could be done to really transform this lounge into that sexy, everyone-wants-to-be-there kind of speakeasy.” 

At the same time, they decided to start a piano lounge and bring in truly great national and regional talent including pianists, renowned singers and acts including top-of-the-line jazz, blues and classic talent for weekend performances.

The chicken peri-peri is very very good

The dining menu is changing as well as the cocktail menu and will include many more high-end wines by the glass and true mixology-type cocktails. Wines and champagnes by the bottle will include very popular brands as well as those higher-end luxuries such as Louis Roederer Cristal, Moet & Chandon’s Dom Perignon, Joseph Phelps Insignia, Opus One, Cain Five and Lokoya Mt. Veeder.  

With champagne served on arrival at the restaurant, highly motivated staff, craft cocktails to sample and delicious appetizers to tease us, as well as spectacular musical accompaniment from the fabulous Tommy Benson and Addie Hamilton, my experience of the Durban Room was exciting and tantalizing. I cannot wait to see how it is transformed over the next few months.

Right now, the Durban Room is open every evening for dinner and late night, with entertainment on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Each week, people will be seeing more changes occurring.

(There is also a little whisper that there will be a launch of the full Durban Room Speakeasy experience on New Year’s Eve, but that the party will be an invite-only event, complete with unique passwords that interested parties might have to vie for in hopes of being added to the list. But that’s just a whisper...  I’m not one to gossip…)

The Durban Room at Mozambique Restaurant is located at 1740 S. Coast Hwy. For more information, visit or call 949-715-7777.

With its serene canyon setting and creative cuisine, Harvest provides a unique experience for foodies

Story and photos by LAURA BUCKLE

An exquisite night was had by all at the press night for the opening of Harvest Restaurant, located at The Ranch in Laguna Beach. Harvest aims to be one of the OC’s newest and buzziest culinary experiences designed to expand our appreciation of terroir food, drink and hospitality, and I can assure you that on its opening night, the restaurant more than delivered.

General manager Kurt Bjorkman led the evening’s events with his witty honest speech detailing the concept of this fine restaurant and introducing us to executive chef Charles Imbelli, whose enthusiasm for the restaurant was animated and exciting. 

Then Mark Christy gave a touching tribute to the team involved in the redeveloping of The Ranch, a speech which was both heartfelt and beautiful, as were his personal thanks to his wife, whom he noted has been a pillar of strength to him during this arduous re-development. 

Click on photo for a larger image


Appetizers were, well, so very appetizing!

Christy has a great deal of passion for the Ranch, stemming from his childhood when he golfed at Ben Brown’s with his father. He describes his ownership as more of a caretaker role, ensuring that this tiny piece of Laguna history never disappears. Harvest is aesthetically beautiful. 

Laurie Alter, a Laguna Beach native, has created a breathtaking interior, which combines the history of the storied property with the comforts of the modern day. Laurie is an interior designer by profession and a boutique owner by passion. She founded Tuvalu Home—part décor destination and part design studio—in downtown Laguna in 2003. Her elegant touch and her coastal familiarity is evident in every square inch of The Ranch. It is classic, comfortable and chic, using the beautiful natural setting as a backdrop to a wonderful design.

Located in this genuinely magical and timeless natural setting of The Ranch, Harvest is dedicated to celebrating the revival of California’s organic farming, ranching, brewing, distilling and oenology rituals. 

Click on photo for a larger image


Shellfish dishes were beautifully presented and tasty

The menu will change with each season, integrating fresh herbs, fruit and vegetables grown and gathered from their own half-acre harvest garden. 

Executive chef Charles Imbelli moved himself, his wife and his four-month-old baby to Laguna Beach in a heartbeat, overjoyed at the prospect of taking on the role at Harvest. Charles, a 2014 Zagat New York “30 under 30” honoree, has worked in the Pacific Northwest, New York and California during his culinary career. He began with an “under the table” apprenticeship at the age of just 14, working alongside some of the industry’s preeminent names, including David Waltuck at Chanterell and the Samuelsson Group in New York. He also headed recipe testing and standardization for the Group.

Prior to joining Harvest, Charles had been in California for three years working for Ace Hotels’ culinary operations, before joining Venue 66, a full service boutique event caterer in Los Angeles. 

His vision for Harvest is to share his creative and intensely local take on seasonal comfort food.

The beauty of the setting at Harvest Restaurant is overwhelming

To be entirely honest, I was so overwhelmed by the beauty of Harvest you could have served me nothing to eat and I would still have struggled to write anything negative about this place. And even so, as the night went on, things just got better and better.

The restaurant was busy yet felt incredibly relaxed. We were served with champagne on arrival and encouraged to walk the space and explore the different areas of the restaurant, including the beautiful outdoor patio with serene golf course views. 

There was no sit-down meal at the event. Instead butlers served us hors d’oeuvres as we mingled. These included deviled eggs with crispy shallots, caperberries, smoky Maldon burrata, tomato jam, brioche, micro basil, smoked Gouda Gougeres, Mexcal cured salmon, herbed crème cheese, scallion puree, chicken skewers, roasted lemon marinade, chimichurri, harvest burger, horseradish: yes, really, all those things! Each was an incredible tasty light bite.

Click on photo for a larger image


Ranch burgers march to the beet of a different drum: horseradish-beet sauce

Alongside this (yes, there was more), was an amazing raw bar station featuring hamachi crudo, pickled pears and fresnos, yuzu, shiso, shrimp cocktail, avocado mousse, curried almonds, hearts on fire, oysters and lemon mignonette all fresh and beautifully presented.

The entrée station was located on the outdoor patio, serving pan-seared salmon with red pepper tzatziki, quick dill pickles, wild rocket, marcona almonds, bloody mary mussels and lamb meatballs with Harissa tomato sauce. Chef Kyle St John was on hand at this station, cooking on the open outdoor grill. Everything was perfect.

The sweet station offered a wide range of beautiful mini desserts including pot de crème, espresso whipped cream, chocolate mint panna cotta, salted caramel, popcorn shots, saba apple fritters with cinnamon sugar and orange whipped cream. I’m not a dessert girl, but this was all seriously good.

The bar area is outstanding and in Kurt’s opening speech, he declared that it is “the best bar in Laguna Beach.” It certainly has an amazing cocktail menu, all handcrafted, featuring specialty releases of aged cocktails that coincide with seasonal holidays and special events. There is an array of wines and local craft brews from pale ales and lagers to hefty stouts.

My experience at Harvest Restaurant was nothing short of outstanding and I cannot wait to go back and write a full food report. Congratulations to all involved. Harvest is most definitely a Laguna Beach treasure.

For more information, visit or call 949-499-2271.

Taps & Tastes at Skyloft will feature innovative craft beer pairings during monthly dinner events

Skyloft Beverage Director Louie Palmerin is one proud papa, and deservedly so, as Palmerin has skillfully crafted the largest and most innovative selection of craft beers in Laguna Beach. 

Now, Palmerin and Skyloft Chef Arthur Ortiz are raising the bar even further with monthly craft beer dinners, entitled “Taps & Tastes.” Set for the secondWednesday of every month, Taps & Tastes will premiere at Skyloft on Wed, Nov 9 at 6 p.m. The price is $55 (tax and gratuity not included), and reservations are required at (949) 715-7700. 

Click on photo for a larger image


These ales and more should help cure whatever ails you: the allure is obvious

At this first Skyloft Beer Dinner, the great Stone Brewing Company will be in residence with brewery representatives educating guests on at least six 6-ounce selections. The frothy tastes only get better with a six-course paired dinner menu from Chef Arthur. 

“When you work with a great beer company like Stone Brewing, you have to pull out all the stops,” says Chef Arthur. “We will be tasting pale ales, Belgian style ales, porters and stouts, so the paired foods have to both hold their own and complement these great beers.” 

Click on photo for a larger image


Fried green tomatoes prime the taste buds for a good beer

The decadent six-course menu includes fried green tomatoes with spicy avocado dressing; Chef Arthur’s homegrown gumbo recipe with pulled chicken, smoked andouille sausage and garlic sticky rice; in-house smoked salmon with lemon dill aïoli; black cherry glazed ribs, best-selling Brussels sprouts with charred, Cajun-seasoned pork belly bacon and, finally, Chef’s crowd favorite, key lime cake. 

Click on photo for a larger image


Delicious smoked salmon simply begs for a beer chaser

Future Taps & Tastes beer dinner dates are set for the following Wednesdays: Dec 7, Jan 11, Feb 8 and March 9. Beer lovers and gourmands should mark their calendars and watch for upcoming announcements on each month’s chosen brewery by visiting and by following @SkyloftOC on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. 

“We’re looking forward to staking our claim as the area’s only provider of gourmet beer dinners,” says Palmerin. “Our guests are in for a very memorable and fun experience.” 

Click on photo for a larger image


Black cherry glazed ribs and beer: a combination made in gourmet heaven

Just nearing its one-year anniversary, Skyloft has made an impact with slow-smoked steaks, ribs, brisket and more. Additional entrees in fresh fish, seafood, innovative salads, sandwiches and pastas pair beautifully with craft cocktails and the finest selection of local and regional craft beers around. 

Skyloft serves lunch and dinner daily with a weekend breakfast that welcomes early birds and late risers, one and all. 

A favorite drop-in for locals, Skyloft also offers the only locals’ “secret menu” in town – The Artifacts – named after Chef Arthur Ortiz. 

With roof deck bar and dining that looks onto Laguna’s famed Main Beach, the city’s largest, swankiest bar on the main level, and live music seven nights a week, Skyloft has quickly become the meet-and-greet destination for great food, lively fun and top-notch entertainment. 

Skyloft is located at 422 S. Coast Hwy. For reservations, call 949-715 7700.

Mandarin King, a family-owned restaurant, offers familiar and oh-so-tasty dishes to famished families

Story and photos by LAURA BUCKLE

Mandarin King Restaurant is a small family owned restaurant that has proudly served Laguna Beach and its visitors since 1984. We all know that the restaurant industry is tough, especially given the rising levels of health consciousness, so for a business to survive for 34 years anywhere is commendable, and particularly admirable here given the assumption of many people that Chinese food is laden with calories, over-fried and even worse than that, coated with MSG. 

(MSG is used in the food industry as a flavor enhancer with an umami taste that intensifies the meaty, savory flavor of food, but its use is controversial and often linked with nausea and headaches.)

At Mandarin King, keeping the health of their customers in mind, they do not use MSG. They adjust their traditional dishes to fit the diet of their customers. The chefs cook each dish to order, allowing the kitchen to make gluten free, vegan, low-sodium or low-sugar meals upon request. Moreover, they are more than happy to work around any food allergies as well. 

Click on photo for a larger image


Soup’s on: a tasty way to start a meal at Mandarin King

My children are big fans of Mandarin King’s orange chicken. This dish is delivered and served in both Laguna elementary schools once a month and is a huge hit with the children. The restaurant has provided this meal for 15 years, starting with the high school first before moving onto the elementary schools last year.

Its longevity is something Mandarin King prides itself on – not only how long it has been open, but also the length of time served by each staff member. Glenn Yu, the manager, has been there since day one, while many of the servers, plus the three chefs in the kitchen, have worked at the restaurant for 20 years plus. 

Mandarin King is very much a family ran business in every sense of the word. The menu has never changed in 34 years. They serve Chinese American food at its best, healthiest and most affordable.

It made perfect sense to take my children for this tasting and we decided to opt for the “family dinner” for $15.55 per person. This meal is an outstanding value. Depending on the number of people at the table, the restaurant might add an extra dish, and there was plenty of food. 

Click on photo for a larger image


Mongolian beef, one of the dishes served as part of our “family dinner”

What I also love is that this approach encourages people to try new things. This is particularly important for my daughter who is notoriously picky and will always order the same dish. It’s a great way of getting kids to try new things.

My Food Journey at Mandarin King

To begin with we were presented with a Three Flavor Sizzling Rice Soup. This was a wonderful broth, incorporating chicken, shrimp, vegetables, and spices with the addition of some crispy sizzling rice. We all thoroughly enjoyed this, it was tasty and a great way to start a meal. 

Click on photo for a larger image


Pot stickers, egg rolls, and fried wonton make delicious appetizers

It was then onto an assortment of appetizers, including egg rolls, fried wontons, pot stickers (steamed dumplings) and a paper wrapped chicken.

These were all delicious, not at all greasy and each enjoyed tremendously by the children. I was gobsmacked  (as we say in the UK) that my daughter ate the pot sticker, something she always maintained she didn’t like. However, she had two…

We then shared main dishes including Mongolian beef, garlic chicken and mu-shu pork. All dishes were outstanding. 

The sweet and sour special sauce was just sticky enough and the shrimp was just lightly battered. To me, there is nothing worse than too much greasy batter, so I was pleased. 

The Mongolian beef was also really good, consisting of velvety tender beef, stir fried with white and green onions. The beef was tender and the vegetables were al dente and so fresh.

The garlic chicken was the last dish and this was amazing, made up of chicken stir-fried with garlic, bell peppers, onions, mushrooms and water chestnuts. 

Click on photo for a larger image


Mandarin King’s garlic chicken dish has been on the menu for 34 years

All of the above were accompanied by special fried rice and amazing sticky rice, which I wish I could do myself. I never get sticky rice right and my children love it.

Glenn bought us an added dish, one that isn’t featured on the menu, but you can ask for it. Sadly I didn’t get a very good photograph of it, so I will try my best to describe it – perhaps you can ask for the Laura Buckle special? 

The dish was basically a Chinese burrito, filled with pork and crispy white and green onions, and served with plum sauce.  

This was by far my favorite dish of the evening. We took an extra one home and the kids had it for lunch the next day. For me this was a really amazing healthy Chinese option – nothing fried, just a delicious stack of veggies wrapped in a light rice-based tortilla. I would happily order this for a to-go lunch.

Dessert wasn’t necessary, but Glenn presented us with almond cookies and fortune cookies – not that I need any more luck: I live in an amazing place, have wonderful family and friends and get to report on restaurants every week. 

Life is sweet, not sour.

Well done on 34 years, Mandarin King!

Mandarin King is located at 1223 N. Coast Hwy. Call 949-494-8992 or visit for more information.

Skyloft goes “all in” and delivers on lofty goals

Story and photos by LAURA BUCKLE

Skyloft offers delectable “down-home” smokehouse steaks, ribs, brisket and more, with fresh fish, seafood, innovative salads, sandwiches and pastas also on the menu. In addition, they offer a variety of handcrafted cocktails, coastal wines and regional craft beers, all of which can be enjoyed on the main floor of the building or on the roof deck bar. Located in the heart of downtown Laguna Beach, Skyloft will be celebrating its one-year anniversary on Oct 26. A few weeks back, I was lucky enough to be invited to the launch of its new menu, and to meet chef Arthur Ortiz.

Arthur Ortiz is a Toronto native who studied culinary arts at The Art Institute in Los Angeles. From there Arthur began work at the Yard House, first as a line cook, and then he quickly moved through the chef ranks into kitchen management and national training and development. 

Moving up the ranks

Upon leaving Yard House, chef Arthur moved to Mammoth Mountain to take over executive chef position at the renowned Smokeyard BBQ and Chop Shop. From there, he moved to restaurateur David Wilhelm’s casual comfort food upstart, Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern.

A year passed and after working in Chicago’s West End at acclaimed diner AuCheval, Chef Arthur returned to the Smokeyard BBQ & Chop Shop where he was approached by former Yard House manager Jonathan Moore, and offered the executive chef’s position at Skyloft Kitchen. 

Chef Arthur has made a tremendous impact on Skyloft, re-creating the menu, and revamping breakfast and lunch options. He’s developed training for staff and took on the challenge of developing Skyloft’s private group dining.

Click on photo for a larger image


Delicious cocktails look good and taste good

For this tasting, we were greeted and taken to the rooftop terrace to sample some delicious new cocktails. On the menu was a choice of three, although Skyloft has many more, of course.

Our choices included the Old Fashioned, made with Makers Mark, fresh orange zest and raw sugar. I am not a whisky fan at all, (nor is it a fan of me…), so I took a little sample and I have to say it tasted very smooth and not at all sweet.

The other two drinks were perfect for my taste buds. The Day Spa is a gin-based cocktail. (Some say gin is “mothers’ ruin” – I personally think I parent much better with its help…) This cocktail is mixed with St Germain, cucumber, basil and blackberries, shaken with citrus and raw sugar. It was skinny in calories yet full of flavor. I’ve since returned to Skyloft and ordered this again.

The cucumber jalapeno margarita was next on the list, made with Partida Blanco tequila, Cointreau, fresh limejuice, agave nectar cucumber and jalapeno. This was spicy and delicious. The addition of the cucumber cut through the spice and made it much more drinkable.

My food journey at Skyloft

It was then time for food. We were taken to Skyloft’s private dining and events room, which is a contemporary comfortable setting with window views of Main Beach and downtown. This room features wide screen TVs, which show live music that is performed in the main stage area of Skyloft, or any other channel diners might desire for their event.

We were served gumbo to start, which consisted of pulled chicken, chicken Andouille, sausage, bell peppers and okra served with sticky rice and a cilantro garnish. This was a very light gumbo and really tasty. 

Click on photo for a larger image


Chef Arthur Ortiz offers a fresh look at fried green tomatoes

It was then onto some shareable dishes. We started with fried green tomatoes.  These were fantastic, served with avocado and chives and drizzled with lemon dill alioli, buffalo sauce, pink peppercorns and cilantro. The tomatoes were tasty and the batter light and crisp.

Next came the popcorn crawfish, which I know would be a huge hit with my children. Battered tempura style and served with creole mustard and chives, this dish is simple yet tasty.

We then sampled the fruit and honey plate, which was the gluten free option on the shareables menu. This was a colorful plate of watermelon, blueberries, strawberries, mango, cantaloupe, and grapes on the vine, granola bits, Greek yoghurt and agave honey. This was, well, wow! I feel it would be perfect for a light breakfast snack to share with the family.  

Click on photo for a larger image


The fruit and honey dish is delicious, fresh and appealing

Skyloft prides itself on its California smokehouse options, so it was no surprise that we were served something in this vein as part of our tasting. The “All In” platter was outstanding and something I feel that my family and I will go back for again and again. There was something for everyone on this platter, and cost-wise, this is a great option for a hungry family to share without breaking the bank. The platter consisted of a full rack of spare ribs, herb roasted half chicken, and a seven-ounce brisket, all of which was cooked to perfection, and there was plenty to go around. 

Served with mash, lemon herb gravy au jus, chive butter cream, mac ‘n cheese, coleslaw, homemade cornbread and whipped honey butter, this was truly an example of Skyloft being “all in” to please everyone. 

There was a lot of food here, but all of it was so good.

Click on photo for a larger image


Diners who go “all in” won’t regret their decision

We finished with a delicious dessert, a Key Lime Cake. A twist on the usual key lime pie served in many places, this was a white cake, very light and fluffy, with layers of key lime frosting, vanilla whipped cream and a “dirty” lime jus on the side. It was delicious and if I hadn’t been so full from the platter, I would have eaten the whole thing.

My experience at Skyloft was nothing but positive. Chef Arthur is passionate about this place and is constantly thinking of exciting new ideas to capture the audience in Laguna Beach who might think Skyloft is a “nightclub” or “drinking venue” as opposed to a fine eatery. 

I was excited to hear his ideas and plans for the future, which include a beer-pairing menu, food served with selected beers from all over the world, a secret menu for locals (just ask!) and many more exciting things. 

Skyloft is located at 422 S. Coast Highway. Phone 949-715-1550, website

The Royal Hawaiian: the once and future king of restaurants designed to please Laguna Beach locals

Story and photos by LAURA BUCKLE

I couldn’t have chosen a more perfect night to try the new Royal Hawaiian. It was a dramatic September evening where the sky was 50 shades of reds pinks and purples, and the warm wind created a tropical heat, so much so that if I closed my eyes I could easily have been in Hawaii or any other tropical destination.

I was excited. The Royal Hawaiian’s reputation as being a part of Laguna’s history had long been described to me, and as a newcomer and lover of all things Laguna Beach, I really couldn’t wait to add another “Laguna experience” to my list.

The Royal Hawaiian first opened its doors in December of 1947. Harrold Hanna, a war veteran, and Francis Cabang, a previous coworker, opened it together. Harrold supplied the finances while Francis ran the restaurant. It started as a 50-seat restaurant with nine long tables and an aloha-filled crew. Quickly becoming a local hangout, a bar was soon added and the famous Lapu Lapu cocktail was born. 

Click on photo for a larger image


The Royal Hawaiian is famous for fabulous cocktails, including the Laguna Swizzle, and, of course, Lapu Lapus

People came from all over Southern California for the friendly service, cheap drinks, and island-infused food. It soon became a destination spot and was revered for its authentic island ambiance. Filled with paintings of the islands, an abundance of tikis, tropical fish, and island style structures, patrons claimed to feel as if they were transported to the Hawaiian Islands and dining in a hula hut.

Since then the Royal Hawaiian has changed hands a few times, Francis Cabang owning it from 1951 - 2005, followed by Douglas Cole who ran it until sadly the restaurant closed its doors in 2012. 

From 2012 it lay abandoned, a ghostly shell of what had once been the spirit of aloha in Laguna Beach. That is, until Mo Honarkar, an accomplished OC based entrepreneur, visionary and Laguna resident decided to take on the challenge of bringing the Royal Hawaiian back to life once more. 

With the help and expertise of industry veteran George Poulos (famed as the culinary consultant for and general manager of the hugely successful Mozambique Restaurant among others), this historical landmark has been resurrected, and I was honored to be invited for the first night open to the public, after a week of soft openings for family friends and consultants.

Click on photo for a larger image


The ahi poke was delicious in its coconut shell

The energy upon entering the Royal Hawaiian on a Tuesday September evening was electric. At 7 p.m. the place was full of diners and people who just wanted the bar experience. The restaurant décor offers a vivid, vibrant traditional Hawaiian vibe with a contemporary twist. The majority of the restoration work was carried out by local Laguna people. The building itself has high ceilings and acoustics are loud, but for me this only added to the already very energized experience. 

George was there to greet me and as always was charming, professional and clearly explained every facet of my upcoming Royal Hawaiian journey.

We were shown to our table for four in a quiet corner of the restaurant away from the bar, looking out towards an atrium full of colorful succulents and flowers. Teddy, our server, who hails from South Laguna, arrived quickly with our drinks menu and we relied on him to recommend cocktails from the Tiki drinks menu. We ordered the Lapu Lapu, a famous Royal Hawaiian delicacy made with white and black rum passion fruit, pineapple and orange. Rumor has it that after one of these huge drinks, you lose all feeling in your nose. Luckily for me, I only had a small taste, otherwise remembering the night could have been tricky.

Alongside this we ordered a “Three Miles to Mexico,” which is a spicy tequila-based drink with Mezcal, four-pepper spice, lime and guava. 

The prettiest of drinks was the Laguna Swizzle made with fresh yuzu and lime, pineapple syrup, blue Caracao and plantation pineapple rum. The Hemingway Daiquiri completed our drinks order, this being the “skinny” choice (as Hemingway was apparently diabetic) and consisted of lime and grapefruit juice, Cana Brava rum and maraschino cherry. Each cocktail proved to be a hit and I would have gladly tried more. However, I had a job to do.

Click on photo for a larger image


The Hawaiian red snapper dish was delish

It was on to the food and I had saved myself all day, so to say I was starving was an understatement. Between the four of us we ordered appetizers (pupus) to share. George recommended the ahi tuna poke and the shrimp and scallop spring rolls.

The ahi poke was delicious, served over ice, in half a fresh coconut, seasoned with ginger and Thai chiles and accompanied by plantain chips.

The spring rolls were lightly battered and cooked to perfection, the shrimp and scallops tasty, served perfectly in butter lettuce cups along with young herbs and rice vinegar papaya dipping sauce.

For our entrée, (full plate) we chose two dishes to share between the four of us. The first was the basil scented onaga, which is Hawaiian red snapper served with sweet white corn asparagus risotto and a jade pesto broth. The onaga was flaky and soft, the risotto perfectly cooked and the Jade pesto broth was a delightful surprise flavor, which worked so well.

Next we tried the Szechuan peppered rib eye steak, served with wasabi whipped potatoes, arugula, Maui onion rings and ginger bordelaise. The rib eye was huge and beautiful cooked at our requested preference medium rare. This dish was simple tasty and hearty.

Click on photo for a larger image


The Szechuan peppered rib eye steak is served with wasabi whipped potatoes

My experience of The Royal Hawaiian was very positive. Although this place is rich in history, I think it’s unfair to ever compare a restaurant to “how it used to be.”  Things change, people change, tastes change. And as a city we need to embrace that. However one thing that hasn’t changed is the fact that The Royal Hawaiian is managed by Laguna residents with a heavy emphasis on pleasing other Laguna residents. 

With our support and feedback there is no doubt in my mind that this place is very much back, not just as part of Laguna history but also its future.


Shaena Stabler is the Owner and Publisher.

Lynette Brasfield is our Editor.

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor.

The Webmaster is Michael Sterling.

Katie Ford is our in-house ad designer.

Alexis Amaradio, Cameron Gillepsie, Allison Rael, Barbara Diamond, Diane Armitage, Laura Buckle, Maggi Henrikson, Marrie Stone, Samantha Washer and Suzie Harrison are staff writers.

Barbara Diamond, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Laura Buckle and Suzie Harrison are columnists.

Mary Hurlbut, Scott Brashier, and Aga Stuchlik are the staff photographers.

We all love Laguna and we love what we do.

Email: for questions about advertising


Email: with news releases, letters, etc