Laguna Chefs share the Love on Valentine’s Day

By DIANE ARMITAGE

Yesterday, I was talking to one of our Laguna chefs about Valentine’s Day. 

Oddly, reservations for Valentine’s Day tend to occur well in advance, while Mother’s Day reservations tend to happen at the last minute. Imagine that. 

If you’re one of the few who’s still making your plan for next Thursday, Valentine’s Day, here’s a quick roundup from many of our local restaurants. More details are still rolling in from chefs, so be sure to check my blog at www.TheBestofLagunaBeach.com for the latest details. 

Laguna Chefs The Loft

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Courtesy of Montage LB

Valentine’s Day dessert – The Loft

Specially-Created Valentine’s Day Menus

I’m putting these in no particular order, but figure we should start with the newest chef on our block, Chef Greg Daniels, and his welcome talent at Harley. (Be sure to meet his new mixologist, Jeff, too. Awesome cocktails!) 

Harley Laguna Beach – Chef Greg Daniels is making a splash with a Valentine’s menu that starts with New Caledonian Blue Prawns, moseys through Wood-Grilled Scallops and Grass-Fed Filet Mignon, and offers up black truffle and wild mushroom risotto, pan-fried gnocchi, and quite luxurious desserts.

The cost is $90/person, including a $20 required deposit that will be removed from your final bill. 

Go to www.harleylagunabeach.com to reserve or call (949) 715-1530.

Harley’s regular menu is also available.

Wine Gallery Laguna – One of my favorite (and somewhat undiscovered) chefs, Chef Josh Mason, has returned to Wine Gallery, and he’s crafted a 4-course dinner that brings back the best of Josh. Options include Lobster Bisque, Prime Rib with Pommes Purée, and Halibut with a White Wine Tomato Brodo. 

The cost is $75/person with a $30 additional option for a flight of three hand-picked wines from Owner Chris Olsen. (I’d take the option any minute, just sayin.)

Go to www.winegallerylaguna.com or call (949) 715-8744 to reserve.

Pizza and salads from regular menu also available.

Nirvana Grille – I had the pleasure of having dinner with Chef Lindsay last Friday evening. It’s lovely to see her restaurant still filled with happy diners after all these years. She just signed a new 10-year lease, so be sure to keep Nirvana on your list. This year’s Valentine’s menu offers up options such as House Made Salmon Chowder, Grilled Center Cut Swordfish, Pepper Crusted Filet Mignon, Portobello Mushroom Risotto and more. Finish the evening with a decadent dessert trio. 

The cost is $79/person. Add Drew Barrymore Rosé for just $8 a glass or Bottomless Jean Phillipe Champagne for $25 per person.

Call quickly as she’s almost reached her reservations limit: (949) 497-0027 or go to www.nirvanagrille.com.

Splashes at Surf & Sand – Seats are almost sold out for Chef Ron Fougeray’s Valentine’s treat. Choose from menu options such as the Oyster Trio, Salsify & Frangelico Soup, Colorado Bison Duo, Bronzino, Roasted Veal and more. Rumor has it that the resident Pastry Chef has gone all out with equally as decadent dessert options. 

The cost is $135/ person or $185 with wine pairings. Call (888) 281-3502.

Broadway by Amar Santana – Chef Amar has come up with an inventive menu that features colors and flavors to entice the senses. Enjoy a “red-for-passion” course of beet-cured Wild King Salmon, a “green-for-vitality” course of Herb-Crusted Lamb Loin, and a black course for “power, decadence and sexiness” featuring Porcini Dusted Filet of Beef with black truffle purée and more. 

The cost is $135/person. Credit card is required at reservation. Call (949) 715-8234.

Broadway by Amar Santana’s A la carte menu is also available. 

Laguna Chefs Broadway

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Courtesy of Broadway by Amar Santana

Decadent dessert at Broadway by Amar Santana

Mozambique – Always a believer in music + great food for the most memorable Valentine’s days, Chef Braulio has created a menu that includes 11 entrée options featuring Chilean Sea Bass, Filet & Lobster, New Zealand Rack of Lamb, Cioppino and more. Live music on Valentine’s features special guest Louis B. Middleton in the Durban Room and the Neil Diamond tribute band America’s Diamond on the main stage. 

The cost is $79/person. Call (949) 715-7777.

Driftwood Kitchen – Chef Rainer Schwarz is pulling out all the stops with items such as Pan Seared Crab Cake, Double R Ranch Petite Filet with Maine Lobster, European Branzino and more. The meal includes a champagne toast and dessert for two. 

The cost $89/person. Call (949) 715-7700.

Note: For those of you who would rather whisk somewhere other than Laguna, check out Chef Rainer’s great Hendrix Restaurant in Ocean Ranch by Cinepolis. He’s created a very similar menu to the Driftwood Valentine menu, with pricing at $69/person.

Call (949) 248-1912.

Studio, Montage Laguna Beach – You know you can’t go wrong for romance at the renowned Studio. Chef Ben Martinek’s amuse bouche starts with a Shigoku Oyster on the half shell, and the menu rolls from there with Smoked Red Abalone, Roulade of California Petrale Sole, Duck Breast and more. 

The cost is $175/person, $270 with wine pairings. Call (949) 715-6420.

The Loft, Laguna Beach – New Chef Joosung Lee is offering a 4-course menu with items such as Steelhead Trout Tartare, Cauliflower Flan, Catalina Island Striped Bass, Sweet Potato Gnocchi and more. 

The cost $150/person, $210 with wine pairings. Call (949) 715-6420.

The Loft’s egular menu is also available.   

Valentine Specialty Items Served With Regular Menu

These restaurants are featuring specials along with the nightly regular menu: 

Sapphire Laguna – Any time Chef Azmin comes up with specialty items, you can be assured it’s going to be one of a kind. Opt for items such as Lobster & Shrimp Bisque, Oven-Roasted Steelhead Salmon, Raspberry Almond Tart and more. Call (949) 715-9888 for reservations.

Lumberyard – Always a local favorite, Owner Cary Redfearn and Chef Armando Ortega have drummed up some specials that you haven’t seen in the restaurant yet. Sorry, mum’s the word on this! 

Make reservations at www.lblumberyard.com or call (949) 715-3900.

230 Forest – Chef Marc is offering up a number of specials along with the regular menu. His is a popular restaurant for Valentine’s, so reserve soon at www.230forestavenue.com or call (949) 494-2545.

Skyloft – In addition to the regular menu, opt for off-menu items such as Salmon Quinoa or Grilled Pork Chop. The great musician Francois Dean in in the house beginning 7 p.m.

Watermarc – At his other popular restaurant, just a block from his initial 230 Forest restaurant, Chef Marc has organized a number of specials true to Watermarc’s cuisine. 

For reservations, call (949)-376-6272 or go to www.watermarcrestaurant.com. 

Valentine’s All Month Long

Ristorante Rumari’s – Owner Vince Crivello and his chefs decided to celebrate a month of amoré because…well, why not? This February menu is NOT offered on Valentine’s Day but is served Sunday through Thursday throughout the month. A three-course menu, it offers options such as Pollo Siciliana, Ravioloni Macchiati Con Vodka, Penne Al Salmone and more. The dinner includes a glass of house wine or Italian Prosecco. (Watch for my review on this next week in Stu News Laguna.)

The cost is $45/person. For reservations, call (949) 494-0400 or go to www.ristoranterumari.com.

Laguna Chefs Rumari

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Courtesy of Ristorante Rumari’s

Dessert at Ristorante Rumari’s

And, You Could Always Start with Dessert First

Montage Lobby Lounge – Leave it to Montage Executive Pastry Chef Lee Smith to roll out every sweet imaginable for a Dessert Buffet in the Montage Lobby Lounge. It’s a finer version of Willy Wonka’s world with tables piled with macaroons, brownie lollipops, ivory chocolate pots de crème, a “Montage Cream Bun Collection,” and an entire collection of chocolates, from eclairs to chocolate chunk cookies, house-made chocolate bonbons, and truffles. 

 The cost is $45/person and the entire table is required to purchase (no sharing please). 

Diane Armitage is the best-selling author of the book, The Best of Laguna Beach, and offers a cornucopia of Laguna based reviews, finds and upcoming events at her blog, TheBestofLagunaBeach.com.