Studio or Loft at the Montage Laguna Beach Resort
About every three months or so my friends and I get together for girls night out for hopefully great food, wine and conversation. In the past we have gone to AOC, Sona, Providence, Stonehill Tavern, and Hungry Cat.
This time leaning towards Studio at the Montage resort. Is it worth the $$ or will The Loft be just as satisfying? Other places we are considering - Spago, Violet, or Lucques.
Thanks for your help.
I've never heard of the Studio at the Montage, but out of the other three you listed, my vote is for SPAGO.
I've often seen parties of women that are having a girls' night out there -- the noise level permits it, but isn't so loud that you can't hear one another. Food, of course, is fantastic, and I highly recommend the TM.
We've been to Studio (went in September, with my wife and another couple)- I'm no good at remembering each and every dish and detail, so I'll just give you the big picture:
Studio is set off in it's own building on the beautiful, highly-manicured grounds of the hotel, overlooking the South Laguna coast. The bar, just inside the entry area, is small but nicely built, all dark, solid woods - it's welcoming, a good place to have a quick aperitif before dinner, and the bartender was easy to talk with, putting us right at ease.There are plenty of large windows to enjoy the view while you're dining. The rooms are tastefully furnished in an elegant but understated way. Service was perfect - very attentive, professional, but unobtrusive at the same time, and every request was answered with "absolutely".
The food was very good. We had the tasting menu with the wine pairing, which was perfect in portion size and we really enjoyed the wines they'd matched everything with. The early courses were primarily seafood, all of which was of top quality and extremely fresh, as you'd expect at a place such as this. The "main" was a kobe beef dish (authentic wagyu beef from Kobe, IIRC) - it was the first time I'd had kobe beef and it was a real treat, I loved it ! Desserts were also very good, unfortunately I'm not remembering any of the details of them, but that's just down to my poor memory for these things in most cases, not the food. Overall, I'd give this place high marks for presentation, quality of the food and technical level of cooking, and recommend it highly.
As a caveat, it IS expensive (have not been to Spago, or the others listed in fact, but as a reference point, it's more than say a typical dinner at Lucques would be, by a fair amount). For value for money/bang for the buck, and for a local (OC) restaurant, my wife and I agreed that we prefer Napa Rose (we both thought Napa Rose does a better job with the wine pairings even though Studio's wines were quite good, and we just feel more comfortable at Napa Rose). I hope this doesn't just confuse your choice even further :-)
I've eaten at Studio a couple of times and it has never disappointed. It is really expensive but they really do take care of you. Everything was phenomenal. The space is pretty great too.
I think you should trust your instincts (and the glowing recommendations) and go to Studio.
I've been to Studio, as well as the rest of your list, and have found it to be very mediocre. For example, the seared foie gras appetizer was not just undercooked, the middle was not cooked at all... still rock hard. Where it should have been a bit molten. They handled it well, but at $40 a pop, it should have been a bit better.
Food was good, somewhat uninspired. Good ingredient quality, but dishes weren't at a world class level. The place is usually very busy. The lack of any serious high end food competition coupled with a great room and amazing views are, IMO, contributing factors as to why Studio isn't a better place, but stays busy.
Out of your three other options I would definitely pick Spago. In a totally different league than Studio. If you want to stay in OC, albeit much farther north, HIGHLY recommend Napa Rose.
We've been to every place listed on your choices above, most several times.
Studio is very overated compared to SPAGO or PROVIDENCE or MELISSE in LA which are in the same price range.
If you have to dine in OC then NAPA ROSE is your Best Bet, Second Choice would be BASILIC on Balboa Island, Third would be Studio or Stonehill Tavern.