Has anyone been to the new Sapphire laguna in laguna beach. They also have a gourmet market called Sapphire pantry. I figured, I give them a little time before I check them out. They serve brunch on the weekend(thank God),but their menu is not up online yet. I am really excited to try this place. Let's hope it won't disappoint!
We like lunch on the patio when it's not too busy, and we've never had to wait for a table. In fact, on our first visit to Sapphire, the owner introduced himself to us and gave us a tour of the pantry. When we told him we wanted to have lunch, he escorted us over to the restaurant and spoke with the staff. After being seated, our server brought us two of their interesting Sans Permis cocktails, which were made with icy cava, Cointreau, and a thin stripe of orange/lavender-infused honey on the side of the glass-- these were on the house. We really couldn't have asked for a nicer introduction.
This summer we've ordered most the salads, which are good, but not mind-blowing. The Crazy Cobb has a bite of lobster, scallop, pork tenderloin, maybe a little leftover this and that (?). The ahi Caesar is fresh. The "BLT" sirloin salad with sauteed portobellos, onions and blue cheese has a little bacon in the dressing for added flavor. Mild Barramundi fish is good, but the garlic butter makes it, and the truffle frites it sits on are VERY good. I could do without the accompanying cup of frisee altogether.
On the dessert scene, the passionfruit pavlova is good. Also agree about the hazelnut feuitilline -- didn't care for the chocolate-citrus combination much. Like the basil panna cotta with macerated strawberries and basil chiffonade a lot -- it's not that sweet and somehow the basil and strawberry flavors work together. Laura's (owner's wife) berry, lemon and cheese tart thing is also pretty tasty. Their flavorful chilled jasmine green tea is a great refreshing alternative to wine on a hot day.
I had two friends come in on Thursday afternoon - they were immediately starving and spied the Johnny Rockets on the corner. Whatever. A mediocre burger, fries, and root beer float sufficed but hardly set the tone for what I had been eating all week. That evening, however, we stopped at what I think was the Surf and Sea hotel for cocktails. Beautiful scenery - mediocre Sidecar (fake lime juice, I believe). We started walking north with the intention of going to French 75. We had no reservations but it was relatively early and a local gallery order recommended it. The waitress seemed put out when we informed her we had no reservations. I noticed a sign out front that indicated Champagne cocktails and half-price hors d'oeuvres from 5:00 to 7:00 and we were certainly within that window, however when we were seated, the only menu we received was some "twilight" prix-fixe menu that looked un-exciting. My friends and I were turned off by the bad mojo and left immediately. As we continued walking north, I mentioned Sapphire - that I had eaten there the previously evening and it couldn't hurt to ask how long the wait was.
Much to my surprise, they recognized me immediately and offered to sit us as a great table by the wine racks. A new waiter I had never seen introduced himself but chimed in, "welcome back, Ms. Tillie." Nicely done. We repeated a few of my dishes, the crab warka and the truffle fries, but added two more starters, a roasted tomato and goat cheese tart with crispy pancetta, caramelized onion, and argula pesto. Obviously fresh ingredients and a great flavor - although I don't much remember an overt flavor of pancetta. We also shared a chicken Sikh-Kabob served with a lettuce wrap, green papapa salad, and mint raita. A new twist on the lettuce wrapas the kabobs were served on their own miniature grill and a self-assemble components.
The duck had already been removed from the menu. We opted for three shared entrees:
1. Pan-seared barramundi, olive oil-poached tomato, warm baby vegetables, and herbes de Provence butter - this was an amazing piece of fish and the vegetables very fresh. A great summer dish.
2. Monk fish clay pot, baked polenta, with a country eggplant-tomato stew - almost too subtle in taste but beautifully served in Korean ddukbaege instead of a clay pot.
3. Baked Kurobuta pork shank with kabocha gnocchi, brussels sprouts, and homemade apple mustard. This was the clear winner of the evening as the meat was tender, the gnocchi light, and the the sauce rich.
We finished the evening with previously-missed Pavlova and I can understand why it is so desired. Very light and refreshing, a great finish to a great second evening. You guys are lucky to have this in your neighborhood!
I had a number of people recommend Sapphire to me and it was easy to see why - the place was hopping and while I was initially disgruntled to only be able to get a 5:30 reservation (geez, the shops are still open then!), by 6:00 it was packed and I felt lucky to have a table. The "scene" is that of the elite of Orange County - lots of perfectly tanned bodies, expensive clothes, and big diamonds. Yes, I felt out of place, but that's okay.
Wanting to get through as much as possible, I was fortunate that another solo diner was seated next to me and we quickly became fast friends, thereby enabling me to taste considerably more than I would on my own.
I started with a trio of fish - a lollypop of ahi, escabeche of salmon, and sashimi kampachi. My first (and only?) big, unknowing mistake of the evening was that my first bite was the kampachi which was dressed with a hidden slice of jalapeno pepper. The jolt of spice slightly killed my ability to adequately taste the other fish. I vaguely remember the ahi having a bit of a bit and the scallop being slightly tougher than it should, but I had to eat too much bread to get through the burn in my mouth.
Next I ordered a wild mushroom "cappucino" with porcini foam. Much of this dish is its supposed style; a large platter was placed in front of me and the "cappucino" was deftly poured into the dish from a paper Starbucks (or equivalent) cup. Kinda silly actually and if there was porcini foam, it was lost in the pour. Okay, this might have been my other mistake of the evening -- it was a great mushroom soup, but would have been much better appreciated on a chilly November afternoon; not on a hot August night when a tomato gazpacho or chilled cucumber soup would have been preferred. Wrong time of the year to serve such things...
I then ordered a Tunisian crab warka served with an herb-chickpea salad and tomato-harissa aioli. This was just downright brilliant and clearly a show-stopper. The crab was succulent and moist, the chickpea salad was studded with lentils and fava beans, and dressed greens accentuated the rich, spicy aioli. Stunning.
At this point, my neighbor shared with me his braised prime short ribs with creamy Parisian mashed potatoes and mirepoix garnish. This was just comfort food - nothing ground-breaking, but well-prepared with the expected tender stringiness and rich sauce. While we were chatting, we kept smelling the aroma of truffles in the air and when asked about it, were told it was a side on the lamb sirloin; "truffles pomme frites." The waiter informed us we could have them as a side and how could we say no? Perfectly crispy and hot, the flavor of truffle did not overwhelm, as it often can.
I, on the other hand, opted for a more daring crispy duck leg confit with white polenta and cherry-chocolate mole. The duck itself was far from perfect - slightly on the tough side, the overwhelming heat from the plate led me to believe that it sat under a heat lamp a bit too long. However the polenta was intensely rich and the juxtaposition of the cherry-chocolate mole with the bright, crisp green beans and bits of corn played well of each other. This was all about the components and it was slightly sad that the meat was not up to par with the rest, but was easy to look aside because of the playfulness of the dish.
For dessert, I should have listened to my waiter who suggested an Australian passion fruit Pavlova with fresh beeries, and a mango coulis. Instead, I was intrigued with a Buddha's hand confit which was described as part of a Hazelnut feuillitine. The feuillitine, like the mushroom soup, would be better suited for winter and fall - it was heavy and thick. Sadly, any hint of Buddha's hand was missing. It was well-plated and all that, but didn't do it for me.
An enjoyable evening, most definitely. I regret that I didn't dine there with a large party - if only to taste through the entire menu as much looks very intriguing and innovative. The warka was a clear favorite. The waitstaff is attentive. Occasionally I felt rather abandoned but when a waiter was missing-in-action, a manager or busboy seemingly steps in. Very affordable - with my three starters, two glasses of wine, an entree, and a dessert, I spent around $150.00.
We went to brunch on sat and enjoyed it very much. We had reservations and recieved great service. We loved their warm cheese rolls,so much so,we had two. I had a study of eggs benedict(one regular,one with steak) and my husband had the corn beef hash with poached eggs. They were both very good. I checked the dessert menu and couldn't resist the chocolate cake with bacio ice cream and caramel,rum sauce. The ice cream was to die for. One of the best, I had in this country. They make it in the house. The chef, Azmin Ghahreman , worked as an Executive chef at st regis(Dana point) and four seasons,all over the world and the menu reflects that. We saw the dinner menu and it looked pretty good. We can't wait to go back. They have some unusual jam's at the market next door and a great selection of cheese. I think Sapphire is a great addition to OC dining options.
Haven't been, but some good friends went there and were totally taken aback by what they interpreted as a snooty attitude. They live nearby and arrived without a reservation (party of 4). There were more tables empty than full but they waited 45 minutes while none of those tables filled up. Still possible that they were reserved...... not so likely when many of them were still empty another 45 minutes later.
Pushing the bar business??? Trying to seem exclusive??? Who knows???
They didn't care much for the food either.
My boyfriend and I live down the street and we tried to go there a couple of weeks ago. We didn't have a reservation but it was really early, like 6:00, and 3/4 of the tables were empty so we thought it would be fine. The girls at the front were really snotty and told us they were "booked until May" (which meant for the next 5 weeks). It was ridiculous! I think they are just trying to seem cool, so annoying. Anyway, we're boycotting due to their attitudes, what a shame since it's so close to home!