Raya...at the Ritz-Carlton, A Great Spot!
We had a terrific dinner last night at Richard Sandoval's Raya Restaurant at the Laguna Niguel Ritz Carlton. We were celebrating my birthday, and my partner took me here for a surprise dinner. In a word, it was terrific...from ambiance, to food, to service, everything was great and could not be faulted. We were seated at a beautiful window table, where a special welcoming card was placed at my seat thanking us for choosing Raya for our birthday celebration. Water, bread and drinks came promptly. The bread was excellent, as was an accompanying amuse bouche of quacamole and vegetable chips. The drinks were well poured. Our dinner started with a wild mushroom huarache (a Mexican flatbread, made with masa flour, so named because of its resemblence to a sandal) and an arugula salad. Both were delicious. For our entree we both had fresh halibut served on a bed of truffled boniato (a white sweet potato), and tempura battered jalapeno rings. Quite delicious. We also had a side of fava beans with chorizo...since one of us does not eat port, they graciously put the chorizo on the side. For dessert, I had the Mexican hot chocolate (with peppers, ?type) and delicious fresh crispy churros, my partner had assorted sorbets. Both were great. We were also brought a complimentary cheesecake with fruit, a candle, and a chocolate Happy Birtthday inscription. Wine service was first rate. Our server Jennifer was terrific. She was warm, attentive and professional...and was not shy about making recommendations. (Don't you hate it when you ask a server for recommendations to be told "everything's wonderful"?)
This is a terrific restaurant, not cheap, but not over-the-top either. It is especially well suited to celebrating a special occasion.
I was a guest, so I didn't see the check, but I would guess that with drinks, starters, entrees, perhaps a shared dessert, and a few glasses of wine you could keep it at about $100pp all inclusive. Starters were in the $10-15 range, and most entrees were between $25 and $35. I think it would have to be a very special date to justify the cost, although with the smashing ocean view it's a pretty romantic spot. For me, it's more of a special occasion restaurant.