A Royal Reawakening

Island paradise returns to the Royal Hawaiian Laguna Beach  

 

Written by Susan Irby

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“I grew up here,” shares Hasty Honarkar, who co-owns the Royal Hawaiian with her dad, Mo. “The Royal Hawaiian has a rich history that many generations have enjoyed. We sought to restore its original heritage with a new level of excellence.” Having reopened in the fall of 2016 after a three-year hiatus, original tiki carvings from the restaurant’s first opening in 1947 are showcased in the lush interior tropical garden, while a new Royal Hawaiian tiki canoe, hand-carved by the same artists, Bob Van Oosting and LeRoy Schmaltz of Oceanic Arts, takes center stage, suspended from the ceiling surrounded by bamboo and pili grass. Unique to the restaurant’s décor is Martinique wallpaper from artist Don Loper; the motif synonymous with the iconic Beverly Hills Hotel. “It was important to embrace these legacy items both in décor and on the menu,” says Hasty. “Our menu celebrates the Polynesian culture in modern times.” Patrons can enjoy dishes made famous 70 years ago, such as the Hoison BBQ-Glazed Spareribs, along with new selections including the Hamachi Sushi with Meyer Lemon Ponzu; Ahi Tuna Poke with Thai Chilies and Plantain Chips; the savory Royal Hawaiian Burger of Kobe beef, grilled pineapple, bacon, avocado and cave-aged white cheddar; as well as gluten-free and vegetarian options like the Tropical Quinoa Salad with Cilantro Mint Lemon Dressing. Save room for housemade desserts, including the Chocolate Pot du Crème topped with vanilla bean ice cream and, from the bar, share the signature dark overproof four-island rum-based Lapu Lapu for two or the Cabang47, a London dry gin cocktail tribute to the Royal Hawaiian legacy. 

Royal Hawaiian 331 N. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, CA 92651 ~ 949 715 1470 | RoyalHawaiianLB.com

 

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Photos courtesy of Royal Hawaiian

Heritage Flair

San Juan Capistrano’s iconic train depot comes alive with Trevor’s at the Tracks

 

Written by Susan Irby

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Billed as Southern California’s loveliest train station, the Capistrano Depot first opened in 1894. At the time, red brick was covered in white plaster to the top of the dome tower. Today, except for the dome, the plaster has been removed revealing the stunning red brick arcades and structures that are home to one of San Juan Capistrano’s newest restaurants, Trevor’s at the Tracks. Named for its owner, Trevor Baird, the restaurant illuminates modern cuisine while honoring the past and the future. “The building itself is a preservation of history,” explains Baird, “and our motto, ‘locally acquired, globally inspired,’ is in essence about preserving our future.” Efficient usage of water, fully utilizing the onsite garden, and locally sourcing ingredients are at the forefront of the restaurant’s environmentally-conscious approach. “Our wine list features all California selections,” says Baird. “But our cuisine embraces the globe.” Dine indoors or on the al fresco patio and bar enjoying scratch-kitchen menu items such as the Taste of San Juan award-winning Vegetarian Meatballs of red quinoa, brown rice, herbs and Arrabiata tomato sauce; Ahi Poke Nachos with sesame soy reduction over wonton chips; the signature Bang Bang Beer Can Chicken with savory local brew jus and garlic mashed potatoes; and the Fig and Fungi Flatbread with balsamic glaze. Among the sweet endings are the Cast Iron Cookie and the Strawberry Shortcake. 

Trevor's at the Tracks 26701 Verdugo Street, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675 ~ 949 493 9593 | TrevorsattheTracks.com

 

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Photos courtesy of Trevor's at the Tracks

Accentuating Uniqueness

Haven Gastropub elevates authenticity in craft beer, whisky and pub fare

 

Written by Susan Irby

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Merriam-Webster defines gastropub as “a pub bar, or tavern that offers meals of high quality. Expand the definition to include high-quality craft beer and you’ve got Haven Gastropub. Now in its ninth year, it was one of the first such establishments in Orange County to feature craft beer exclusively. “Dedication to craft is our focus,” states Haven’s Beverage Director/Partner Wil Dee, a craft beer expert. Adds Executive Chef/Partner Greg Daniels, “We wanted to create a place that we would want to hang out, and where everything that goes out to the table—beer, spirits, and food—has been sourced with care, and we’re proud to serve to our guests.” The “beer board,” which features 14 draught beers, with selections changing frequently, complements the craft beer “book,” organized by style. But libations don’t stop there: Haven Gastropub offers meticulously sourced spirits, including a broad range of whiskey, gin, and more. From the kitchen, chef Daniels shares, “We’ve always taken classics and elevated them while also presenting new creative dishes.” From the pork belly to the local yellowfin and the black truffle béchamel Mac ‘n Cheese, a testament to Daniels’ approach is the number-one selling menu item, the Haven Burger—a custom grind that is grilled and topped with pickled red onion, roasted bell pepper, wild arugula, Saint Agur cheese and garlic aioli. Yet, the burger that won my heart is the Haven Breakfast Burger. Created for the James Beard Foundation’s Blended Burger Project, it features 25 percent mushroom chorizo with maple coffee bacon, sharp cheddar and a sunny side-up egg. Other menu highlights include the Jidori Chicken Wings with mango-Carolina reaper sauce, Grass-fed Beef Poutine, which is a melt-in-your-mouth haven of Stemple Creek Ranch beef, gravy, cheddar cheese curds, and pommes frites. For dessert, enjoy the House-Made Doughnuts and Molten Chocolate Tart. 

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Haven Gastropub 190 South Glassell Street, Old Towne Orange, CA  92866 ~ 714 221 0680 | HavenGastropub.com

Coastal Casual

Elevating simplicity in both cuisine and décor make for a mighty “oak” in Laguna Beach

 

Written by Susan Irby

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Second-story ocean views and light coastal breezes are a refreshing welcome from the bustle of Pacific Coast Highway at oak in Laguna Beach. The first restaurant from Laguna locals RoseMary Polenski, Jeff Liao and John Porrello, oak features a polished modern feel with a touch of sass. Helming the kitchen is well-loved Executive Chef Chris Tzorin, also a local, who says of his approach, “I just cook from the heart.” Anyone who has ever met chef Tzorin knows this is true. Mentored by his father, a well-respected chef formerly of 21 Oceanfront and The Ritz-Carlton, chef Tzorin began cooking at the age of 13, soared to executive chef status by age 20 and has made multiple appearances on the Food Network. “I learned American French cuisine from my dad,” he says.  “Now, I layer my dishes with family influences and diverse culinary travels.” In opening oak, chef Tzorin and sous chef, Fabian Sanchez, perfected dishes for weeks at Tzorin’s home. “The restaurant was under construction; we tested recipes in my living room until we perfected the ones we loved,” recalls chef Tzorin. “We set a goal to Floss—to keep the cuisine fresh, local, organic, sustainable, and seasonal whenever possible.” Must-haves are the Local Albacore Stack with soy, siracha, honey, and lime with mango tahin; the oak Burger of wagyu beef, jack cheese, tomato and onion; Pork Belly Tacos with Asian pickled cabbage and lime crema; and, off the menu, the Octopus Frittata, marinated bliss perfectly prepared in open-face omelet style. Dessert selections, meanwhile, derive inspiration from Tzorin’s 8-year old son, with the Oreo Cookie Crème Brulee and the Doughnuts ‘n Ice Cream quickly becoming classics. 

oak 1100 S Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, CA 92651 ~ 949 940 3010 | Oak-LagunaBeach.com

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Photos courtesy of Janel Conlan of Focus Photography Inc.