Those of you who are frequent visitors to the Laguna Beach culinary world no doubt remember experiencing one or more wonderful meals at Five Feet. Sadly, this landmark Laguna restaurant closed its doors earlier this year. Happily, it has been replaced by a restaurant that, although nothing at all like Five Feet, brings a fresh and very different vibe to the Village.
Before I go any further, I need to say that we loved this place—the food and the service were excellent. I am going to make a couple of observations that might be construed as negative, but they are really very minor points and are just one person's observations. Keep in mind that this was only the fourth night that Broadway was open, so they were still getting their act together. Taking that into consideration—and considering how much we loved it—I have no doubt it will only get better.
I must be honest and say that, after viewing the Broadway website, I made reservations with some small degree of trepidation. At first view, the menu appeared very ordinary and very limited. When we arrived, our first impression was equally apprehensive. The restaurant's interior decor is very—very—eclectic. The wait-staff were all very casually dressed in blue jeans and aprons, briefly giving the impression that we had just walked into a high-end cowboy country barbeque eatery. Let me quickly say that the impression quickly changes as your night progresses. The place, quite simply, grows on you. You soon come to realize that the restaurant is exactly what Chef Amar Santana intended it to be—a little slice of Broadway transported to Laguna Beach.
Most of the tables at Broadway by Amar Santana are closely lined up along one wall, facing the lounge-style bar and open kitchen. There's method to this madness. The kitchen is the focus of the entire room – it's the "stage" for the culinary show you are about to experience. For the lucky six who get to sit at the "chef's table," it's a front-row seat for the chef's six-course tasting menu. If you can put together a group of six – or if you catch them on a night when no one else has reserved all six seats—the Chef's Table is the place you want to be.
As I previously mentioned, the standard menu is short and sweet, but Santana plans to add more items as he gets a better feel for his patrons' likes and dislikes. On the night we were there, you could choose from five appetizers ranging in price from $11 to $22. There was also a selection of 11 different small plates ($6 to $16) and we chose two of these as our starters—pita bread with hummus topped with delightful crunchy garbanzos; and decadent bacon wrapped blue cheese stuffed dates. There were so few Mains that I can actually list them all: Lightly Smoked Wild King Salmon $26; Crisp Seared Duck Breast $31; Butter Poached Jidori Farm Chicken $27; Grilled Prime Ny Strip Loin $39; and one special, Filet Mignon with crispy polenta, lobster mushrooms, and a red wine sauce $35.
I went for the Filet Special and my husband of course chose the Salmon. Interestingly, the steak portion was huge and half of it went home with us. The Salmon portion was just the opposite; a long thin ration paired with baby potatoes, ikura, and crème fraiche on a plate the size of a bar stool seat, which only made it seem smaller. My husband, who greatly appreciates modern culinary presentation and who does not expect massive portions at any gourmet restaurant, commented that the typical male patron is probably going to ask, "When does the rest of it show up?" That said, the portion was perfect for him. He also said it was perfectly cooked and delicious and he loved the luxurious addition of Ikura roe. My steak was top quality and perfectly done and I devoured the polenta—one of my favorites.
We will be back to Broadway again and again—and not just because they make our illusive Vesper Martini with Cocchi Americana, which harkens back to the days of Ian Fleming and Kina Lillet. (But that’s another story.) Chef Amar Santana, along with partners Ahmed Labbate and Rich Cadarette, has created more than just another same old Laguna Beach restaurant. It’s clear that Broadway by Amar Santana will become a favorite meeting place for locals whose tastes are a little left of typical. We were very excited to meet Santana and Labatte in person on the night we were there, and we immediately liked them both. These two have an extensive background with Charlie Parker restaurants, but this ain’t no Charlie Parker’s. The look is clean and eclectic. The vibe is a lot New York—but without pretentions. Chef Santana told us he wants Broadway to be a place where people can simply have a casual bite at the bar with a cocktail; impress friends or colleagues with fun and exciting dinner at the chef’s table; or just have a comfortable and delicious dinner out. We think it will become one of our favorite places for all of those things.
To learn more about Santana, Labbate, Cadarette, and Broadway, take some time exploring their website. You’ll quickly come to appreciate what makes Broadway by Amar Santana stand out from the crowd.
View Larger Map
The California Department of Transportation will be resurfacing Laguna Canyon Road, between Forest Avenue and the 73 Toll Road from now through November. Asphalt grinding will be done during the first three or four days, then paving will go forward until sometime in November. Although there will be no work on weekends, we still suggest that our guests completely avoid Canyon Road (a.k.a. Broadway or Hwy. 133) until the repaving is completed.
Actually, it’s always been easier to get to Casa Laguna via Crown Valley Parkway rather than via the Canyon. And, of course, it’s not really a secret. Most of the locals who live south of Bluebird Canyon come and go “over the hill” on Crown Valley Parkway. Coming north or south on Interstate 5, just take the Crown Valley exit and head west toward the ocean (6.5 miles). When you top the hill and see that beautiful expanse of blue Pacific before you, you’re almost to Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). Get in the right hand lane, turn right (North) onto PCH, and you’re just 3.6 miles from Casa Laguna (on the right just a block past the Nyes Place intersection). If you have any problems, just call us on your cell. (Hands-free please. Don’t get a ticket.) We’re always willing and able to talk you through it. 1-949-494-2996
Bidders have only two weeks left to bid on the Ultimate Casa Laguna Getaway. As part of our sponsorship and support of the Orange County Ride for Aids (OCRA), Casa Laguna is auctioning a fabulous Laguna Beach getaway for two. The getaway package includes two nights in our spacious ocean-view cottage, breakfast in bed (one morning), a sixty minute togetherness massage at Casa Laguna’s spa, our Devotion Package—including a bottle of sparkling wine, two souvenir flutes, chocolate covered fruit, and a dozen roses waiting in your room, a picnic lunch to enjoy on-property or at nearby Victoria Beach, a romantic dinner at French 75 restaurant (one night), a chauffeur-driven town car from Best Chauffeured to take you to and from the restaurant, a private Chef’s Dinner on the ocean-view Cottage deck—prepared and served by Casa’s head chef (one night); and, a gift basket of memories including two of Casa Laguna’s cozy robes, a set of our acclaimed eco-friendly sheets, and a selection of Gilchrist & Soames bath amenities. Certain limitations apply (see below). Total value of all items and services: $2675.00!
Bidding is currently taking place on Casa Laguna’s Facebook “Event” page until 6:00 PM, Saturday, October 1, 2011. Bidders must first click “I’m Attending,” then simply post a message on the event page including the amount of their bid. Bids must be made in $100 increments. Where two or more bidders bid the same amount due to posting lag, the bid that arrived first per Facebook time-stamp will be the current bid. All others will need to re-bid. Bidders should return to the page frequently to keep track of bidding and increase their bid when necessary. Be sure to read all rules and policies before bidding. The winning bid will be the highest bid received by 6:00 PM October 1, 2011, based on the Facebook time-stamp accompanying the bidder’s post. The winning bidder will be contacted by a Casa Laguna representative to arrange payment within 24 hours of the close of bidding. Payment will be made directly to AIDS Services Foundation of Orange County. Runner-up bids will be retained as back-up bids until payment has been received in full, at which time the winner will be announced.
This is a charity auction, with all proceeds going to AIDS Services Foundation Orange County, a non-profit organization (Tax ID # 33-0126491). Per IRS regulations, donors who purchase items at a charity auction may claim a charitable contribution deduction only for the excess of the purchase price paid for an item over its fair market value.
Our thanks to French 75 Laguna Beach and Best Chauffeured for their generous contributions to the package. Casa Laguna is a Gold Sponsor of the Orange County Ride for Aids (OCRA) which also benefits AIDS Services Foundation Orange County.
LIMITATIONS: Dinner at French 75 subject to $200 dinner-check limit. Winner will be responsible for dinner costs in excess of $200 and for all gratuities. Before bidding, bidders should familiarize themselves with Casa Laguna’s policies regarding reservations, cancellations, and spa services, all of which will be applied to this stay. Getaway package must be used by April 15, 2012. Reservations must be made no less than 15 days and no more than 30 days prior to arrival. Not valid on holidays or holiday weekends.
IMPORTANT: Casa Laguna reserves the right to discontinue this auction at any time, for any reason. By bidding in this auction you thereby agree to forever waive, release and discharge Casa Laguna Inn & Spa, French 75 Laguna Beach, Best Chauffeured, AIDS Services Foundation Orange County, their parent companies, directors, managers, employees, and any and all persons or entities associated with this auction from any and all claims arising from your participation in this auction.
Guests and friends of Casa Laguna can now purchase Gift Certificates and promotional items, as well as our acclaimed Comphy® bedding and EuroSpa™ European spa salts, directly through our website Gift Shop. Your secure online order goes straight to our front desk, where the order is immediately processed and prepared for shipping. You are then notified by email as soon as your shipment is on the way. Orders for Comphy® bedding are processed through Casa Laguna, but your order is shipped directly to you from the Comphy Company. Please note that tax and shipping are included in the listed price for all items.
Our Gift Certificates can be used toward a stay in one of our cozy rooms and/or rejuvenating spa treatments while staying at the inn. Because our room rates are variable, we cannot provide a Gift Certificate for a "night's stay." We will be glad to assist you in choosing an amount that comes close to covering the cost of accommodations. Before giving a certificate for a stay, be aware that our spa services are available to registered guests only, and our rooms accommodate a maximum of one or two adult guests. Our standard policies and cancellation penalties apply for reservations to be paid by Gift Certificate.
If, at any point, you have any questions about our products or the use of our online gift shop, please call us toll-free at 1-800-233-0449.