Dec 18, 2013 · 0 Comments

Reviewing Selanne Steak Tavern

Laguna Beach has sadly said goodbye to a number of long-time favorite restaurants during the past year, including the Cottage, Royal Hawaiian, French 75, and Beach House, among others. All are expected to reopen in some new form, with Selanne Steak Tavern, in the cottage that formerly housed French 75, being the first to open their doors about a month ago. (Google Teemu Selanne if you want to know more about the owner.)  We visited Selanne early on a Tuesday night and were pleasantly surprised in a number of ways. While the building’s exterior has not changed to any great degree, the interior bears absolutely no resemblance to its dark and significantly dated predecessor. The bar is (kind-of) where it always was, but the wall behind the old bar is gone and the new bar extends into the room beyond. On the night we were there, the bar quickly filled up with groups of ladies and gentlemen who appeared to be coming straight from work. The clientele, like the bar itself, is bright and classy and comfortably understated. Our bartender was friendly and informative and knew how to make a Vesper Martini, for which we always give bonus points.

If you have not been to Selanne or have not heard much about it, it’s important to know that it has four very distinct but well-blended parts. As already mentioned, the bar is much larger and more prominent than before and is appropriately the first thing you see when you step in the door. The primary restaurant area on the main floor is the cozy Wine Room, off to the left. Up the stairs from the Wine Room is a dining room that is nicely tucked away from the hubbub below, appropriate for couples or small groups of friends that don’t plan to get too boisterous. That’s where we ate. This area also includes a private dining “nook” as does the bar area. And finally, the outdoor tented dining area has been retained and is perfect for groups and events.

But enough about the structure, let’s get to the food. This is billed as a steak house and there are some on the menu, but the selection of appetizers, entrees, and sides is widely varied. Our superb server Dimitri walked us through a few specials and we both immediately chose a cup of potato-onion soup as our starter. I ordered the 6oz. petite filet $30 and my husband ordered Branzino $32. We shared sides of Creamed Bloomsdale Spinach with shallots and mascarpone $7; Mixed Seasonal Mushrooms with truffle butter $10; and Anson Mills White Polenta with Point Reyes blue cheese $6. The soup was perfection—one of those times when you want to say cancel everything else and just keep bringing soup. They have a new soup each night under the blanket name Farmers Market Soup—said to be inspired by local ingredients from local farms $8. Without question, we will return to Selanne soon and sit at the bar and just have martinis and soup as a light end-of-day guilty pleasure. My steak was perfectly prepared and well-seasoned. My husband’s Branzino was very much to his liking, as was the beautiful side-dish of seasonal mushrooms. I loved the creamed spinach and we both dug into the delicious Polenta, being careful not to take too much of the super-strong blue cheese with each bite. Getting nitpicky—seasoning of the sides was inconsistent overall, with a bit too much salt on some things and not enough on others.

In a nutshell, Selanne Steak Tavern fits well into the Laguna Beach community of restaurants and provides a much needed new face on the south end. Pricing is competitive with other fine-dining restaurants in the area. Our bill before wine, tax, and tip was about $120. Service was exceptional. We loved the bar and the food and we will not hesitate to recommend Selanne to our guests—whether they’re looking for nibbles and a drink, or wine and a wonderful gourmet meal for a reasonable price. Located at 1464 South Coast Highway—opens at 5pm, closed Mondays.

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