A visit this past weekend to the O.C. Performing Arts Center to see the wildly irreverent Dame Edna afforded the opportunity for a couple of dining adventures. We left early enough for a leisurely drive through Laguna that landed us at the relatively new Montage Resort and, specifically, The Loft Restaurant. We had heard much about the culinary offerings here but it's the view that takes your breath away. The hotel is perched in such a strategic way that from the moment you step out of your car in the driveway you take in the stunning vista. This is carried through to the restaurant located one floor below the lobby level. Pricing is appropriate for such a specialized setting but the lunch we had disappointed. Only a Lobster Bisque for $15 had the requisite creaminess and shellfish flavor you'd expect. Otherwise, a Goat Cheese and Beet Salad fell flat with the cheese worked into a Dolly Madison like cupcake replete with so much dried herbs that it was inedible. It was not a good day for bread either with pretzel like breadsticks served stale and a cinammon raisin bread that was too sweet by far. The Simi and Mirassou Chardonnay offerings by the glass didn't help much with two of us walking away with a $100 lunch tab before tip. Service was friendly if overtaxed.
Dinner was a much stronger affair at Troquet in South Coast Plaza. One strength of the Goodell's operations seems apparanet in that I've yet to ever see them in their shops and yet almost always the meals are successful. This particular dinner was probably one of the best I've ever had in O.C. Simple, knowing and assured. The traditional old world and rich wood setting is comforting and effectively buffers the odd shopping mall setting that can be chillingly quiet even as early as 7:30 when we exited.
We started with a lucsious Buratta and Arugula Salad and a Grilled Asparagus Salad with Poached Egg that were perfect beginnings. Entrees included a wonderful Scottish Salmon flavored with a Maple Wood Smoked Bacon vinaigrette and a Short Rib and Flat Iron Steak Combo that were both rich in the right flavors for a non revolutionary, no nonsense meal. The Espresso Ice Cream Profiteroles were the best finish. We splurged on wine, starting with a half bottle of Hobbs Chardonnay and seguing to a half bottle of a Domaine Serene Pinot from Oregon. They were $40 and $55 respectively bringing the final total to $195. The only false note was, again, the bread which is served in grand style but sliced so thin and, I expect, too early so that the five different selections are starting to dry before they reach the table.
A mid week lunch yesterday with a friend near Downtown L.A. found us at a Silverlake neighborhood joint called Madame Matisse where the Asparagus Soup was great and smooth as silk and the Chicken and Pesto Panini was easily the best I've had (comparable to Campanile and better than Ceebo). How nice to find a Tart Tatin with Vanilla Ice Cream and fresh Whipped Cream. All told the bill came to $32 for two. My friend compared the look and feel to the south of Mission area in San Francisco. How fitting. They're located on Sunset, one block west of Golden Gate Avenue.