(Editor's Note: Due to my starting a new job, this review was posted much later than I expected. The date we dined was Saturday, November 12, 2005.)
Because J. the Fiance and I don't get to see each other that often, we plan a "date night" out where we get dressed up, plan something for the budget and head out for a night on the town. We have done everything from French to Italian to high-end steakhouse and, for the most part, the date nights have been grand. But we were concerned we were falling into a rut and decided to forego the standard fare and do something different for date night.
We really had no idea where to go, so J. hoped on the hotel TV internet and started looking for some suggestions. There was American fare. Naw. Then we looked at French. Eh. Then, we found the Caribbean section. This had promise. We looked through the reviews of the restaurants and J. said that Eva's Caribbean Kitchen had been getting decent reviews. Throwing caution to the wind, we got into the Seth-mobile and headed to Laguna Beach.
Well, okay, we headed a lot further south than Laguna Beach because I was relying on my clearly awful skills at remembering routes from 10 years ago. And, being a guy, I wasn't about to stop and ask for directions. No, sir. None of that here!
We doubled back and found Eva's right on the South Coast Highway in the heart of Laguna Beach. As I did remember correctly, parking was hellish. Well, hellish by Phoenix standards where only a handful of restaurants don't have sizable parking lots. We drove around for a bit before someone pulled out from the spot right in front of Eva's restaurant and I grabbed it. We got out of the car and heard the sound of steel drum music in the background.
Eva's was decorated in Caribbean flair with colored lights and lush vegetation. We walked up to the host station and was greeted by a person who told us that the manager would be with us shortly. We waited a few minutes and then I noticed that the steel drum music was live. Well, the steel drum part, at least. It was a nice touch.
The manager seated us in the interior of the restaurant (patio seating was available) and we enjoyed looking at the delightful Caribbean decorations on the walls and the huge number of candles burning everywhere. The only thing that would have made the atmosphere absolutely perfect would have been if Eva's was on the beach and you hear the waves and smell the sea. But it was close enough.
We reviewed the menu and our server took our drink order. J. was enthused by the Pineapple Martini ($8.99) and I settled for a bottle of Ace Pear Cider ($3.50). J. and I both had a tough time deciding on what we wanted to eat because the selections all sounded so good, but in the end, we ordered the Crab and Sweet Corn Cakes ($9.99), a cup of the Callaloo Soup ($3.25), a St. Martin Dinner Salad ($4.50), the Jerk Pork Loin ($19.99) for my entree, and a Curry Prawns ($18.99) for J.
The drinks arrived and I was in heaven as I adore Pear Cider and Ace makes a great one. Smooth, creamy, tart, slightly sweet. It is cold going down and warm in the stomach. J. grew quiet as the Pineapple Martini was consumed. "Mmmm. Yum. Wow." was all I heard after the odd silence. I then tried a taste. "Mmmm. Yum. Wow." Indeed. It was exceptional. Vodka and fermented pineapple juice were paired together and served with a slice of fresh pineapple. Wonderful. As J. finished the delight, our server came over and warned us that Eva's Pineapple Martinis "sneak up on you."
We waited a few minutes more and our Crab and Sweet Corn Cakes arrived. Three large crab cakes sat on the plate garnished with a ramekin of pineapple mango salsa. We dove in and took our first bites. Very, very nice. The crab and the corn were paired so that one tasted did not overwhelm the other. The cakes were crisp on the outside, light and fluffy on the inside and the salsa was a nice touch to round the whole thing out. A great way to start the meal.
J. polished off the last of the Pineapple Martini and this very sweet woman approached our table and told J. that the Pineapple Martinis "sneak up on you." We were surprised to find that this was the restaurant's namesake and Eva was imparting her wisdom on us. She checked on our crab cakes and we gave her the thumbs up and she slipped back into the kitchen.
Our server then delivered some bad news. The Callaloo Soup was gone. Every last drop of it. J. was disappointed, but we selected a second dinner salad to replace it. J. was interested in trying the soup because the description said it was a combination of spinach, okra and coconut milk made with a clam and lobster base with thyme, garlic and shallots. But it was not to be.
Neither was the second salad because Eva heard that the soup was gone and sprung into action, apologizing for the lack of soup and offering to make it up to us. We said it wasn't necessary, but she insisted and asked us if we liked shrimp. We did, we said so, and she headed off back to the kitchen.
As we were discussing how nice it was for Eva to offer an unnecessary apology, J. suddenly stopped and said, "Oh, my. My feet are all warm and tingly." I smiled thinking that I had touched the love of my life so deeply that J.'s feet were warm and tingly at the very thought of me.
Alas, it was the Pineapple Martini.
They have a way of sneaking up on you, or so I have been told.
Dejected and bitter, I slumped into my St. Martin dinner salad and immediately felt better. A square plate of baby greens were mixed with pineapple, red onion, tomatoes and then tossed in a tangy passion fruit/raspberry vinaigrette. The results were outstanding. It was heavy on the sweet side, but was not unbearable. The onions and bitter greens were a great counteragent.
As I munched on my salad, Eva appeared with a plate of fried jumbo prawns that were atop a bed of greens and encircling another serving of the wonderful pineapple mango salsa. This turned out to be the Punani Shrimp. We each had a couple of the shrimp and they were lovely. Perfectly cooked with a crispy breading of coconut and topped with the salsa as an added bonus. Eva again apologized for the soup and said the shrimp was on the house. What a wonderful gesture. Customer service isn't dead after all.
Our entrees were delivered to our table once the shrimp were consumed and the scent that hit my nose first was the curry in J.'s dish. You could smell the spice and the heat. My Jerk Pork Loin, however, took over once the plate was placed in front of me. The large plate had a colossal slab of pork loin in the center surrounded by sauteed vegetables and a nice, big serving of garlic mashed potatoes. I cut off a piece of the loin and my mouth sprang to life with the jerk seasoning. The loin was moist and flavorful. Then, I realized that the full effect would be had if I cut against the grain and mopped up some of the extra seasoning. Sure enough, it was excellent. Spicy, tender, tasty, yummy. The vegetables were a mixture of squash and other root vegetables and were good. The garlic mashed potatoes were very good, but did get a bit overwhelmed by the jerk seasoning on the loin.
J. was tackling the Curry Prawns and scooping up forkfuls of shrimp, rice and curry sauce. More yummy sounds were coming from J. and the review of the dish was "really excellent curry and outstanding shrimp." I took a nibble and it was a dish I could grow fond of. J.'s plate also had a serving of the sauteed vegetables along with the prawns and rice.
We finished our meals and were very satisfied. We were stuffed and enjoying every minute of it. As our plates were cleared, we decided that we had room for dessert, but only one. After checking out the choices, we couldn't pass up the Peach Cobbler a la Mode ($9.00). We sipped our water and chatted and then our dessert arrived. Thank goodness we only ordered one dessert. The peach cobbler was served in a large bowl. Large peach slices in a wonderful glaze were piping hot and topped with a shortbread crust. The ice cream was served in a martini glass on the side. We dumped the ice cream on the cobbler and watched as it slowly melted and mixed with the peach juices.
Our first taste was a doozy. The peaches had to have been marinated in rum or some other spirit because these had a kick to them and were wonderful. Added to that was a heafty dose of cinnamon. We sat for 10 minutes getting every last drop from that bowl. A classic dessert with a Caribbean twist and life was beautiful.
We got our bill and with tax and tip, we paid $99.00 for our wonderful date night. As we got up to leave, Eva approached us once again and thanked us for our business and asked if there were any problems. We had no complaints. The food was stellar, the service outstanding and the atmosphere perfect. A great evening out that made for an even better date night.
We headed back to the hotel in Foothill Ranch and talked about our meal and added it to the history books on "Great Dates with Seth and J."
But I still maintain the warm and tingly feet were in reaction to me, not the Pineapple Martini.
Eva's Caribbean Kitchen
21732 South Coast Highway
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Dress: Business Casual
Notes: Parking is difficult. The Pineapple Martini sneaks up on you.