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New Year's Eve @ Chaparosa Grill - Laguna Niguel

Midlife | Jan 2, 200601:03 PM

I posted here, asking for any experience with Chaparosa Grill, because we had a last-minute plan change that took us there as part of a party of 12. We've lived in the area for over 20 years but were not familiar with Chaparosa. We went to what I believe is the original location, at Golden Lantern and Marina Hills.

The few comments posted on this were to the effect that it was good, but not special. I'd have to agree with that. The main dining space is small, and they use covered outside areas for overflow, so the decor is rather spartan if you're not in the main area (and we weren't). Staff was very pleasant and attentive. Crowd was mostly very neighborhood-family for a New Year's Eve, at least until after 10PM, when the sweat-shirted families went home to watch the ball drop there. Live music was a rather good combo playing what I'd call Southern Rock, with a New Orleans feel (The restaurant is Cajun-inspired).

The pre-fixe meal began with a shrimp mousse that was really very good. Then came a field greens salad, with pears, gorgonzola and citrus dressing. Most enjoyed it, but I found the dressing a bit tart for my taste. Most of the group had the New York steak entree, with a light peppercorn sauce, au gratin potatoes and veggies. My wife's steak was really quite good (about 1.25" thick and perfectly cooked), while mine was maybe .75" and more medium than the medium-rare I had requested). I ordered the steak because I thought it would be the safest bet..... not necessarily true.

While about 8 of the 12 copied the steak order, the other four had: a rather nice looking Chilean Sea Bass (said it was good), and a pasta dish with shell fish (ate the shellfish and passed on the carbs).

Dessert was a Chocolate Raspberry Ganache (rather light and tasty), or a lemon tart (quite good). Champagne, at midnight was Korbel (should have brought our own and asked to have it kept cold, but, oh what the heck..... it's New Year's).

The New Year's tab was a bit inflated ($60/person)based on regular menu prices, but that's pretty normal for New Year's I think. Regular entree prices here are in the upper teens through mid-20's. Overall impression was that we'd give it another try on a non-holiday. The South OC moderate-priced dinner-house scene is not strong enough to eliminate Chaparosa so quickly. They have a second (new) location at LaPaz and Pacific Park, where Mangia Bene has been for years, and Cedar Creek Inn just opened, followed by a new Corner Bakery.

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