Sapphire Laguna: A True Gem in Laguna Beach

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

On a recent impromptu brunch, the family and I accidentally stumbled on what turned out to be one of the best brunches I've had in California. Located in Laguna Beach right on PCH with a view of the ocean, Sapphire Laguna offered the trifecta of dining out I've been desperately searching for since moving back to Southern California: great food, great ambiance, and excellent service.

It's continental cuisine at its most fun and finest I've had since NYC. Chef Azmin Ghahreman was born in Iran and educated in Switzerland, and lived and worked all over the world including Australia, Malaysia, Hawaii, Singapore and Turkey to name a few. He was executive chef at the AAA Five Diamond St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort & Spa before opening his own restaurant in Laguna Beach. Check out his extremely impressive credentials on his website.

Sapphire is a melting pot (no pun intended) of various international cuisines including French, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Asian, Pacific Rim, and California. From what I could tell of his menu this season, he's focusing mostly on Mediterranean and Asian flavors with a California twist. His fresh take on classic dishes and colorful yet restrained presentations make for a very energetic and emotional dining experience. When your dish arrives, the colors are dancing off the plate and you're so excited to try it. Every bite delivers one punch after another of flavor combinations that leaves you both satisfied and wanting more. Plainly put: Ghahreman makes you want more and more.

And if the food wasn't enough, the extensive imported and domestic wine list hand-picked by master sommelier Peter Neptune is sure to compliment any meal. If wine isn't your thing, then try one of the updated classic cocktails or "beers from around the world." Sapphire won Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence and the Sante Award for Best Bistro Wine List in California. Yet if you look at their list, it's not that long at all, and I appreciate that. I can't stand going to a restaurant that's going for quantity, not quality; at Sapphire the wines and beers have been narrowed down for you so anything you choose is sure to be nothing short than excellent. And some, downright life-changing.

Although we only went for brunch, it was fantastic, and I highly, highly recommend it.

Here's Trajan sitting by the outdoor crystals and rocks fireplace (don't ask - just go see it for yourself in person), keeping warm on a cooler fall morning:

And here's Catia getting strapped into her high chair ready to sample some "yum-yums." I should also mention that it's surprisingly kid-friendly (for brunch at least). Some places here Laguna and Newport more so scoff at the very idea of children coming to brunch (because God forbid you have a toddler around who might "ruin" your experience, right?). I appreciated that very much. And they had a full kids menu and list of juices, and were smart and kind enough to bring out her food first so we could feed her then enjoy our meal.

For my brunch, I chose the Brunch Box. It came with my choice of mimosa (pictured) or bloody mary and coffee. And these delicious freshly made and served very warm Asiago rolls:

Andrew had a bloody mary for his drink. He said it was one of the best he's ever had:

My "brunch box" was a sampling of the chef's choices for the day, served in a bento box. I thought that was ingenious. I had an orange yogurt with raspberry preserve and mixed fruit granola (top left corner); seared Ahi tuna on mixed greens with green beans, crispy wonton strips and citrus ponzu vinaigrette (middle top row); a deliciously moist southern fried chicken salad with cranberries, candied pecans and corn (top right); maple spiced french toast (bottom left); and scrambled eggs with turkey chili and salsa fresca (bottom right). Everything was a perfect bite and for me, who LOVES to taste things, it was the perfect brunch item:

Andrew had the Turkey Hash which was roasted turkey, poached egg, salsa fresca and potato straws:

Simple ingredients but executed perfectly for a delightful (and healthier!) take on the traditional hash. I would have this again myself.

For kids menu, Cati enjoyed the scrambled eggs, maple bacon and potatoes:

And with a fantastic main course, we couldn't pass up trying dessert. We got the passion fruit pavlova with berries and mango sauce that dame highly recommended by our waiter:

I've had better pavlovas in the sense that I found this one to be a little soggy, but the flavor combinations were excellent and I really liked the fresh take with the passion fruit and mango on the common berry pavlova. I probably wouldn't have this again as I'd want to try something else, but if you're interested in a very light and fruity dessert, this hits the mark.
Andrew and I want to return for dinner and drinks, where Sapphire takes you even further west and east on your culinary adventure. Stay tuned for Sapphire Part 2!
In addition and right next door is Sapphire Pantry which if you're a cheese lover like I am, you MUST go visit. Various hard-to-find authentic imported cheeses from around the world including Chimay, real Roquefort (where you can actually buy a wedge, not just crumbs at the market) and excellent various goat cheeses from around the world. I highly recommend going here for a visit. The Pantry also imports hard to find items like HP sauce from the UK, truffle oils and actual jarred in oil truffles. You can't find this stuff at your local anything market.
Looking forward to going back soon!
Bon apetito!

1 comment:

Maryn said...

Warm asiago rolls? I must try this place! This is so exciting that you have a food blog - my new obsession!!