Surf & Sand’s Splashes
A Laguna Beach landmark for 60 years, the Surf and Sand Resort continues to remain a desired destination for Lagunans and tourists alike. To the right of the hotel’s main entrance, an ocean view and pleasant al fresco seating area await you. Several steps from the outdoor lounge area, well trained mixologist and pastry chef Ryan stands at the helm of a fully stocked bar, kindly offering to mix up intriguing cocktails (“jellied caviar” infused libations anyone?). Through the lobby and up to the fourth floor, Splashes restaurant is gloriously perched 25 feet above the shoreline with breathtaking white-water views.
Manning the kitchen of the recently remodeled Splashes is executive chef Jeff Armstrong, who creates Mediterranean-American inspired “coastal cuisine.” Armstrong’s culinary resume dates back to his teen years as a pizza shop employee and later as a culinary school graduate in Arizona.
I found freshly sliced Fuji apples plated with pork jowl (cured and smoked cheek of hog) seasoned with togarashi and maple yogurt to be a pleasant flavor combination. The crisp fruit slices and pork combo was a comforting reminder of my beloved mother’s pork chops and applesauce. The light dusting with togarashi, a Japanese seven-flavor chili pepper spice, awakened my senses with a burst of spiciness, while the creamy sweet yogurt was a smoothing counterpoint to its pungency.
My appetizer of roasted enoke mushrooms, pickled sunchokes, radishes and pistachios was plated with baby arugula, but the lifeless flavors left no noticeable impression upon my taste buds.
Though my second course of duck was well prepared, the gamey meat lacked depth of flavor. The combo pear and dried fruit chutney was a lovely accoutrement, but not enough to allow the dull duck to stand alone in its own essence.
After experiencing two dishes that failed to excite my senses, coming to my rescue my palate were huge, seared scallops dressed with avocado mousse and farro risotto. The succulent crustaceans, nicely seared with a golden crust, were cooked to perfection and released sweet juices with my first bite. Finally, I was pleased.
As a child, the aromas of homemade lemon meringue pie with fresh lemon zest and golden-glossy meringue had me salivating before the steamy sweet treat was removed from my Aunt Lydia’s oven. Therefore, I was disappointed when Splashes’ version of a lemon meringue pie was served “deconstructed.” The brick of tart lemon curd with meringue drops was not visually appealing. And though I credit the chef and staff for creativity with this dessert, why top an average lemon confection with the grassy flavor of bitter greens?
Should you decide to venture over to the Surf & Sand Resort, do yourself a favor and trek downstairs to Splashes bar for a pre-dinner cocktail or light repast. Suspended over the shoreline and open to light ocean breezes, the bar is a lovely place to sip a cocktail mixed by 13-year veteran bartender Ken. The ocean view and my smooth martini along with Ken’s company made me want to ditch my dinner reservations and just hang out at the bar all night absorbing the place’s positive vibe.
Splashes Restaurant, Surf & Sand Resort, 1555 S. Coast Highway. (949) 497-4477. Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Laguna local Patty Pinto serves up the Hot Dish on restaurant offering on her blog, now at OCinSite.com