Now that tourist season is over, it’s safe to dine out again at popular restaurants. One of those is Las Brisas in Laguna Beach, which offers endless views of the garden and the ocean beyond. This is a perfect time to check out the new two-level bar, new weekend brunch menu, and new patio menu.
The revamped culinary program is now under the direction of Bay Area chef Michael Gaines, who grew up in Orange County.
The weekend brunch is served from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. The four-course prix fixe menu is $45. Start with a selection of fresh fruits and sweet breads, followed by a choice of Pozole Verde, Salmon Tostadas or Yogurt & Granola. Then, dive in to an entrée of Crab Scramble, Filet and Lobster Enchiladas, French Toast or Asparagus Omelet. Dessert is either a Trio of Sorbet or Traditional Flan.
I was curious about the patio menu, so three fellow food writers and I brought our appetites with us to sample and share tastes of the patio menu on a warm Wednesday afternoon.
We shared several appetizers: the white shrimp and crab ceviche with aguachile verde, pickled red onion, and avocado ($18), grilled corn with chili, lime, mayo, and cotija ($11), and tuna poke with avocado, mango, almonds, and cilantro ($26).
All three scored big with our group, especially the corn, which was shaved off the cob by our server. The ceviche was wonderful, and the poke, while a little pricey, was fresh and delicious.
For entrees, we skipped over the torta, fish and chips, and cheeseburger in favor of tacos. Five different ones are listed: sautéed shrimp tacos with avocado, pickled red onion, and salsa roja ($19); grilled rockfish tacos with cabbage, radish, and chipotle mayo ($17); al pastor tacos with charred onion, pineapple, cilantro, and salsa verde ($16); carne asada tacos with salsa roja, white onion, and cilantro ($21); and mushroom tacos with avocado, salsa roja, white onion, and cilantro ($16).
The tacos come a la carte with three tacos per order, so we added traditional rice and beans to complete the meal.
After sharing the tacos, the clear winner was the al pastor, which had pronounced flavor and seasoning. I like shrimp tacos, but found the patio menu ones uninteresting and needing more sauce. Suggestion—ask for some sauce on the side, or order chips and salsa or guacamole and add some to the tacos.
Las Brisas also has a new weekday happy hour offered Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. and available throughout the entire restaurant, featuring $5 bottled beers and $4 off house wines and specialty cocktails.
Another good reason to visit Las Brisas: a Daou wine dinner on Oct. 3 featuring a six-course menu with paired Daou wines.
Chef Michael Gaines collaborates with proprietor Georges Daou to feature a six-course dinner with wine pairings. Mr. Daou is making the trip from Paso Robles to Laguna Beach to pour his wines for this event, which includes wines from the coveted Reserve and Estate tiers.
The evening will begin with a reception, where guests will enjoy heirloom tomato and stone fruit gazpacho paired with Sauvignon Blanc 2018, followed by dinner in the main dining room. The dinner and wine pairings will include salmon crudo with Chardonnay 2018; roasted chicken breast with Pinot Noir 2018; chipotle-agave glazed pork belly with Bodyguard by DAOU 2017; seared duck breast with Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2017; and filet of beef with Estate Soul of a Lion 2016. As an endcap to the meal, the dessert course will feature Las Brisas’ specialty chocolate cake.
Cost for this wine dinner is $150 per person. For more information, visit Lasbrisaslagunabeach.com.