Even after a change in chefs, the delightful Studio at the Montage Laguna Beach resort remains on our Top 40 list. It helps when the new chef is as talented as Craig Strong, a familiar face to Southern California fine-dining enthusiasts, as he helmed The Dining Room at Pasadena's The Ritz-Carlton and
The Langham Huntington, Pasadena for many years. Strong is a playful whiz in the kitchen, composing definitive bites of modern Cal-Med-influenced food. Strong does his own pastry, too.