Studio Montage Laguna Beach hotel chef Benjamin Martinek Studio
Montage Laguna Beach
30801 S. Coast Hwy. (Montage Resort Dr.)
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Cuisine: French / California
Perhaps OC's most scenic and romantic restaurant with high-class cuisine and a list of 2,500 different wines.
Openings: Open for Dinner Tues.-Sun. 5 p.m.-10 p.m.
Studio, Laguna Beach, CA

Studio Restaurant Review:

About the restaurant and décor: The word "studio" may bring to mind an artist's workshop filled with painted canvases in various states of progress, but this Studio presents polished seasonal culinary creations. The Montage Laguna Beach built the restaurant as a small Craftsman-style house atop a gorgeous bluff with enviable panoramic views of South Laguna's incomparable shore, rolling hills, hilltop mansions and curvy coastline. Guests can sit on the romantic patio at sunset or feel cozy inside the restaurant with its glowing candlelight, high ceilings, warm woods and white tablecloths. There's also a special chef's table where diners can enjoy an interactive meal and look into the marble counter-topped kitchen with its centerpiece, an imported custom-made Molteni oven.

Likes: The cliffside ocean view.
Dislikes: None.

About the food: The French cuisine with California influences works wonderfully well at Studio, as this resort is an ode to the sophisticated California lifestyle and palate. Better yet: chef de cuisine Benjamin Martinek, who hails from Colorado, carries forth the restaurant's exacting tradition of exquisitely plated dishes whose balanced composition draws inspiration from the best ingredients from trusted purveyors. If you're lucky, locally-sourced uni will be on the menu, where it's accompanied simply yet effectively with brown butter and yuzu. If not, Martinek's skill assures you're still in for a memorable meal. Traditionally elegant bites like Niman Ranch dry-aged strip loin share menu space with fresh takes on newer classics, like the must-indulge roasted mero arctic sea bass with sunchoke and matsutake mushrooms or the roasted pork belly with garlic soubise, black-eyed peas and sherry cipollini. Desserts have included a rhubarb crème brûlée with Thai basil, strawberry and brown sugar. The six-course tasting menu ($185) is worth considering, especially with the carefully chosen paired wines (an additional $95; $185 for the grand wine tasting). A vegetarian tasting menu is also available.

About the wine: If money is no object, then let one of the sommeliers cultivated by Troy Smith take you on a wine tasting journey around the world by pairing each dish with wine from Studio’s list of 2,500 different selections.

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