Thursday, November 19, 2015

Driftwood Kitchen, Not Just a Pretty Venue

Driftwood Kitchen
619 Sleepy Hollow Lane
Laguna Beach, CA 92651

Work has been pretty crazy for both Katie and I lately. She recently had her year end, which means 10 to 13 hour days at her job. My job has been hit by people going on disability, finding better jobs, or just not wanting to deal with the public anymore. Since we are short staffed, that means I get the pleasure of working six days a week. That's sarcasm if you could not tell.

Anyways, this has not left us anytime to get away for a little mini vacation since we got back from our honeymoon in April. I decided to mix things up for us on a recent Sunday, and surprise Katie with dinner with a view, and a quick walk on the beach. I decided on dinner at a restaurant I had heard a lot about, and one where we could witness the sunset. We headed to Driftwood Kitchen in Laguna Beach.

As you can see in the picture above, the view at Driftwood Kitchen is not exaggerated. During our visit, we witnessed almost everyone here taking time to make sure to take at least one picture on their phones. I was a little worried that with a view like this, that the food would be a secondary thought. Many beach restaurants rely on their proximity to the water as a drawing point, and take shortcuts with their food. Let's see if that would be how it plays out for us on this evening.

We arrived a little early for our 6pm reservation, but it was no problem getting seated right away. Driftwood Kitchen has the feel of a beach house for sure, which I was alerted to the fact that this used to be the former home of the Beach House Restaurant. Light colors, and good looking servers and clientele, brought to mind a real vacation vibe. The row of tables on the patio were in very high demand on this evening, with the hostess not knowing when one would be available. People seemed to linger as sunset quickly approached. We were seated inside, against the window nearest the patio, and had an excellent vantage point of the shore.

The cuisine here is the brainchild of Chef Rainer Schwarz, whose food we have tasted at various food festivals, but we were excited to try his food on his home turf. The menu promises fresh cuisine that's prepared simply, with a focus on seasonal ingredients. His menu is organized by small and large plates, along with soup, salads, and desserts. We had the view for sure, but I was excited to view the food hitting the table. Let's see what we thought of Driftwood Kitchen.

Since we were so close to the ocean, seafood was on our minds, so we started with the Dungeness Crab Cake ($15). This crab cake was served alongside an Asian pear and endive salad and a dill lebni, which I learned is a kefir cheese, which is made with live cultures, and has the consistency of sour cream. The crab cake here was pretty solid. Not a lot of filler holding it together, so you got plenty of the natural crab flavor coming through. The salad was a nice add on, but was easily overshadowed by the crab cake. I found the lebni an odd choice here. I've never had sour cream with a crab cake before, and it did not work here. I'd have rather of had a tarter sauce, or maybe a softer sauce that went better with the crab cake.  

Since we were experiencing a real vacation vibe, why not throw caution to the wind and order these Driftwood Fries ($9) as well. I had heard good things about these fries, which are hand cut from Kennebec potatoes. The fries by themselves were good, but could have been a little more crisp for my taste. However, these fries were pushed to even greater heights by the awesome herb aioli that these came with. Delicious, and even the house made ketchup was not as awful as other house made ketchup's almost always inevitably end up. Easy to see why these fries get such high praise.

As you can tell by these pictures, the sun had set between our appetizers and our entrees, as we definitely needed the flash to capture our dinners. Up first is Katie's selection, the Lobster Spaghetti Carbonara ($22). This mound of spaghetti may look small, but there was a lot going on with it. It was topped with grated pecorino romano, guanciale, (an Italian cured meat made from the cheeks or jowl of the pig), a farm fresh egg, and of course lobster. When this was placed in front of Katie, I thought that the serving size was a little on the small size, but a little of this went a long way since it was so rich. Katie liked that this had plenty of lobster included in it, which was prepared well, and very juicy. She also commented that she loved the layering of flavors in this, and it kept her taste buds guessing as she made her way through this plate.

Not the most picturesque plate I have ever photographed, but when I saw this Butcher Steak and Pork Belly ($24) on the menu, I had to have it. I mean, two meats on one plate, and one of them is pork belly? Sign me up. This double dose of meat came with some roasted mushrooms, a chimichurri, and some fried red onions. Both meats were delicious, with the steak cooked to a wonderful medium rare, and paired nicely with the chimichurri for a slight Argentine influence. The pork belly was not to be outdone, as it had a great flavor to it, and was fried wonderfully, resembling a great hunk of slightly fatty bacon. Divine. Even with some great seafood options on the menu at Driftwood, I would be hard pressed to deviate from ordering this on my future visits here.

Not on the dessert menu anymore, but I had heard great things about this Sticky Toffee Cake ($9), so I inquired about it. Our waiter informed us that it is what's offered to people celebrating an event at the restaurant. I asked if we could order it, and he obliged. It was delicious, with a nice salted caramel and a whipped cream to accompany it. Next time we will definitely make up an event we are celebrating, just so we can have this dessert, and save nine dollars at the same time.

I'm pleased to report that after eating this meal at Driftwood Kitchen, I can definitely say that they are not just relying on their view to bring people through the door, the food is almost as fantastic as their vantage point over the Pacific. Even though we were in the touristy area of Laguna Beach, I did not feel that the prices were too crazy for what you get at Driftwood. Service was on point, and very friendly. This restaurant was the perfect spot for a little two hour getaway from the hassles of real life. We're looking forward to heading back again real soon.

Out of five sand dunes, (because driftwood is sometimes the foundations of sand dunes), five being best to zero being worst, Driftwood Kitchen gets 3.5 sand dunes.

For more information about Driftwood Kitchen, go to their website by clicking here:

Driftwood Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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