Sundried Tomato Restaurant and Bar
31781 Camino Capistrano
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
Well, this would be the second of our two OC Restaurant Week visits for this year. As is the case in most years, I always have visions of eating out every night at a different restaurant to take advantage of the great deals that happen during restaurant week, but our schedule always gets in the way, so we settle for trying to fit restaurant trips in on our rare off days. On this rainy Saturday, we chose to stay close to home and headed down the freeway to Sundried Tomato in San Juan Capistrano.
Sundried Tomato opened for business in 2003 right next door to Ruby's Diner and across the street from the rambunctious Swallows Inn. With the historic San Juan Capistrano Mission just a couple blocks away, this area is usually packed with lots of tourists and locals looking for a bite to eat. Sundried Tomato also has another location farther south in San Clemente, which opened in 2009, but they closed their Laguna Beach spot five years ago.
To be truthful, I have not really heard too much about Sundried Tomato. I can not recall reading about it on any of the restaurant blogs that I read religiously, and I have not seen it reviewed in any of the magazines and newspapers that cover food in OC. I checked out their website before coming here, and the menu definitely intrigued me. They had a great diversity on their menu which would please almost any of your dining companions. Starters, salads, soups, sandwiches, and larger plates reign here, with many selections offered in each category.
I had made reservations for 7pm, and the restaurant and bar area was packed on this drizzly Saturday evening. After a brief trip to the bar, we were alerted to the fact that our table was ready. The dining area is comprised of probably twenty or so tables, comfortably decorated, and darkened ever so slightly to emote an air of date night ambiance to the scene. Looking around the room, the Sundried Tomato definitely attracts an older, more refined crowd. Enough about the restaurant, let's get to the real reason we came here, the food.
Right after ordering, we were presented with bread service, which was a soft sourdough and a possible tomato spiked butter. The bread came out warm, and the butter spread nicely, with just a hint of tomato to it. They were a little stingy about refilling the bread basket, as this was the only serving we got, but we didn't ask for more since we had quite a bit of food coming our way.
I was here for the $30 restaurant week menu, which was a three-course affair, starting with the Soup of the Day, which happened to be Lobster Bisque on this Saturday. They nailed the essence of lobster bisque, but I was at least hoping for some lobster pieces or even flakes in this but I was left still wanting. Good bisque though, nice and smooth.
Katie for some reason shied away from the OC Restaurant Week menu once we sat down, she went rogue and ordered off the regular menu, starting with this Mini Rustic Jar ($9.50). She had the choice of either having a goat cheese/sundried tomato option or the one she ended up with, the olive tapenade. I'm not really a big fan of olives, so I found this too salty, but Katie enjoyed it immensely with the provided flatbread that came alongside this.
We might as well stay with Katie's meal, the Housemade Pappardelle with Chicken added ($24). This dish was so much more than just chicken and pasta though. It also contained asparagus tips, prosciutto, mushrooms, goat cheese, sundried tomatoes, and the rare beurre rouge sauce, which is a French sauce made with red wine and red wine vinegar, which gave this a little tanginess. Katie liked this but had a hard time finishing it, because there was so much. I happily obliged her by finishing it off. I thought the chicken was nice and tender, the noodles were done well, but what really made this dish for me was the sauce, which tied it all together.
I had the choice of four entrees on the restaurant week menu; salmon, a pasta-less vegetable lasagna, a chicken dish, and finally what I ultimately ended up with, this All Natural Prime Flat Iron Steak. This steak came with a cilantro-lime glaze, which kind of reminded me of a more vibrant chimichurri. The steak was cooked perfectly to my requested medium rare. It was very juicy, but I did kind of lose interest near the end of my time eating this. Maybe a little extra sauce next time. The shoestring fries were fine, but I prefer a little thicker french fry personally.
Not included in my meal, but I really wanted to try their Gouda Mac and Cheese ($6.50) on this cool and rainy evening. Really this should have been called mostaccioli and cheese because they use a mostaccioli noodle instead of the tired macaroni noodle. Mostaccioli and cheese still has a great ring to it I think. Anyways, this is obviously not you basic noodle and cheese dish. The noodles were done perfectly al dente, and the gouda was pretty subdued but present. Too much in the way of greenery topping this, but a very comforting dish which is just what you want on a damp and dreary evening like this one.
The finale of my meal at Sundried Tomato was this Creme Brulee Duo, which featured both a vanilla bean and chocolate ramekin of creme brulee. I had never had a chocolate creme brulee before, and after this one, I have to say I'm hooked. It kind of tasted like a chocolate souffle, but more creamy of course. The vanilla bean was nicely done, but could not compete with the chocolate version.
Katie did not want to be left out of the dessert fun, so she opted to try the Gelato of the Day ($6) which happened to be Salted Caramel on this evening. I know I'm supposed to be over the whole salted caramel thing by now but I'm still on board with it. These two little scoops of gelato had a good tinge of caramel to them and were boosted with a salty finish topping them. A light portion size which was appreciated after everything that we ate on this evening.
Sundried Tomato impressed us on this restaurant week visit. Everything was above average, but there was not that one item that I was over the moon about that I will have to return here for, with the exception of maybe the chocolate creme brulee. With that being said, Sundried Tomato is a good choice for people who want to experience a great date night spot out in San Juan. There's plenty on the menu to choose from, which runs the gamut from American standards to slightly Italian fare. Even though our server was doing double duty in the bar and in the dining room, he did a great job keeping tabs on us, while keeping things moving along for us. Can't wait for next years OC Restaurant Week to roll around again.
Out of five corks, (because the first wine produced in California was at the Mission in San Juan back in 1783, and no I wasn't there), five being best to zero being worst, Sundried Tomato gets 3 corks.
For more information about Sundried Tomato, head to their website here: http://sundriedtomatobistro.com/