True story… I thought Teemu Selanne was Samoan. Going off the name, I seriously thought he was Samoan. Then, I was told he is Finnish. Boy did I feel stupid. From everything I’ve heard, Teemu Selanne is a class act, and so many of my friends have been raving about his Laguna restaurant, Selanne Steak Tavern. I finally made my way down to see what the fuss was all about.
First off, if you are planning to come here, I suggest using the valet parking. It is accessible via Mountain Road into the alleyway. Then, it is a short walk around the corner into the restaurant. I was a little taken aback by how beautiful the restaurant is. Since I’ve never been to French 75 before, I had no preconceived ideas as to what the space looked like. However, my dining companion informed me that they had definitely turned it from a duck to a swan.
The restaurant is not small by any means comprising four dining areas: the patio, the bar, a dining room downstairs and a secluded upstairs room perfect for a private party. The white theme is consistent throughout, creating a rather elegant feel while still retaining a casual beach city environment.
We started our evening at the bar for drinks with our friend. I was so thrilled to see Michael, the previous barkeep at 370 Common, another favorite of mine in Laguna Beach. Michael makes awesome cocktails like the Manhattan using rye bourbon.
To accompany the drinks, we nibbled on the Artisanal Cheese & Charcuterie Sampler ($22), a chef’s daily selection of artisanal cheese and cured charcuterie served with the chef’s homemade jams, candied walnuts and fruit.
After bidding goodbye to our friend, we moved into the dining room to partake on other delectables the menu had to offer. We were seated in the room on the left upon entering the restaurant. Our server Stephen was delightful and really knowledgeable. We asked so many questions and at times, he had to run back to the kitchen to garner an answer for us.
Our meal began with an Amuse Bouche of sweet corn bisque, a silky smooth soup embodying the fresh fragrance of the beautiful corn currently in season. It was SO good I wanted more!
Scarlet Beet “Ravioli” ($14) — ravioli in quotes — are beet slices cut and shaped like ravioli. Artisanal goat cheese is layered in between two slices and topped with mache, arugula and frisee. The greens are dressed with a warm golden beet vinaigrette and sprinkled with crunchy hazelnuts. Candied orange rind add some sweet tart flavors to the dish. The plate was bursting with a palette of spring colors and tasted just as gorgeous as it looked.
I will never pass up a chance to order scallops and Pacific Diver Scallops ($19) is a must! These sushi-grade beauties were executed to perfection, so tender and absolutely delightful. Accoutrements of cauliflower and pickled shimeiji mushroom, in a white balsamic reduction with butter and black garlic, brought the entire dish together. It was sublime, with a rich luxurious finish and a hint of tartness. This is the dish I will be returning for again!
When Stephen brought out our intermezzo of raspberry sorbet topped with Sofia champagne, a smile came to my face. It was so refreshing to see a restaurant go the extra mile by offering each and every diner this course. I remember my dad taking us to fancy restaurants when we were young and explaining to us this course, usually, a sorbet of some sort.
We couldn’t forego the Forest Mushroom Risotto ($28) and were very pleased we ordered it. The risotto was prepared with canaroli rice, butter, onion, garlic, white wine and vegetable stock creating an undeniably savory finish. The combination of trumpet, shimeiji and shiitake mushrooms blended together for an exuberant heady aroma which was so addicting we couldn’t stop eating it. Add to that mascarpone and parmesan foam, with an ever so light hint of truffle oil, and it was out of this world!
Our entrees of the evening was first, a New York Strip 12oz prime ($45) with a smidgen of Bordelaise sauce on the plate. I highly suggest ordering a side of this delicious sauce ($4) as you will definitely want more of it. Topped with a bone marrow butter infused with parsley, chive and chervil, this was one of the best steaks I’ve ever experienced.
One of the things I noticed is the use of chervil recently. First, at A Restaurant, and now here. I truly believe it is a highly underused herb and I’m glad to see it represented more lately.
We chose the other entree purely because the description Stephen gave of the Maine Lobster ($40 half/$76 full) was too good to resist. He tells us that the lobster is removed from its shell and placed in a cryovac bag. It is then run through a warm bath, not quite sous vide as that requires it to actually sit in the bath. Once at the desired temperature, it is then returned to the shell. The portion from its neck to head is removed and mixed with white wine, butter, cream, herbs, vegetables and crushed Ritz cracker. This creates a stuffing-like mixture which is then returned to the head part as a stuffing. The lobster is presented in a pan immersed in about a quarter inch of an intensely flavored saffron beurre fondue (like a beurre blanc but with saffron). I have no words to describe this except, ORDER IT!
If you’re looking for a side dish to accompany your entrees, the Trumpet Royale ($12) is awesome. Meaty trumpet mushrooms are cherrywood smoked, and then finished with an aged sherry.
When you leave your dinner and pick your car up from valet, you will find some mints on your dashboard with a little card thanking you for dining at Selanne Steak Tavern. Once again, a lovely touch found regularly at high end hotels in Europe and Asia. My friends were not wrong when they say Teemu Selanne is a class act! Every little detail of our dining experience is a true reflection of that!
Selanne Steak Tavern
1464 South Coast Hwy
Laguna Beach, CA 92651