I have lived in Orange County for 11 years. In all this time, I have never had the pleasure of eating at Studio. Recently, I dined here with a friend, and enjoyed a special tasting menu by Chef Craig Strong against a backdrop of a beautiful Laguna Beach sunset.
We began with a mocktail to toast the evening, before our meal. An array of amuse bouche is offered, to whet the palate, including a decadent French onion tart, and a cone filled with sweet crab.
First Course: Crimson Beet Tartare is a stunning vegetarian offering of tender beets enveloped in a ring of horseradish crème fraiche. A golden beet ‘yolk” mimics the egg yolk that accompanies a traditional tartare.
Second Course: Ahi Tuna Poke a la Chef Strong includes a combination of raw ahi, and translucent smoked eel, paired with a palette of pickled vegetables worthy of an artist’s canvas. The minimalist plate is packed with a myriad of flavors and textures which teases and tantalizes the senses, and I savor how the ingredients playfully frolick in my mouth.
Third Course: Sautéed Hudson Valley Foie Gras is utter decadence. The combination of kumquat, and onion marmalade add sweetness to the rich and unctuous foie. The nasturtium garnish not only adds a burst of color, but also, a welcome hint of peppery bitterness to the mix.
Fourth Course: Seared Maine Scallops is a perfectly executed dish with a quenelle of salsify puree, compressed pineapple, cactus pear, and arugula. The mollusk is exquisite, tender, with a melt-in-the-mouth texture, that stands solid on its own. The accoutrements just make the dish so much better.
Fifth Course: Sautéed Sea Bass is another extraordinary item with crispy skin on top, and moist flesh nestled underneath. Perhaps the most interesting ingredient accompaniment is the use of golden cordyceps, a fungi I am very familiar with as it is used in Chinese medicinal tonics. Its texture is reminiscent of enoki mushrooms, and adds a lovely component to this dish. Add to it some delightful lemon ricotta cavatelli, asparagus, and clam nage, and what you are presented with is a cacophony of tantalizing flavors and textures in each mouthful.
Sixth Course: Roasted Venison Loin is perfectly prepared, encompassing a hearty winter feel. With braised red cabbage, rutabaga, wild mushrooms, spruce, and finished in a veneur sauce, it is robust and will definitely appeal to those looking for something meaty.
Seventh Course: Guanaja Chocolate Sphere is an ideal finish to an exquisite meal. This dessert is an experience in itself. Chocolate sauce is poured directly over the sphere until it is unable to bear the weight of the sauce, and hence, collapses to reveal what’s hidden inside. Paired with sea salt caramel, and an intoxicating Guinness foam. Not to be missed.
As if that isn’t enough food, a selection of petit fours arrive to complete the meal.
The Tasting Menu at Studio is priced at $175/$260 with wine pairing. Menu items change regularly. There is also a Vegetarian Tasting Menu priced at $140/$225 with wine pairing.
Studio at Montage Laguna Beach
30801 Coast Hwy
Laguna Beach, CA 92651