I’m generally not impressed with restaurants offering a stunning a view. I find them relying on the gorgeous setting and slacking when it comes to the menu. Driftwood Kitchen is not one of those places. In fact, it exceeded my expectations when it comes to stellar cuisine. The ocean backdrop is just the icing on the cake.
We arrive a few minutes before it opened and were ushered into the waiting room. The waves were spectacular, but it was the homey room reminiscent of someone’s living room in the Hamptons, that made me love it even more. The room is cozy and the sofa so comfortable I was reluctant to get up after I had sunk my weary body into it.
After we were led to our table at the window’s edge, I quickly took a stroll inside the restaurant and was tickled to find that the warmth extends throughout. No matter where you end up sitting, you can be sure it will be a very inviting and gratifying one.
The cool breeze was pleasant, helping to alleviate the glare of the sun, however, it also meant none of my photos came out. Of course I was disappointed, but luckily, photographer extraordinaire, Anne Watson generously offered her photos for me to use.
** all food photographs courtesy of Anne Watson Photography**
Before anything else, I am presented with a plate of asiago monkey bread accompanied by a pat of butter dotted with black sea salt. A word of warning! It is highly addictive and you won’t want to stop — I couldn’t — however, you will regret it later when you’re too full to eat all the gorgeous dishes you have ordered.
For example, Cluster Tomato Salad ($14), something I highly recommend ordering, is a must if it’s still on the menu when you make it there. One of the things about Driftwood Kitchen is that ingredients are seasonal and Chef Rainer Schwarz only uses what’s currently available. Therefore, once the tomato season ends, so will this dish. The best part of this salad was the grilled plums, adding another level of sweetness, while Thai basil brings hints of freshness. I especially enjoyed the plum wine vinaigrette dressing and soft mozzarella.
I don’t know why I love panna cotta so much. Maybe it is the dreamy texture, but I was definitely a little skeptical about the goat cheese aspect of it. Goat Cheese Panna Cotta and Roasted Baby Beets Salad ($12) turned out to be one of the most delectable things I’d ever eaten. The panna cotta is smooth and creamy without the usual grassy, gamey aromas of goat cheese I tend to dislike. Lavender pumpernickel toasts exude floral hints, which, when eaten together with the panna cotta, and the absolutely addicting nature of the pistachio puree, is positively one of the best things I’ve ever eaten!
I’m definitely a sucker for soft-shell crabs and Buttermilk Fried Soft-shell Crab ($13) did not disappoint. Crispy on the outside and wonderfully soft on the inside, dip it into the spicy papaya seed dipping sauce and take bites of the green papaya slaw in between. So simple, yet immensely satisfying!
And on the topic of something else I absolutely adore, New Bedford Sea Scallops ($38) with Alba truffle risotto and portabella mushroom confit is my choice for entree. The scallops are perfectly executed with a mushroom confit so voluptuous and savory you’ll want to lick the plate.
Another respectable entree was Northern Atlantic Halibut Filet ($18) with Weiser Farm fingerling potato and a deliciously creamy corn fricasse — hidden underneath the fish — in an English pea sauce.
If you find room to fit dessert in, my favorite was the Gluten Free Rocky Road ($9), a deconstructed Ferrer Rocher, if you will, consisting of crunch bar, marshmallow sauce, chocolate sauce, smoked almonds and chocolate ice cream. Definitely share this as it is decadent and wickedly sinful!
Definitely a win in my book for an all-around great dining experience, especially if your’e trying to impress someone who also has a refined palate!
619 Sleepy Hollow Lane
Laguna Beach, CA 92651