I’m still trying to catch up after the holidays and it’s not been easy disciplining myself to buckle down and start writing. One of the restaurants that’s long past due for a review is Embarcadero in Rancho Santa Margarita. Now, everyone I’ve mentioned this place to has been responding with “huh? where? what?”
Yes, Rancho Santa Margarita sounds far, but isn’t really. It’s just a little bit past Mission Viejo and if you already live out that way, then you’re already there! Why not pop on over and check them out?
Chef/owner George Valdovino is passionate about what he serves his guests. His cuisine is themed after the diversity of cultures you find in San Francisco — hence, the name Embarcadero! We left our evening’s meal up to Chef Valdovinom, allowing him to prepare for us what he felt best reflected his menu.
** please note photos may not reflect the a la carte portions**
We began with Wedge Tower ($10), a chunk of romaine heart topped with grilled zucchini, feta cheese, cherry tomatoes and drizzled with, pesto vinaigrette and a house-made ranch dressing.
Maine Lobster Grilled Cheese ($16) featuring sharp cheddar cheese and large chunks of lobster between toasted sourdough bread. Personally I felt the lobster chunks were way too big, but you definitely won’t be complaining about the lack of this tasty crustacean. This was served with a perfectly tart tomato bisque.
Pan Seared Halibut ($28) is perfectly executed. Moist, flaky fish atop of smoked mozzarella polenta cakes, corn chowder and asparagus topped with micro-greens. The cream sauce is not too heavy and the corn makes for a nice hint of sweetness.
I totally loved the Pan Seared Scallops ($26) which were accompanied by the most delicious Andouille sausage succotash. There was edamame tossed in, giving it both color and texture. I would love this succotash as an available side dish to go with other entrees!
Meat lovers will like the New York Steak ($28) served with a side of delightful Brussels sprout slaw. The red wine reduction is flavorful and rich and adds another level of depth to the meat.
After that dinner, I couldn’t stop thinking about trying out the Sunday brunch they have here, but it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I gathered a group of my friends together to check it out. At $19.99 per person it was a steal!
There were several salads including a tomato, mozzarella and basil with balsamic vinaigrette and another similar to Chinese chicken salad. Four salad dressings were also available for your choosing.
I was especially enamored by the seared ahi tuna with cucumber slices and edamame served with a soy based sauce. I had quite a few portions of this and still wanted more.
The other thing I eat a lot of at buffets are the ‘peel and eat shrimp‘. Here, they were a good size, large and plump, served with a house-made cocktail sauce. I would just come and eat a pound of this!
My son is a bacon fiend and even before we arrived he said “there better be bacon mommy!” Lucky for him, there was applewood smoked bacon and these awesome sausages to be had. The latter was especially good — salty with a pleasing texture.
Meat lovers will love the beef roast and baked ham. I’m not a fan of ham but I relished in the roast beef with some spicy horseradish!
The salmon with pesto sauce was also surprisingly good. The fish was tender and moist — something not always achievable at a buffet.
One of my friends loved the Eggs Benedict so much she had two portions. These aren’t the traditional kind but rather, topped with a chipotle based Hollandaise and layered with applewood smoked bacon instead of Canadian bacon or ham.
There were a few more items like roasted potatoes as well as mac n cheese. I’m sure some of the items rotate from week to week, but everything was fresh, tasty and well prepared. I was very impressed by this spread for a mere $20! For $3 more, you can opt to have bottomless champagne or mimosas. The brunch buffet also comes with a soft drink of your choice, tea or coffee.
I hope you’ll make the trip out to RSM to check out Embarcadero. I have a $50 gift certificate generously donated by the restaurant for one of my readers to win. Leave me a comment with your full name and why you would be visiting Embarcadero in the near future. Entries run until Sunday, January 13. A winner will be announced on Monday. Best of luck!
Embarcadero California Bistro
22332 El Paseo
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688