There’s nothing more romantic or relaxing than dining at Raya. I’ve been coming here through the years and have always liked the style of cuisine it serves. Last week, I was invited to preview the restaurant’s Spring Menu to showcase just a handful of the dishes available for the new season we’re sliding into.
As we gathered into the gorgeous expanse of the dining room overlooking the ocean, champagne was enjoyed all around as we sat down to enjoy what Chef de Cuisine Steve Wan had to offer that evening.
Chef Steve has been with The Ritz-Carlton for about 10 years and my previous experience with Steve was at a dinner several years ago in the private room of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel. I remember that evening well and recalled his outstanding dish that evening — crispy snapper!
As the sun sets into the horizon, our spectacular evening began with Jicama Ceviche Roll, a delightful morsel filled with dungeness crab, tiger shrimp, avocado, red onion, tomato and cilantro, in a bath of coconut aji amarillo and sweet chile. The combination of salty, sweet, tart and spicy was stupendous, teasing and tantalizing my tastebuds for more.
Lobster Taco is not a new item and I love everything about it. I’ve had it numerous times before and still love the little flour tortilla clipped with a mini clothespin with black bean puree, chile de arbol salsa, avocado and cilantro. These bite-sized tacos are three to an order and trust me, you won’t want to share.
We were also presented with a Mini Beef Huarache on the same plate. An a la carte portion is larger than this, ideal for sharing. Perfectly pink slices of prime NY strip steak with black bean puree, caramelized onions, manchego cheese and chile toreado, all enveloped in a soft tortilla, what more do you want, perhaps just another bite?
I’m usually not a big salad fan but Iberico Ham Arugula Salad had me hooked from the first bite. I don’t like a bunch of mixed greens in some dressing, but this was different. This had pea sprout shoots, something I love immensely. Together with other things I adore, such as pickled mustard seeds and pickled onions, the combination of sweet, tart and spicy, with the saltiness of Iberico Ham and manchego cheese was impeccable.
Looking for a fish dish? Then look no further than the well-prepared Halibut, flaky and delicate with perfectly executed tempura jalapeno bits, boniato (white sweet potato) puree, truffle corn salsa and chive oil. A light yet very satisfying entree for those not wanting red meat.
Other entree items we tried included a duo of Chipotle Spiced Lamb Loin which possessed deep, rich meaty flavors and vibrantly spiced components. The celeriac puree, spring pea, carrot and piloncillo (Mexican unrefined brown sugar) glaze did not overpower the star of the show.
Sharing the plate was Piloncillo Prawn, Chef Steve’s take on Chinese honey walnut shrimp, a dish I dislike immensely. It was so delicious and devoid of mayo, usually found in abundance on honey walnut shrimp. The morita chile, candied pepitas and cilantro added crunch, spice, and a burst of je ne sais quoi about it. I loved it and would come back for this alone.
After all that food, I didn’t think I would have room for dessert. I never save space in my stomach anyway, but Citrus Torte was so airy I managed a few spoonfuls. Executive Pastry Chef Brian Sundeen’s choice of using gaviota strawberries over other varietals meant we were lavished with the sweetest, most full bodied berries you’ll ever taste. The aromatic yuzu curd is intoxicating, however, the piece de resistance was the scoop of strawberry margarita sorbet with hints of saltiness completing the total margarita experience.
Spring is but a few short months and in order to partake in these and more menu items, make sure you visit Raya soon before it’s time to roll out the summer menu.
Raya at The Ritz Carlton
1 Ritz Carlton Drive
Dana Point, CA 92629
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