Some friends are in town from Canada and I’m on a mission to take them around for memorable experiences. On their last evening, we are at Driftwood Kitchen for an early dinner. I want them to witness one of the most beautiful sunsets in southern California before they go back home.
I order some appetizers while my friends snap photos from the table and on the outside deck, taking in the sprawling, magnificent view of Laguna Beach. I have not been to Driftwood Kitchen for quite some time, so I am not aware that we are selecting from a new Spring menu until a week later.
My friend is eager to try Caramelized Onion & Leek Soup ($9) which turns out to be a ‘stoup’ rather than soup. The gruyere cheese over the crostini takes over the tureen as we struggle to spoon up the oxtail broth. The broth is delicious, with bits of oxtail in the mix, however, there just isn’t enough of it to make this a soup. But if you’re a fan of cheese, you’ll find this extremely pleasing as there is a lot of it.
Yellowfin Tuna Tartare ($14) is one of the best versions of ‘poke tacos’ I’ve eaten of late. A slightly sweet and salty crispy miso and sesame “taco shell” is delicious on its own. The tuna tartare is well seasoned and works harmoniously with the taco. I want to come back for these again soon!
We all agree the next item of Grilled Spanish Octopus ($13) is stunning. The octopus is perfectly executed with great texture. The chick pea puree is flavorful and the tomato caper vinaigrette deliciously tart. I love this dish, and am fighting with my friends for the last bite.
My friend’s husband is hankering for Escargot Gratin ($12) and graciously shares his with us. The snails are tender bathed in a lemon garlic butter sauce. We dip the caramelized onion and dill bread into it, not wanting to leave any of it in the grooved plate.
The sun is setting and it is a picturesque portrait over the horizon. As we delight in the beauty of nature’s backdrop, our entrees arrive on the table.
Butcher Steak & Pork Belly ($24) is a solid choice if you’re looking for something meaty. The chimichurri sauce, roasted mushrooms, and crispy red onions are good accoutrements.
The Lobster Spaghetti Carbonara “Rustichella d’Abruzzio” ($22) is a tasty pasta dish, but can benefit from a little more sauce, as it is on the dry side. The guanciale and grated pecorino romano add salty umami to the noodles. The plate is topped with a fried egg rather than a poached one which makes it harder to mix cohesively into the pasta. However, it is a delicious contender on the Spring menu.
The star of our meal is definitely Whole Fried Branzino ($27), a stunning presentation in itself. It is exquisitely executed with a piquant ponzu sauce, adding a nice acidity to the fish. This is the epitome of a well thought-out dish, one which makes me want to come back for more.
Driftwood Kitchen is one of those places where you’ll want to come for the view, but you’ll stay for the wonderful appetizers and the whole branzino.
619 Sleepy Hollow Lane
Laguna Beach, CA 92651