Years ago, I came across Chef Steve Wan at a Chinese New Year dinner at The Ritz-Carlton. Fast forward a few years and he takes over the Chef de Cuisine position at Raya. Chef Wan is still at the helm and through the years, and recently, I was invited to sample some of the new dishes on Raya’s menu.
It would be crazy to think his dishes were prepared with my palate in mind, but I whenever I dine on Chef Wan’s creations, it’s as if he created them just for me!
But before food arrives, we are treated to some mouth-watering cocktails.
For appetizers, you may enjoy Hamachi Tiradito aji Amarillo, with Mandarin orange, salted konbu (kelp), jicama, cactus or the perfectly seasoned Ceviche de Leche, which includes seabass chunks, brazil nut milk, sweet potato, red onion, cilantro, and Peruvian sweety peppers.
Or, my personal favorite, Peruvian Scallop Crudo, served on the shell bathed in cucumber-green apple juice, a little kick from serrano peppers, red onions, and black salt.
One of my favorite items this evening is Crispy Lamb BBQ, sitting atop butternut puree, slivers of “ajo negro” or black garlic, and tangy white pear kimchee. Texturally it’s an exquisite mélange of different crispness melding together in harmony on the palate.
I was not able to partake in Oysters a la Brasa, but these BBQ oysters are topped with a charred tomatillo ponzu, and garlic butter and deemed delicious by my table-mates.
Albondigas is a hearty and robust pork meat ball dish, made even more unctuous by the egg and toast, yogurt crema fresca, and chipotle tomato sauce. Best to share this with the table as it is quite substantial on its own.
However, my favorites of the whole evening are the following two dishes. Chilean Seabass Poke Bowl, is everything I want in a poke bowl. Brown rice, Brussels sprouts slaw, pickled cucumber, aji panca, and of course, furikake (seaweed and other seasonings) which features into every Asian child’s meal at one time or another. The exquisite melt-in-your-mouth fish is the star of the show, super delicate and incredibly tender.
Another stand-out is Branzino Chicharron, a whole fish served with its flesh portioned out in chunks, then fried to perfection. It is then assembled on the plate along with the head and tail to resemble the whole fish — but without the difficulty for those not accustomed to maneuvering bones. An aji orange butter sauce is poured over the plate tableside.
I’m craving this dish right now! Who wants to come and eat this with me soon?
The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel
1 Ritz Carlton Dr
Dana Point, CA 92629