The week after Newport Beach Restaurant Week, I joined two friends for dinner at Landmark in Corona del Mar. I had heard mixed reviews of the food and knew a little of the backstory of the restaurant: in 2012 new owners Kelly and Scott Polston led the transformation of the well-known Landmark Steakhouse into an artsy, modern, sophisticated fine dining and entertainment destination complete with beautiful abstract artwork and a chic outdoor lounge. They brought Chef Travis Flood on board as Executive Chef to transform the typical steakhouse fare into an imaginative menu offering a selection of creative appetizers; hand-crafted pastas; fresh, free-range, sustainable meat, poultry and seafood; and distinctive desserts to indulge any sweet tooth. Chef Flood’s mission is to feature the freshest, seasonal produce and seafood available and pair perennial favorites with unexpected flavors and exciting flourishes that define the art of upscale dining.
On a Wednesday evening in January, the restaurant was quiet with only a few tables occupied. We dined at a leisurely pace, beginning with a few of their signature cocktails (pictured above): the Grapefruit Gimlet (foreground), I couldn’t resist comparing their Corpse Reviver 2 (left) to the Corpse Reviver I mix at home, and the Pomegranate Martini (right). The drinks were fine but could have made more of an impression with attractive garnishes – minimal or no garnish is fine during club hours, but fine dining requires a bit more presentation.
Chef Flood came out to our table and answered any and all of our questions about the menu, his background, and what he envisions for Landmark and his future. He is energetic and charming with an enthusiasm that is contagious. And, who can dislike a guy with the Cookie Monster tatoo?
We asked him to bring us whatever he thought was the best items on the menu – and we were happy with the results of his creative license. It was the first time at Landmark for all three of us and we found the food to be well executed and imaginative, our server was friendly and responsive, and we felt fortunate to have Chef Flood’s nearly undivided attention. Landmark is certainly worth giving a try during Orange County Restaurant Week, if you haven’t been. And, if you’re up for a party, consider staying late because at 10:00 p.m. (Thursday thru Saturday) the tables are moved aside and the dining room becomes a dance floor complete with a rockin’ DJ and VIP Bottle Service (with indulgent late night treats…think house-made lemon infused doughnuts with vodka icing…or caviar!) making Landmark’s lounge, patio, or bar area the perfect party address. It all starts at 10:30 and you can reserve your space, by calling the restaurant at 949-675-5556 (highly recommended – it gets very crowded).
Here are some highlights of our dinner – it was very dark and my photos don’t do the food justice, but using a flash just doesn’t work with food – I’m sure you understand, doesn’t everyone take pics of their food these days? The trio below was excellent – juicy burger slider hit all the right notes, the creative and playful take on chicken and waffles and the corn dog brings out the kid inside.
Landmark Slider | house-ground Paso Prime, Hooks 4-year White Cheddar, grilled bacon, charred onion jam ($3)
Chicken and Waffles | drummettes, waffle flour, maple gastric (2 for $3)
Corn Dog | Niman Ranch Frank, Anson Mills corn, housemade ketchup ($3)
Diver Scallop & Blue Prawn |nori-parsley pistou, turnips, celery root, caramelized onion soubise ($36)
Paso Prime Grass Fed Beef | brown butter potato puree, tater tots, farm vegetables, horseradish beef jus ($31-$55 depending on cut)
Chocolate Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich ($9)
OK…now I’m officially hungry. So I’ll leave you with this – Landmark’s menu for Orange County Restaurant Week:
Saturday, February 24th – Sunday, March 2nd, 2013
3520 E Coast Hwy
Corona Del Mar, CA 92625
P: (949) 675-5556
Or make a reservation on their website.