Two weeks ago, my friend Patty Mitchell of Your Restaurant Connection invited me to dine at the newly-remodeled Claes Ovation in the historic, world famous Hotel Laguna to preview the new menu created by Executive Chef Paul Bauer to herald the conceptual makeover. Since 1985, when Claes Andersen bought and refurbished the interior and exterior of this storied “Grand Old Lady” creating an award winning establishment with an European flair, Claes has been renowned for its stunning view of Main Beach, extensive wine list, and elegant cuisine.
The Ovation martini sounded like an odd combination of flavors: vanilla vodka, orange juice, and star anise – but it more than worked – it was a surprising symphony in my mouth!
Being just two in number, we decided to stick with the tasting menu so we could try several items. Patty left the adventurous tasting to me: I ordered the Handcut Wagyu Beef Tartare (with Quail Egg, Capers and Piquillo Peppers) and the Foie Gras Ravioli (with Comte Cheese and Perigord Sauce) while she selected the Heirloom Tomato Tartare and Mano de Leon Scallops (with Morel Mushrooms and Lavender Flower Buerre Blanc).
Along with our cocktails, Claes pleasantly unusual “bread” was brought to the table for our nibbling pleasure. The black sesame house-made rice crisp made for a stunning display and was served with a delicious mango chutney for dipping.
The Foie Gras Ravioli with Comte cheese and shaved truffles was deliciously over-the-top, but to me, somewhat too much of a good thing. The foie gras and truffles, two highly coveted ingredients, seemed to compete against each other with neither having an opportunity to shine. This didn’t prevent me from savoring each bite, but I would have preferred them to be served separately, enabling the distinctive taste of foie gras to come through rather than being swathed in an even richer sauce.
Finally, the Hand-cut Wagyu Beef Tartare was an overly generous serving of the prime rare beef and included all the necessary components – velvety yolk of the quail egg, salty capers, and piquant piquillo peppers. My only issue was the texture… I prefer a finer grind – the emphasis is on the “hand-cut”, but it was a bit too man-sized for my delicate constitution.
Overall, it was an outstanding meal and Claes Ovation has several creative entree selections that I’d like to experience. The web page for Claes is currently being updated, but you can peruse the entire menu at Your Restaurant Connection. Chef Bauer’s “Festival fare” menu of creative small bites and a three-course prix fixe dinner is especially designed for visitors on their way to the amazing annual arts festivals or Pageant of the Masters performances.
425 South Coast Highway
Laguna Beach, CA 92651