Since I missed the pre-grand opening media dinner of Tommy Bahama’s Laguna Beach while traipsing around Cannes and the City of Lights, and then heard from my foodie friends how freaking awesome it was – I had to experience it myself as soon as the dust settled after Thanksgiving. Let me tell you right up front – TB’s is not your typical chain with an island twist, in fact, this outlet (Tommy’s 13th) is not even like their sister restaurant in Newport Beach – it’s menu items and decor are thoughtfully unique to Laguna Beach.
The dining room boasts clean craftsman-style lines and the mellow warmth of wood while scattered historic photos and glass enclosed vintage bathing suits pay homage to the beach playground history and artistic roots of Laguna Beach. We arrived early in the evening and lucked out with a window table where we were treated to a just-another-day-in-paradise sunset view over the Pacific.
So what better way to kick off the evening than with one of their inventive, hand-shaken cocktails with beach-inspired names, the problem was which one! General Manager Michael Lowney, whose bronzed surfer good looks seem tailor-made for Tommy’s, stopped by our table and answered all our questions with a detailed description of each cocktail to aid us in our selection. The Don decided to turn the heat up and try the jalapeno-infused and garnished “Sunburn” and I had to give their Lemon Drop, made without any sweet & sour – hallelujah! – my seal of approval. Both were excellent, but the “Sunburn”, with its citrusy heat was really unique (photo right). On the left, is the Grapefruit Basil Martini – my second martini, *happy dance* – a sublime concoction of fresh squeezed grapefruit and muddled basil which had me in a frenzy trying to recreate it at home the following night.
Thanks to Michael for saving us another major decision by having the kitchen prepare us three of their signature appetizers. Everything is fresh, local, and sustainable with an island twist that’s a bit more refined. Like the Ahi Tuna Tacos – no taco shells here – instead, served in light, crispy wonton shells with a crunchy Asian slaw and wasabi-lime infused avocado sauce. And my favorite of the evening – the Lobster Corn Dogs with a sweet corn batter that was unbelievably light and fluffy and accompanied by a deeply flavorful Sriracha Mustard and Mango Ketchup for dipping. The mussels were plump and sweet in a garlic-buttery broth that begged for more than two pieces of toast for sopping.
Considering there were only two of us, we probably should not have polished off the appetizers the way we did… if we had seen the desserts first, we probably could have exercised more restraint. But before I tempt you with the desserts, I need to tell you how taken I was by the Mahi Mahi with Quinoa and Meyer Lemon Beurre Blanc (pictured below).
I love fish and it’s usually my first choice at any restaurant; the bold and exotic coriander dill rub was perfectly balanced by the silky, Meyer-sweet citrus flavor and the mixture of red and white quinoa with arugula was the best quinoa I’ve ever tasted! The Poblano Chicken with cornflake-almond crust, whipped Yukon Golds, and haricot vert was total comfort food, but it could use a bit more pizazz in the presentation – perhaps an artfully placed chile to adorn the plate.
We had to go the nostalgia route with dessert: we just couldn’t resist the Root Beer Float made with Abita Root Beer from Abita, Louisiana and I haven’t seen a Banana Cream Pie on a menu in eons. With a funny story about Elvis and root beer floats, we slurped up the vanilla’s sweet cool goodness and sassy Abita soda and oohed and aahed over the caramel drizzled, rich banana custard with hints of toasted coconut wrapped up in a tart-like graham cracker crust – paradise indeed!
And, when you’re finished you can even knock out a little Christmas shopping at the adjoining store which also carries merchandise exclusive to Laguna Beach, and its not all about the camp shirt. I was pleasantly surprised to find that half the store is devoted to casual ladies sportswear and spied some great gift ideas, like these classy shot glasses – you probably have someone on your list that would really love these 🙂
Tommy Bahama’s Laguna Beach
400 South Coast Hwy.
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Open 11:30 a.m. – 11:00 p.m. Sun. – Thurs., till midnight Fri. & Sat.
Banana Cream Pie photo courtesy of Holly Wong. Thanks, Holly 🙂