By Micaela Myers | October 21, 2011 12:06 PM
Photos by Sean Armenta
Chef Craig Strong has it right when he says Studio is all about the experience—a complete experience melding amazing food from the ever-changing tasting menu with supreme service and perfect views of the ocean, which crashes against the rocks and rolls onto the sand directly below the bluff-top restaurant.
To add to that experience, this year Montage added the Studio garden just outside the doors of the restaurant. While it can’t supply all the fresh vegetables for Studio, it does offer guests a visual and tactile experience with the seasonal produce that inspires the current menu. In fact, visitors reserving a dinner at the chef’s table, and children visiting the restaurant, are often invited to pick the vegetables for their meal if they desire. The garden also inspires fresh garden cocktails.
Chef Craig maintains a similar garden at his home, just north of the resort.
“This fall I will be planting brussel sprouts, pumpkins, Swiss chard and beets in the Studio garden,” Craig says of the upcoming season. “My tasting menu will be a reflection of fall and these seasonal specialties.”
The cuisine at Studio is described as modern French with California influences, and the tasting menu features daily-caught seafood, farm-raised meats and game, and fresh, artisanal ingredients. If you’re a vegetarian, a superb tasting menu can also be created meat-free. On our visit, a unique pea soup starter was just one of many standouts, featuring hot pea soup with a pea soup gelato in the center for an entirely new hot and cold culinary experience. Chef Craig fits in well in an artistic community such as Laguna Beach, as his creations are indeed artistic—beautiful to look at but more than meets the eye, with each bite offering a multitude of taste sensations.
Meals at Studio demand to be savored; for full benefit, allow two to three hours, order the tasting menu and let the wine experts suggest suitable pairings. The restaurant features a 2,200 wine bottle display, with approximately 1,800 selections available at any given time. The emphasis is placed on benchmark and up-and-coming wineries. As each new wine arrives at your table, it’s a bit like story time; the expert server introduces the wine and tells its story—knowing every detail of the varietal and once again highlighting Studio’s emphasis on the overall experience of fine dining, which is made complete by so many carefully orchestrated details coming together seamlessly.
Studio at Montage Laguna Beach, 30801 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-715-6420; studiolagunabeach.com
Hours: Open Tuesday — Sunday, 5 to 10 p.m.
Price: $46 - $90 (main course); complete tasting menu: $125
Tip: For special occasions, reserve the chef’s table. Located in a private room and graced with a stone fireplace and views of the kitchen and ocean, it can accommodate up to 12 guests.
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