Preview of Driftwood Kitchen in Laguna Beach
Driftwood Offers Beautiful Views and Breathtaking Dishes
Driftwood Kitchen recently opened at 619 Sleepy Hallow Drive in Laguna Beach and replaces the former Beach House Restaurant. In my opinion, Driftwood is a very serious upgrade from the former tenants. The view from Driftwood is one one of the best al fresca oceanfront restaurants in Orange County. Some of the tables are literally overlooking the beach, allowing an onshore wind to gently buff the soul.
New Restaurant, New Chef and New Cuisine
Driftwood Kitchen is excelling where the previous tenants failed, the cuisine. Driftwood Kitchen is overseen by Chef Rainer Schwarz, who brings an extensive resume of restaurant experience spanning from Lucerne to Hollywood.
The type of cuisine that Chef Schwarz is presenting at Driftwood Kitchen is California Coastal Cuisine. This style is very popular right now and focuses on what is fresh along the California Coast, so expect fresh seafood, coastal plain vegetables and fruits and local protein.
Chef Schwarz has created some truly breathtaking dishes that equally stand up to the view.
What I Sampled at Driftwood Kitchen
Summer Squash Blossoms
Although Fried Squash Blossoms are becoming more and more common every year, this preparation stands out. The summer squash blossoms are stuffed with Bellwether Farms ricotta, heirloom tomato sauce, dipped in a tempura batter and flash fried. The result is a crispy exterior gives way to hot and creamy ricotta center.
Northern Atlantic Halibut Filet
The Northern Atlantic Halibut Filet was one of my favorite dish of the evening. The Halibut was simply grilled and normally served alongside Weiser Farms fingerling potatoes, corn fricassee and an English pea sauce. The dish is simple yet elegant and perfect for a warm Summer evening. $28.
Butcher Steak and Pork Belly
If meat is your thing, this dish delivers in spades. Grilled flank steak is grilled to a Medium rare and served atop roasted pork belly and topped with a Chimichuri sauce, a roasted tomato, and a french fried onion. This is a wonderful dish that is packed with protein flavor and accentuated by the acidity of the tomato and tart herbaliciousness of the chimichuri. $24
Baked Oysters with Potato Coulis
I love baked oysters and this concoction was fantastic! What looked like Fannie Bay Oysters were roasted with a potato coulis. It is then topped with fresh uni and crispy squid ink. The fresh uni is a nice contracts against the warm oysters and the crispy squid ink added a nice contrast shift between the soft ingredients. $15
Wild European Mushroom Ragout with Sweetbreads
This was my absolute favorite dish of the night because it was deep in flavor and texture layering. A ragout of wild European mushrooms are served with caramelized Cipollini onions, portion of crispy sweetbread, sunny side up quail egg, all resting in a puddle of sauce made from wine and veal stock.
The mushrooms provided a constant note of earthiness against the staccato of rich sweetbread and umami from the egg. I recommend that you mix the egg into the dish and enjoy all the ingredients in one integrated bite to experience the true complexity of the flavor layers. This dish was a piece of art.
My Favorite of the desserts I tried is the Carrot cake. This is not your Grandma’s carrot cake. It is served crumbled with carrot cardamom cream cheese frosting, cinnamon sugared carrot ships and carrot ice cream. The chef nailed this dish by ensuring the constant flavor of carrot through the dish, but in different flavor permutations.
The Rock Road is a fun remake of the original ice cream with what appeared to be a chocolate ganache, toasted almonds and a marshmallow sticky cream. Don’t quote me on these ingredients, but I think I am close. $8
The cocktails at Driftwood are a combination of throwbacks and modern spins on classic cocktails. The one thing I will say about their cocktails is that they are made with premium ingredients and well crafted. I truly enjoyed each cocktails and unfortunately had to cut myself off from having more.
“I Can See Clearly Now”
I was particularly excited about this cocktail, because I absolutely love carrot based cocktails. The “I Can See Clearly Now” is made with Gin, carrot juice, ginger puree and lemon sour. The sugars and rich flavors. This cocktail did not disappoint and I would drink these all night.
The High Tide is fashioned after one of the drinks from now defunct Royal Hawaiian in Laguna Beach. It contains rye, fresh pineapple, ginger, lemon sour, and mint. It is very tropical and really should be called the sneaky tikki. This cocktails packs a punch.
Sailor Jerry Rum, strawberries, lemon sour, and strawberries. This was a nicely balanced cocktail that had the sugary elements that you would expect from strawberries, although the lemon sour evened out the cocktail, making it a little too drinkable. At least I was getting my vitamins for the week 😉
My Final Thoughts
Beautiful views and stunning bites make Driftwood Kitchen one of the hottest restaurant launches in recent memories. What I like is the fact that Chef Rainer Schwarz is breathing new life on this property and returning it it’s former glory. Sitting on the rooftop restaurant, you can’t help but to feel that you are sitting at an al fresca restaurant in Positano Italy. Driftwood is a temporary way of letting the salty sea breeze wash away the day’s stresses and allowing the food to provide Prozac like effects on the soul.
619 Sleepy Hollow Ln Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Breakfast, 9 AM – 11 AM
- Lunch, 11:30 PM – 3 PM
- Dinner, 5 PM – 10 PM
- Bar, 5 PM – 12 AM
- Weekend Brunch, 8:30 AM – 3 PM