Update 05/18/2013: The Shore has recently changed owners again. I just visited and saw the “change of ownership application” sign on their window. The same Chef is still there, although Management is all new. The food, overall vibe and staff friendliness are the same based on my first visit
Since I moved to Orange County over 14 years ago, I viewed San Clemente as a sleepy beach town with Grandma friendly restaurants. Recently I have seen some positive changes to Downtown San Clemente, with a series of new restaurants bringing in a revival to it’s culinary scene.
One of the recent improvements to the San Clemente restaurant scene was the opening of The Shore. The location was formally The Shore House Restaurant, although it has been purchased by new owners and revamped with a new decor, new menu and new attitude. When I first heard of The Shore I wanted not to like it. Why you ask? I thought the restaurant would be just another sub-par restaurant makeover; although, I was completely wrong. After two positive experiences, I found myself in love with this restaurant.
Disclosure: I visited The Shore twice to write this review. The first visit was during a grand opening tasting and the second time I visited incognito on my own dime.
The Shore’s Ambiance
The Shore is a modern-American restaurant with high-end comfort food, craft cocktails and live entertainment. The interior of the restaurant is hip downtown design meets a beach town bungalow. The interior utilizes with natural woods contrasting against dark leather. The modern feel is accented by modern pendulum lights and subtle use of neon. The exposed ceilings, chalkboards, and live bands gives The Shore a hip vibe In addition to live music the restaurant had plenty of televisions to accommodate sports fans as well.
The food at The Shore has influences from the American South, the Mediterranean, Asia and memories of a trip to the wine country. Food quality appears to be a key focus of the restaurant as they use high-end ingredients, hand cut their French fries and never store their meat in the freezer. This attention to quality pays off in flavor. The food is prepared The menu is divided into Small Bites, Starters, salads, Entrees.
The “small Bites” side of the menu has small plates portions perfect for someone who is not too hungry, wants to nibble with their drinks. My co-reviewer, Daniele, said that she could easily have a small bites plate and a salad for dinner. The Entrees are all full sized portions that will leave you full or taking home leftovers.
Here is What We Ordered
A double cut lamb-chop (one chunk of meat and two bones) is roasted with artichoke, balsamic roasted figs and a sun-dried tomato sauce. The lamb-chop was cooked pink throughout, making it tender and juicy. The chop had a nice balance of naturally savory lamb protein, sweet and mildly tangy accents. The dish also included a deliciously fluffy mashed potatoes and a decorative portion of spaghetti squash. Although this was the most expensive “small bites” item, it was very delicious.
Fried Mac & Cheese Balls
High quality macaroni was mixed with several types of melted cheese, rolled with panko, and fried to a browned crunchy crust. The interior was very gooey, cheesy and piping hot. It it was hard to detect intact macaroni, so it tasted more like a cheesy ball. Fortunately we are fans of cheese, so I loved how the cheese was stringy when I bit into one of the balls. The flavor was very rich, decadent and had nice contrasts of crispy and gooey textures. The Fried Mac and Cheese balls were served in a tomato basil sauce which added acidity to the rich flavors of the cheese.
Fresh ahi is diced, mixed with chunks of avocado, minced jalapenos, and cilantro and formed into a tower. It is served with freshly fried crispy wonton chips to eat the tuna tartare. We really enjoyed the natural tuna flavor with the creamy avocado and gentle zing of the jalapenos. The dish reminded us of the poke we loved in Hawaii. The dish was garnished with a tiger slaw of cabbage, carrots, red peppers and hints of lemon grass. This was one of our favorite dishes on the menu.
Grilled Filet Skewers
Chunks of filet mignon are grilled on skewers and topped with a chunky gorgonzola cream sauce and crispy onions. The filet chunks were very tender and juicy, although the steak was cooked well-done. The temperature of the meat was a disappointment as this dish could have been great. Next time, I will request it be cooked medium and it will be perfect.
Beets and Burrata
Slices of Golden and purple beets were simply served with arugula, fresh burrata cheese and rich pesto dressing. This dish was very simple, fresh and highlighted the natural flavors of the ingredients. This was a well-balanced dish of sweet beets, salty cheese and bitter/nutty arugula.
This is a very rustic salad that you might find in the Tuscan wine country. This dish is served warm with grilled chicken, asparagus, pine nuts, shaved parmesan, basil and heavily dressed in a pesto vinaigrette. This dish was very rich from the pesto dressing and quickly filled me up quickly.
Panko Crusted Sole
This dish actually reminded me of a dish I experienced at Café Arnaud in New Orleans. The sole filet was coated in panko and pan seared to form a crunchy crust. It was topped with toasted almonds and a lemon almandine dill sauce. I really liked the contrasts of flavors and textures in this dish. The tender fish was balanced with the crunchy crust and toasted almonds; the sweet savory flavors of the fish and almond proteins were balanced with the tangy cream of the lemon almandine dill sauce. It was served with wild rice and blistered tomatoes.
Famous Shrimp and Grits
The shrimp and grits is the signature dish of The Shore Restaurant. Although this dish has started to become overplayed in the gastropub circuit, The Shore’s version perhaps serves as a standard to be duplicated by others. The grits were cooked to a pleasantly firm texture and mixed with a sauce made from crème de St.Laurent cheese and herbs. The mixture of firmly tender grits and the creamy sauce was wonderful. The dish was served with slices of Andouille sausage and jumbo shrimp, which added fatty, salty and sweet flavors to the dish.
The shrimp and grits was accompanied by their house made butter milk biscuits; I would buy these biscuits by the dozen if I could. The biscuits were flaky, so that you could literally peel off layers of the biscuit and use it as a spoon to eat the grits. The biscuit is made with soo much butter that they melt in your mouth.
The Shore has a really nice selection of creative craft cocktails. Here are the ones we ordered.
The Wine-tini is made with vodka, muddled grapes, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, and a a flout of sauvignon blanc float. Don’t be fooled this drink, it packs a sneaky kick. It had pleasant floral flavors from the Marlborough sauvignon blanc wine and elderflower liqueur, which helped to deceptively mask the punch from the vodka.
The Hot Date is a naughty take on a margarita made with silver tequila, cucumber, jalapeno, sweet lime. This drink awakens the senses and prepares you for your meal. I liked this spicy margarita style drink due to the subtle flavor layers and general zing on the palate.
Blood Orange Whiskey Sour
The Blood Orange Whiskey Sour is made with Jack Daniels, Solermo blood orange liqueur, fresh orange and lemon juice, and Angostero bitters. The blood orange liqueur and natural citrus juice gave the drink a complex sour flavor. I normally don’t like whiskey sour, but this one was done nicely.
My Final Thoughts
I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the dishes at The Shore and will be back for more. Along with a couple other stand out restaurants in Downtown San Clemente, The Shore is helping this once sleepy beach town turn into a culinary destination. Although many Yelpers write how they like The Shore as a back up plan to South of Nicks, I disagree. I also found their service to be very friendly and responsive to my requests, resulting in a stress free dinning experience. If you have tried The Shore recently, let me know about your experience.
If you are looking for information about the Shore’s Deals, Happy Hours and specials visit Dani’s Decadent Deals article http://danisdecadentdeals.com/2013/02/18/the-shore-san-clemente-weekly-specials-and-happy-hour-deals/
Pictures of other items I tried and close-ups