Review of Shades Restaurant at The Waterfront Beach Resort
Shades Restaurant is a delicious find in Huntington Beach
Like most locals, you have passed the fancy Huntington Beach resorts while driving down PCH. Although, you probably never tried one of their restaurants. Shades Restaurant and Bar, which is located in the Waterfront Hotel in Huntington Beach, is one of the latest Hotel restaurants to up their game by hiring talented Chefs and revamping their menus. As a result, the locals are starting to take notice.
Getting to know the Executive Chef
Chef Ben LeFleche originally comes from Quebec where he graduated from the culinary institute of Montreal. LeFleche honed his skills at top ski resorts in Whistler and the Hilton Bonaventure in Montreal. Since then, he has been living the California dream by working his way up to Executive Chef at the Waterfront Beach Resort in Huntington Beach.
I recently attended a preview event of the new seasonal menu create by their new Executive Chef Ben LeFleche. According to LaFleche, he has taken the Shades menu of American cuisine and elevated it, adding influences from the entire North America. “I love being creative in the kitchen and adding seasonal items and unique dishes that you won’t find at other restaurants,” said LaFleche.
Here are my thoughts on the menu at Shades Restaurant:
Lazy K lemonade
The Lazy K Lemonade is a perfect cocktail for watching the sunset on a warm summer night. It is made with pomegranate liqueur, pomegranate juice, lemonade, and blueberry vodka. Even though this cocktail sounds sticky sweet, it was very well balanced and went down very easy
Stuffed Piquillo Peppers
Several years back while I was roaming the back alleys of Las Ramblas in Barcelona, I tried a dish similar to this. This dish stuffs Italian sausage and risotto into red piquillo peppers and is drizzled with a bright chili aioli. This dish had a full mouth flavor from the gentle zing of the ripe piquillo to the aromatics of the Italian sausage.
Mini crab cakes with roasted garlic aioli
The crab cakes are made with real lump crab meat and topped with a roasted garlic aioli. These crab cakes were very good, perhaps not the best crab cakes that I have ever tasted. With that said, I would definitely order them again.
Coconut milk braised pork sliders
The coconut braised pork were one of my favorite dishes on the menu. Why? I am a big fan of flavor layering in food and this dish’s flavors kept evolving from sweet, to savory, to tangy. It is made by braising pork in a coconut milk until the meat is fall-apart soft. The braised pork is served on a slider roll with pickled mustard seeds and rooster sauce.
Lunch Menu Items
Mac N Cheese
Their Mac N Cheese is tasty. It is made with with four year aged cheddar, rotini and topped with a toasted pulverized duck fact crouton. This was a rich dish, with the sharp cheddar flavor singing as a constant note throughout the dish. The duck fat crouton served as a flavor enhancer to the sharp cheddar, giving it a richer flavor and contrast of texture.
For my taste, this dish needed another flavor layer, as sharp cheddar dominated the palate. My wife said the mac was perfect that way it was and told me to stop being a food snob. I ate the entire bowl of mac n cheese, obviously my picky palate did not stop me.
The PB&J was one of the highlights of the evening and is a good example of Chef LeFleche taking using his skills to create a grown up version of classic American comfort food.
The peanut butter is house made with bourbon which added a light flavor depth. The strawberry jelly is infused with jalapeño giving it a subtle zing on the tongue, just enough to make it interesting. In true kid style is made on toasted white bread, with crust cut off.
House made flat bread
Flat bread is a California favorite and Shade’s version it uses some of the region’s best ingredients. It is topped with roasted tomatoes, mozzarella and locally made Ochoa’s chorizo.
If you never heard of Ochoa’s chorizo, they are a small mom and pop chorizo maker that has being doing “Craft” before it became hipster. The chorizo made the flat bread go from good to awesome. This dish proves that superior ingredients make the best dishes.
Braised duck ragout and pappardelle pasta
I love duck Ragout, so I was extremely happy to see this on the menu. For those who are not aware of the term ragout, it refers to a well-seasoned meat that is slow cooked in a thick sauce. Ragout is often served over pasta.
Shade’s version is made with duck and a thickly seasoned tomato sauce. The roasted tomato added the right amount of acidity to cut through the savory flavor of the duck. It was served atop pappardelle pasta.
Eight hour lamb belly
Shade’s Lamb belly is slowly cooked for eight hours and glazed with an aromatic Korean chile glaze. The glaze laced the lamb’s natural flavors with a subtle tang and deep flavor layering. The belly was butchered nicely, such that there was only a thin layer of fat on the meat. It was served on a black beluga lentil salad. This is a delicious dish that I could eat all day.
Lamb belly is one of those very polarizing ingredients that people love or are afraid to try. My wife falls under the afraid to try category. After a few long stares I watched her go from nervous to ravenous carnivore tearing into the lamb belly.
Pan-seared barramundi with lobster risotto
Barramundi is an Australian seabass that is known for its tender and flavorful flesh. The barramundi is pan-seared with simple dry seasonings, allowing the natural flavors of this fish to shine through.
The dish is accompanied by a rich lobster risotto that provides a heavy counter-punch to this delicate fish. It is garnished with pickled black grapes and pea tendrils. The pickled black grapes added the perfect sweet and sour balance to brighten up this dish.
Tangerine Mini Cupcakes with basil Meringue
Dessert was a light touch that carried big flavors. Tangerine mini cupcakes which were light like angel’s food and topped with a fresh basil meringue. Tangerines are the flavor of the month at Shades, which are nominated on their Facebook pate by fans. It was a perfect flavor for this cupcake.
My Final Thoughts
If you stick to stand alone restaurant in Huntington Beach, you may be missing out on some of the city’s best restaurants. Shades is moving past its hotel guest centric restaurant stance and towards becoming a local dining destination. Shades is not alone, the Hyatt Resort next door is going through a major upgrade of its Californian restaurant as well. The only minor catch is that you will need to pay a $3 valet due to parking situation, although this is not uncommon for many nice restaurants. I highly recommend you try out Shades at the Waterfront Beach Resort, your taste buds will be rewarded.
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