The very definition of “Nirvana” is a state of perfect happiness; an ideal or idyllic place. Take a drive down Laguna Canyon Road and you will come upon precisely that. Nirvana Grille looks like a simple restaurant located a block from the ocean, but as you enter, it is anything but. Decor that is both Zen, Chic, with a twist of sexy; it is nothing short of ideal. Nirvana Grille is a welcome addition to Laguna Beach fare. Their fare is right on par in both simplicity of items and complexity of flavor.
It was a rather quiet evening, the restaurant was about an hour from closing for the night but after all I’ve heard, I thought it might be worth feasting on. We enter and are seated in a booth that is comfy, candlelit, set, has a little succulent situated on it, and soon after our server Natasha quietly comes over to take our drink order. I want to take a moment to highlight the ambiance of this restaurant. It is calm and sensual with art that exemplifies each. Onto dining… We order water with lime wedges and I order a glass of Laboure’-Roi “Les Sangliers Reserve” Pinot Noir. We start with the Blue Cheese Thyme French Fries and Artichoke Spinach Parmesan-Stuffed Poblano. The wine comes and my only critique is that I wasn’t given an opportunity to breathe it in or sip it. It arrived separate from the glass but rather than being able to taste it, the entire contents were poured into my glass immediately. (A minor thing but I do prefer being able to taste it before it’s poured.)
The wine is absolutely divine. Soon enough our Appetizers arrive and may I say – amazing! The fries were sprinkled with freshly chopped thyme and peppered with blue cheese. Once dipped in their accompanied sauce, my taste buds smiled. Couple that with the incredibly complex Artichoke-Stuffed Parmesan Poblano over a crusted brioche and my taste buds were in ecstasy. Another sip of wine and all is well. After perusing the menu, being torn between several dishes, I decide to go for the Land & Sea Combo with Rack of Lamb, Blackened Sea Scallops, Mashed Potatoes and Sautéed Squash Strings. Natasha assures me the scallops are to die for, in spite of my hesitation to try them because scallops are those rare sea creatures that have to be cooked just so in order to minimize the gummy or overly chewy undertone. It’s a very difficult task. My guest orders the Cococut Curry Chicken with Zucchini, Shallots, Tomatoes served in a Coconut Curry Cilantro sauce over Jasmine Rice.
After eating every single bit of the poblano (literally every last bite) and doing my best to polish off the fries, the Main Course arrives. It looks like perfection. The lamb is perfectly crisp on the outside, nestling itself on the bone, eager to be tasted while resting atop the mashed potatoes. The scallops cleverly rest nearby. The Curry dish comes and it looks so good, also served with careful consideration. As my fork hits that first piece of lamb, I know it’s going to be savory. One bite and … ahhhh. Delectable! The potatoes are just as good and then I go to the scallops. I bite into them and they are flavored so well and they taste good, but they aren’t quite the “perfect” I’d hoped for. In fairness, this was a really good scallop, just an off-night for me because I was so happy to devour the rack of lamb. And I did. I savored every bite, every morsel, every last bit. I gave in to my more gluttonous side and I didn’t leave a thing on the plate, well, I left the bone. Barely. I also managed to get a taste of that Coconut Curry and I have to say, the base is spot-on. I finish my Pinot Noir and within moments, Natasha returns to take our Dessert Order. I order an Amaretto Coffee and without pause, the Lemon Tart.
Sometimes, you walk into a new restaurant and it looks really fun and sexy but the food is just “ok”. Nirvana Grille is NOT that place. The dessert, the coffee (really, it was delicious), the thoughtful presentation of the food – it matched the “sexy” of the decor. As our check arrived, I saw a woman walking out of the kitchen and I stopped to ask her if she knew who the Chef was that evening. She smiles and says, “Me”. Chef Lindsay Smith-Rosales. With influences from American, French and Asian cuisines, the food is explosive in terms of flavor and authenticity. Much like the name suggests, there is a lot of unity that goes into the preparation: organic produce, natural meats, free-range poultry when available. This is a restaurant that takes the notion of “Mind, Body, and Soul” to heart. It is certainly worth the bliss.
Quick Note: Nirvana does Catering.
Nirvana Grille- Laguna Beach
303 Broadway Ste 101
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Nirvana Grille – Mission Viejo
24031 Marguerite Pkwy # C
Mission Viejo, CA 92692-1929