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LJ's Bistro Open, Owner Says Hello, Laguna Niguel

After a 6-month delay, the European-style restaurant opened its doors on Tuesday despite a few kinks still needing to be ironed out.

Despite a few more kinks to be ironed out, LJ's Bistro finally opened its doors on Tuesday.

The European-style eatery took over the former 3,000-square-foot New Mandarin Garden space at 29971 Alicia Pkwy. The colorful menu offers "healthy yet comfort cuisine," ranging from big burgers to plentiful pasta, and succulent seafood.

More than 25 diners stopped by for lunch, according to owner/chef Paul Braunschweiler, who has opened several award-winning eateries including Omaha, Neb.

"It was a pretty good day considering we put out no information and really didn't tell anyone," he said. "It was a long, tough road and one thing after another. There have been lots of problems and I had to change construction companies twice."

But after a 6-month rollercoaster ride, he said he was happy to open and is excited to be in Laguna Niguel.

"We still have a few things to do construction-wise, but this is where we wanted to to be and I am happy to bring my style of cooking to the community," he said.

The restaurant is aptly named after his daughter, Leah Jean, 22, who is also in the food services business. She is currently in Nebraska but will soon help run the Laguna Niguel restaurant, Braunschweiler said. 

"She's getting more experience and she was here last week," he said. "She needs to come, I told her, afterall, the place is named after her."

As for Braunschweiler, who was born in Switzerland, he lived for about a year in Costa Mesa, worked in the L.A. area for a while at the Beverly Hilton, Verdi's in Santa Monica, and Adriano's on Beverly Glenn. In addition, he lived in Switzerland for 27 years, then worked on a Norwegian Cruise ship for four years, followed by some years in the Midwest. 

The hours for LJ's: Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to close.

Dzi9r August 29, 2012 at 05:40 PM
The same old fare? what an insult to all the other great places in Laguna Niguel that serve to our community.
Tex August 30, 2012 at 04:39 AM
Went tonite. Great service and good food can't wait to try other item on the menu. I love the decor and the lay out of the bar /restaurant
Tom Berney August 30, 2012 at 01:57 PM
Looks stylish and clean, I'll definitely try the fare this weekend and report back Debbie.
Bread Angel August 30, 2012 at 03:11 PM
They need to get their kitchen up to par. The pasta was overcooked, the meatballs were hard as rocks and while the menu said "angel hair pasta", what we got was vermacelli. No bread with the meal. The wait staff was good, but it is the food that brings me to a restaurant. I will try them again in three months and see if they have improved. If not, I doubt if they will still be in business. One positive note--great decor.
Debbie L. Sklar (Editor) August 30, 2012 at 09:58 PM
DZ: Don't think it was supposed to be an insult.
Debbie L. Sklar (Editor) August 30, 2012 at 09:58 PM
Tex: Thanks for letting us know!
Debbie L. Sklar (Editor) August 30, 2012 at 09:59 PM
@Tom: Yes, please do, the decor is sleek huh?
Debbie L. Sklar (Editor) August 30, 2012 at 09:59 PM
@Bread: Let's give them a chance and see what happens :)
Anne LeMay September 02, 2012 at 01:36 AM
We went tonight...I had the gnocchi with cream sauce, peas and sun dried tomatoes. Yummy...others in my group had scallops and gnocchi, mac and cheese with farm salad, meatballs with pasta. All good. Moderate portions, Presentation was beautiful. Wait staff attentive. Would be nice to have an anitpasto tray, crudites, bread sticks, or bread with the meal. Love the decor. Will go back!
Tom Berney September 02, 2012 at 03:34 PM
Well I tried it out last night about 7:30 sadly it was almost vacant, only a few at the main bar and few siting at the tables, hey it just opened so that's ok, Limited menu and needs to work on that, kind of boring, The chicken sandwich was good but the portion was small, Meatballs seemed overbooked, Let's give it time like Debbie said.
jackie September 03, 2012 at 12:59 AM
I too tried the restaurant but there were a number of people inside, the staff most especially the bar staff were warm and friendly. I tried an appetizer which although small was tasty.I also ordered a drink of which I bartender tried to perfect so I got two additional drinks to taste. I am looking forward to trying it again and hope the prices might be adjusted as they seem a little high.
Debbie L. Sklar (Editor) September 03, 2012 at 01:04 AM
Thanks for the insight Jackie, sounds like a place to try.
Debbie L. Sklar (Editor) September 03, 2012 at 01:04 AM
Hi Thanks for telling us what you had to eat, sounds like you had a nice meal.
jackie September 03, 2012 at 01:05 AM
Come on. There is nothing in laguna niguel. You can stick with hunter steakhouse if you want. I went there this week. It took them 3 times to get my prime rib right and that is there specialty.
Debbie L. Sklar (Editor) September 03, 2012 at 01:05 AM
Tom: Thanks for reporting back to us, keep the reviews coming, we love to hear them at Patch.
Kristy September 05, 2012 at 12:41 AM
Just tried LJ's Bistro, and was unfortunately very disappointed. The wait staff was friendly; however, the food was pretty bad. It was definitely overpriced for what you get(quantity and quality). I never want a business not to succeed, especially in this economy, but I don't think I will be going back.
Vic C September 13, 2012 at 12:41 AM
New place so I stopped in for lunch. Friendly greeting, nice variety on the menu, and the food was fresh and seasoned perfectly. I had the burger and fries. At $10 it's a little pricey for lunch, but it was prepared medium well as ordered, and was very juicy. My waitress checked in with me at the proper moments, and kept my Coke glass full. The design offered an inviting atmosphere, and the background music was from the Rat Pack and American Songbook days. Martini anyone? There is a large open bar, a lunch counter, tall bar tables, booths and bistro tables available to accommodate your mood. The open lunch counter area allows you to see the chef at work. I discovered this is a chef owned restaurant, which means he has a reputation in the game. I'd say he's winning and I'll be back often.
Jeri Johnson September 16, 2012 at 03:01 AM
We just ate at LJ's Bistro for dinner and everything was perfect from the moment we walked into the door till we left. Our food was fabulous. Our waitress was friendly and efficient always had a smile on her face. I had the Brie & bacon on a brioche roll totally fabulous, my husband had the meatloaf with mushroom gravy and he loved it as well and my daughter got the salmon ceviche and for dessert we all shared the chocolate mousse yummy! The food at this restaurant is award winning and the service is awesome. I wish them the best of luck. They will be seeing me around because I will be around to try other wonderful mnue items!
joanne October 05, 2012 at 04:16 PM
The food is fantasitic, the portions are just right and the service is great! Thank you to LJ's for raising the bar for higher quality food in OC!!
barbara joannes January 29, 2013 at 03:22 AM
I am one of Paul's biggest fans. My husband & I started eating at his 1st restaurant in Omaha, Ne.The name was Spanna, we went the first .month he was open, the food was wonderful. Spanna became one of the best restaurants in Omaha. Spanna closed after a number of years. Paul came back to Omaha and opened Prima 140, all of his fans came back to the same wonderful food & service. We miss him in Omaha and were sad when he left. Laguna is very lucky to have Paul and his new restaurant. Give him time everyone will be please. Hello.Paul. BJ Prima 140
Paul Braunschweiler March 21, 2013 at 05:23 PM
Thanks, BJ, good to hear from you, Paul

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