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.