H Is for Hotel—The Raya at the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel

A luxurious business lunch to kick-off summer in paradise proves a good choice.

The drive down Niguel Road from Marina Hills to PCH is one of my favorites. From the first glimpse of ocean to coming to an end at the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, we find ourselves saying, 'Can you believe we live here?'

Although technically not in Laguna Niguel, it takes our city’s fine name and thus its restaurant, Raya at the Ritz, also deserves the attention of Laguna Niguel’s finest food blog (just ask me).

It feels like a luxury vacation day going to the Ritz for lunch at Raya. Although I have visited the Ritz many times attending , I’ve never eaten at the restaurant.This week I had a business lunch there. If you have to do business at lunch, it may as well have a view right?

Speaking of the view, it is spectacular to the point of distraction. About 162 feet below you can watch surfers, vacationers and sail boats and the horizon filled with blue ocean. Talk about untapped resources. This place is 4 miles from my house and we spend many a summer day covered in sand eating out of a bag below at Salt Creek Beach, so why don’t I eat here? I forget to. My summer resolution is to take advantage of the great resources of this town which can make any day seem a little more like vacation.

Back to the review.

Raya calls its food Pan-Latin Coastal cuisine, which I'm not familiar. We used to call it Nouvelle cuisine. There are many interesting choices: lots of unique seafood and twists on old favorites.

Before the meal arrives a bread bowl is placed on the table. It is so good; little flaky cheese biscuits that melt-in-your-mouth, sundried-tomato soft breadsticks with Parmesan on top and little chunks of fresh sourdough. Besides butter it comes with an herb-infused ricotta cheese spread and a tomato jelly--both are worth the price of admission.

I had to read the menu several times. Most things were foreign to me. For instance, we order the avocado gazpacho which contains watermelon, Japanese cucumber, and is topped with California caviar. It is ever very good, with cilantro and a slight kick. Next, the Maine lobster salad, which has tender lobster, shavings of sweet potato, baby lettuce and a lemon vinaigrette mixed with a chile ancho-port reduction and chive oil. I’m not cooking that at home any time soon. It looks like art on the plate when it arrives. The ancho-port reduction is ‘ahhmazing,’ sweet and spicy! 

My wife Susan orders the pulled Jidori chicken salad which has a one-of-a kind piloncillo-ginger (told ya’ I never heard of these things) vinaigrette, candied pecans and Mandarin oranges atop an unusual mix of greens and cabbage. Our server tells us Jidori is the name of the farm where the chicken comes from. Finally we can not resist the lobster tacos which are tiny flour tortillas with a black bean purée, an incredible Chile de árbol salsa, avocado, and lobster. They are great but I could easily eat a dozen.

There are no $5 lunch specials, the food is expensive but it’s the Ritz, and I’m not talking about the buttery cracker I like with Cheez Whiz. The prices are on the website so you can plan ahead, but what better way to make an ordinary day feel extraordinary.  http://www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/LagunaNiguel/Dining/Raya/Menu.htm

For 90 minutes it feels like you are on a five-star-vacation, where someone waits on you, while you enjoy amazing unique foods and a spectacular view.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.


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