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Make a Meal of Appetizers at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel Lobby Bar

Have a few appetizers and cocktails you will feel like you're on a mini vacation.

Sometimes we want to go out somewhere lovely, but don’t have the time or the appetite for a whole, formal meal. One of our favorite places for an appetizer-only dinner, is the bar in the lobby of the  It is such a beautiful spot and makes you feel like you are on vacation as soon as you step inside.

This week the hotel lobby is decorated with gorgeous red floral arrangements, and it looks fabulous, as always. The bar is located on the ground floor, right next to the  restaurant. The room has a comfortable but elegant feeling with dark wood paneling, a fireplace, a television for watching the game, and a large arched window behind the bar that looks out to the ocean. Around the room are several furniture groupings, in addition to the actual bar.

We chose some comfortable chairs in front of the fire and looked over the cocktail menu at the list of “Raya Inspired Cocktails.” There are many wonderful-sounding options, like Yuzu Fresa, made with Absolute Citron, strawberry and lemon, the Cucumber Lemon Margarita, a variety of flavored mojitos, and the OC martini, made with Grey Goose l’orange, Grand Marnier, grapefruit and cranberry. My husband selected a Manhattan and I chose the hibiscus margarita.

We then began to browse the appetizer menu. The list is fairly brief, but very tempting. Seafood options include: Hawaiian ahi tuna ceviche, oysters on the half shell, smoked swordfish tacos, Santa Barbara mussels, seared scallop Tiradito and shrimp lettuce wraps. Other options include queso fundido, Raya nachos, and sliders. We chose the swordfish tacos and the nachos, and enjoyed the relaxing ambiance.

The six tiny tacos were delivered in a narrow wooden tray. The shells were made from a crispy wonton shell, the swordfish was mixed with a creamy filling and topped with mango salsa and pickled jalapeno. They were spicy, and delicious and the hibiscus margarita went perfectly with them.

The nachos arrived in a bowl and were prepared with freshly made chips topped with chicken, chorizo, roasted poblano cheese sauce, large chunks of fresh avocado, pickled chiles, corn pico, lime and garnished with large sprigs of cilantro. These were much lighter than typical nachos and were fantastic.

We have, in the past, been able to order excellent sushi from the restaurant and eaten it at the bar. Our waitress explained, that that option is only available on Saturdays, until the summer. If you have the opportunity to visit on a Saturday, I highly recommend this option.

For us, this was a perfect mid-week treat. The food and atmosphere are wonderful, and there is still time to take care of all of the chores that are waiting for you at home. I definitely recommend it.

I give the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel bar 4 1/2 Patches.

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