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The Gossiping Gourmet: The food is the thing at Broadway

November 30, 2011|By Elle Harrow and Terry Markowitz
  • The long dining room table is set for a party at the new Broadway Restaurant in downtown Laguna.
The long dining room table is set for a party at the new Broadway… (Courtesy Doug Gifford )

Broadway has come to Laguna Beach. No, it's not another musical comedy but a restaurant inspired by that venerable New York avenue.

In this case the "show" is the food. Amar Santana, who, as a very young man, cut his chops in the Big Apple at high-end places like Auriole, then came to California to be executive chef at Charlie Palmer's and has now taken the big step of opening his own restaurant.

As you enter Broadway (the former site of 5' Restaurant), you notice the walls lined with photographs and paintings of the Great White Way. A facelift has given the space a warm yet contemporary atmosphere. Barn wood walls and table tops, dark gray toned rafters and a terra cotta wall at the rear provides contrast to the long, textured, cement wall that spans one side of the room behind the banquette.

An open kitchen with gleaming stainless steel, bright white tile and hanging copper pots boasts a counter with tall comfortably upholstered armchair-style stools. Interesting contemporary light fixtures shed softened light. In contrast to the casual heavy wood tables are Queen Anne style chairs upholstered in rough fabric. The total effect makes an attractive space for dining (albeit a noisy one).

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We were munching on the breadsticks when the bread basket arrived. Our wheat fest now included a cheese muffin, a squaw roll, a crusty little baguette and some very sweet butter.

It's important to mention that the menu changes frequently. On our first visit we had the cured Japanese hamachi with spaghetti squash, yuzu butternut squash sorbet and avocado mousse. All of the ingredients seemed to form a harmonious whole.

On our second visit, the thin pieces of hamachi were seared and accompanied by transparent slices of cucumber and radish, pebbles of mango and apple jalapeno sorbet. The hamachi itself was bland, even with the seasoned sear. The accouterments, though good by themselves, didn't work together or enhance the fish. The only thing that added interest and punch was the tobiko (flying fish roe) mayonnaise, of which there was merely a smear.

We had a similar experience with the pan-roasted sea scallops, although the description on the menu was the same each time, the flavors certainly were not. The scallops were equally good both times: moist, sweet, plump and perfectly seared; however, the sea urchin risotto varied greatly. The first time the delicate, slightly salty flavor of the urchin subtly accented the distinct grains of the creamy, chewy rice.

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