Mare Culinary Lounge

696 S. Coast Highway
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
949-715-9581
Critics' Pick

Details

  • Sun-Thu 7am-12am, Fri-Sat 7am-2am
  • $$
  • Catering, Takeout
  • Dinner
  • Full bar
  • Reservations Accepted
The site was formerly Blue Laguna, which, like Mare was a clubby lounge set anachronistically inside a quaint Holiday Inn with wrought iron balconies reminiscent of New Orleans Square. While Alessandro Pirozzi’s other restaurants are fit for families; Mare is intimate and sexy. The cold blue lights and shiny metal makes it look like a futuristic set from a scene in Blade Runner. A looped movie of bathing elephants projected on one wall is beguiling on purpose. There are other features that indicate the restaurant also wants to be trendy. For those come to enjoy Mare as a lounge and bar, it already has the best plate of fried calamari that beats any offered on PCH. The lighter-than-air batter covering the tender squid rings, Castelveltrano olives and house-pickled jalapenos tastes rich and almost buttery. From there, move to the tissue-thin octopus carpaccio, which melts like snowflakes on the tongue as the sprinkled black Sicilian lava salt crunch between the teeth. There are direct imports from the Alessas, including the indispensable and incredible butternut squash ravioli with brown butter and fried sage. Here it’s cut into heart-shapes and called cuori. But even an out-of-place appetizer called “Tacos Mai Way”, which employs the fluffy steamed Chinese bun all Momofuku aspirants tend to use, is well-done. Instead of pork belly, Pirozzi stuffs his “tacos” with braised oxtail, sweet onions, carrots and a homemade Saba. The oxtail is seen again tangled up between the pappardelle, tape-wide green-tinted noodles that tastes like it was just freshly churned out from a pasta press. The lasagnas use the same pasta, but cut wider and laid down with béchamel for a balanced dish layered with a slow-cooked meat sauce.

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