If there was one thing Laguna Beach's newest business confirmed over the weekend, it was that we are a carnivore at heart. Hungry to find out what it was all about, date night was at Selanne's steakhouse. While we await a formal restaurant review, here's a small taste of what you can expect to find.
The piece de resistance is a Lord Stanley, 32-ounce cut of Wagyu hailing from the Darling Downs region of Australia. Yes, there are half a dozen other cuts of beef and additional proteins worthy of consumption. But who wouldn't want to attack such a fine cut at a place that has steak in its name? So we did, and it was good– Good the kitchen was kind enough to include trumpet mushrooms, cippolini onions and a blue cheese chunk with the $96 price tag. Once you factor out the bone and fat, it's pretty manageable for one ravenous couple.
Side options ($6-$10) besides the morsels included with our Flintstones platter included baby carrots cooked in orange blossom honey, butternut squash (which doubled as a super-thick soup du jour) and creamed spinach. Yet our gaze drifted toward a starchy quartet led by namesake macaroni and cheese. Next time, it's going to be the white polenta with Point Reyes blue. In that moment, we caved under our server's cheesy recommendation and requested an affordable glass of Zinfandel (Purple Corduroy Red Siren, $9) and the mac to accompany our meal. Richer in both texture and flavor than most we've tasted, this ramped-up version of the childhood classic contained a five-cheese fondue blend.
Between courses, we took a look around. The upstairs dining patio was, like the menu, still a work in progress. Our server explained it was a matter of determining the best lighting configuration for the space. Just before the main entrance, an enclosed seating area was not only heated, but also adequately lit by Moroccan-inspired lanterns. A very cozy experience, if that's your goal. Back on the main level, a private dining space snugly holds 10, with the tavern and main dining room adjacent. We were just off the spacious waiting area in the wine library. And the décor was white, the exact opposite of its predecessor.
For dessert, there were a handful of options for $10. With the exception of pumpkin crème brûlée, each included a different flavored ice cream. Apple pie in a jar contained all the components we would expect, down to a brown sugar streusel and vanilla bean ice cream. However, our top pick would be three words that taste great together: sticky toffee pudding. As tough to photograph as our other dishes (as food in shades of brown, white and yellow generally are), this dish stood out. It's an interactive plate, in which patrons “butter” the pudding with brown sugar ice cream before coating it with a bourbon-infused toffee sauce. While it may sound like too much work for one dish, the temperature differences in its components made for a pleasing sensation when consumed. Be sure to include a bit of citrus garnish in each bite, as it took the edge off all that sweetness.
We had no room to order greens or other starters, but we noted such indulgent possibilities as freshly shucked oysters, bone marrow, and a lobster salad with a warm bacon truffle vinaigrette. And hardcore wine-lovers should inquire about a special Black List not found in the standard book. As far as opening weekends go, we witnessed the occasional lapse in service around us. Yet their growing pains won't prevent us from going back for more.
Selanne Steak Tavern is located at 1464 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, (949) 715-9881; www.selannesteaktavern.com.
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