California is the home of a number of famous sights. You have all the obvious: the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Disneyland, Hearst Castle. But there are those that are so embedded in the culture and identity of the state that you’d almost never know how famed they were. Chateau Montelena, home to the historic winner of the “Judgement of Paris” wine competition. The Gamble House, American Craftsman styles’ pinnacle example of aesthetics and philosophy under one roof. And then there’s Studio (located within the Montage Laguna Beach), with its own menu of star attractions that pay homage to California’s legendary tastes.
Modern French with its roots deep in California heritage, the culinary team at Studio - helmed by Chef Benjamin Martinek - has worked tirelessly to craft the region’s most sublime dishes from the finest seasonal and artisanal products. Impeccably appointed with an elegantly comfortable approach to fine dining, this Forbes Five-Star Craftsman-inspired restaurant is reminiscent of an elegant, yet charming beach cottage.
Perched on one of Laguna Beach’s oceanfront bluffs facing due west, the dining experience here is replete with ocean breezes and stunning views. Guests can enjoy the private dining room or the Chef’s Table, an intimate room adjacent to the kitchen where the sky is truly the limit for your culinary curiosities. Complete with a fireplace and the attention of Studio’s gifted experts, no pairing is too far-fetched.
Ever-changing a la carte menus, chef’s tasting menus and private dinners at the Chef’s Table, perfectly paired selections from an extensive, carefully assembled wine collection - the concept and overall experience of Studio is dedicated to showcasing the best.
To our delight on a recent evening out for “date night,” my husband and I sampled several of Chef Ben’s newest compelling small plate specialities: an absolutely delectable Roasted Pork Belly with garlic soubise, black eyed peas and sherry cipollini, the literally “melt in your mouth” roasted Mero Arctic Seabass enhanced with sunchoke, matsutake mushroom and Chinese broccoli and tender, cooked to perfection Grilled Beef Tenderloin paired with black trumpet mushroom, mustard greens and potato glass.
A seafood aficionado? There are no shortage of options, including Seared Maine Diver Scallops (with roasted baby corn, miso-potato puree and dashi), Chilled Oysters (paired with hibiscus mignonette, fresh wasabi and cucumber) and Pacific Swordfish (accompanied by tarbais white beans, artichokes barigoule and meyer lemon). More of a meat eater? Try the Superior Farms Lamb Loin or Dry-Aged Beef Strip Loin accompanied by cordyceps mushrooms, sungold tomatoes, fermented garlic and braised parsnip.
Poised at the entrance to the picturesque dining room is the restaurant’s piece-de-resistance, custom-built wine vaults showcasing a more than 2,500 bottle wine collection, a unique, turn-of-the-century bar and a communal bar area offering an interactive dining experience for sampling fine wines or small tastes. Both boutique and esoteric selections combine to create a library of flavors bound to please any palate.
Studio’s sommeliers have assembled the restaurant’s Wine Spectator Grand Award-winning wine collection to help manufacture the most specialized menu in the nation: with endless pairing options and menus specifically crafted around guests wine preferences. The list features labels from the world’s major wine regions in a variety of formats, with an emphasis on benchmark wines and notable emerging wineries. On hand at every meal, they are constantly educating themselves to offer the finest suggestions and tastes of difficult to acquire vintages. On this night, Beverage Manager and Sommelier Troy Smith and Sommelier Gary poured the perfect pairings to accompany each taste - many of which we wouldn’t have known enough to order if left to our own devices and as such, would have missed out on some rather remarkable vintages including an 1997 Laurel Glen Estate Cabernet and a 2011 Soliste L’Age d’Or Chardonnay from the Russian River Valley.
For any special occasion, celebration or a most memorable date night, Studio is the romantic getaway spot for two: an elegant, oceanfront Craftsman cottage, a rare vintage, unrivaled culinary creations, superior service and a legendary sunset every night. Truly, famously, the best that California has to offer.
Studio Restaurant is located in the Montage Laguna Beach at 30801 Coast Hwy. in Laguna Beach. For reservations or more information, call (949) 715-6030 or visit www.montagehotels.com.