Dining at the Ritz-Carlton is itself a worthy reason to pay a visit any day of the week and enjoy a different experience for every meal, each appropriate to the moment: a light, casual breakfast at the Market Place (try the quinoa bowel for a guiltless treat); a poolside snack while lounging midday (the fresh pita and house-made hummus from the Dana Pool Cafe is surprisingly finger-licking); a late drink at the outdoor, oceanfront lounge, 180blû (the Tequila Sangria is a specialty). RAYA, however, is a singular dining experience that simply mustn’t be missed.
RAYA showcases Chef Steve Wan’s signature Pan-Latin coastal cuisine, prepared with sustainable seafood, local produce, and natural and organic meats. You can find breakfast and lunch here, but we recently opted for an indulgent dinner with foodie friends - an experience enhanced by panoramic views of the Pacific as the sun set brilliantly. At RAYA, every detail of each dish is lovely to the eye as well as the palate, and every detail of table service is expertly executed – all a fitting counterpoint to nature’s exquisite display just on the other side of the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the sand and surf below.
RAYA’s menu encompasses an array of small (appetizer) and large (entree) plates. If you’re having trouble deciding, a great option to start is the restaurant’s signature Seafood Sampler, which arrives with a trio of popular picks from the small plates options, including oysters on the half shell, rock shrimp aquachile, tuna tataki and salmon tiradito.
We shared lobster tacos, Hamachi tiradito (served on a jicama “tortilla”) and petite lamb lollipops, all succulent ways to start a slow meal with good friends. One of us ordered the miso Alaskan black cod, one of Chef Wan’s most popular offerings, and all of us benefitted – this flavorful fish dish literally melts in your mouth and is perfectly paired with charred asparagus, daikon (Jap- anese turnip), kabayaki sauce (think a sweet soy sauce) and togarashi aioli.
The halibut and New York prime were delicious, too, accompanied a la carte by the Dungeness crab mashed potatoes (a special recommendation by our server that was the perfect complement to all our main courses). Dessert was an adventure – the churros were an obvious choice, but we were also glad our server suggested the pineapple upside down cake with homemade coconut ice cream, which was like Maui on a plate.
Inventive cuisine, an ocean-inspired dining experience, stunning floor-to-ceiling surf and sand views - these are all uniquely RAYA at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel.
The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel is located at 1 Ritz Carlton Drive in Dana Point. For more information, call (949) 240-2000.