Destination Dining @ The Ritz Carlton, Laguna Niguel

Jul 25, 2016

RAYA and 180blu offer inventive dishes, hand-crafted cocktails and unparalleled, awe-inspiring views

Here in South Orange County, we’re pretty lucky to live so close to the coast and have an abundance of wonderful dining destinations to choose from. But for inventive cuisine coupled with awe-inspiring ocean views, there are few establishments that rival RAYA and 180blu.

Both reside in The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel - RAYA boasts a bright, open space with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Pacific while the aptly named 180blu is an outdoor lounge/deck situated 150 feet above Salt Creek Beach, defined by the same breathtaking 180 degrees of blue sky and clear blue ocean water.

RAYA and 180blu’s culinary offerings (dishes on the 180blu menu come from the RAYA kitchen) showcases Pan-Latin Coastal Cuisine prepared with sustainable seafood, local produce, natural and organic meat. Acclaimed Chef Richard Sandoval’s signature Latin flavors define the seasonal menu which draws inspiration from California and Asian cuisines.

RAYA has long been a favorite special occasion “date night” dinner destination - the service here is what you’d expect of the Ritz-Carlton and consistently so: Attentive yet unobtrusive, professional, yet casually friendly. The same could be said of the service at 180blu, the perfect locale to find yourself at happy hour - for the food, the handcrafted cocktails and the spectacular sunsets.

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.

There is an abundance of gluten-free options (noted by a special label) ranging from a seafood risotto chock full of Maine lobster, prawn, Santa Barbara mussel, calamari, Spanish chorizo, saffron rice and Dungeness crab to the all-natural Prime New York steak accompanied by a Dungeness crab potato puree, grilled pickled onion, chipotle hollandaise and truffle chimichurri.

The Miso Alaskan Black Cod is my favorite dish on the menu - this flavorful fish dish literally melts in your mouth and is perfectly paired with charred asparagus, daikon (Japanese turnip), kabayaki sauce (think a sweet soy sauce) and togarashi aioli.

The menu at 180blu is a more casual affair characterized by refreshing hand-crafted beverages (watch Mixologist Erin Snider demonstrate how to make Tequila Sangria, one of the specialty drinks served here), small plates and desserts from RAYA (our favorite here is the Wild Mushroom Huarache - a variation on flatbread piled with wild mushroom, caramelized onion, black bean, goat cheese and truffle oil. Bonus! Weather permitting, live music Thursday through Sunday from 6 pm - 9 pm.

The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel is located at 1 Ritz Carlton Drive in Dana Point. For more information, call (949) 240-2000.

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