RAYA: Dana Point’s Delectable Pan-Pacific Dining Experience

The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel’s restaurant RAYA underwent a much-applauded renovation last May. Gone was the eatery’s original classy-but-stuffy atmosphere, replaced by a more minimalistic, open and inviting interior, which flawlessly showcases the hotel’s inspiring views of the Pacific Ocean.

The menu also received a face-lift, guided by the steady hand of veteran restaurateur Richard Sandoval. The older model of standard French fare has been substituted with an exciting Latin/Asian, Pan-Pacific set of dishes, with a heavy emphasis on locally obtained, organic seafood.

The food is both creative and unexpected. The taco plate is a perfect example, as it marries Latin and Asian cuisines–  meat mixed with black bean puree rests in a shell made from a wonton wrap. The tacos are constantly changed and updated, with standouts including the smoked swordfish and the Korean fried chicken (or “KFC”). Also, Raya’s twist on classic barbecued pork buns means they are spiced up with chipotle, fried tomatillo and cilantro.

Appetizers for the adventurous include the ceviche mixto, a plate where rock shrimp and octopus mix with sweet corn, mandarins and hearts of palm in a tangy aji panca sauce. Don’t miss the sweet corn soup when it’s in season, and savor the the nuggets of mussel and crab at the bottom of the bowl.

While Pan-Pacific seafood may dominate the menu, more traditional fare is equally delicious like the vintage New York steak perfectly complemented with a smooth Belle Glos Pinot Noir. Shredded Alaskan king crab awaits in the golden potato puree, but it’s a move executed so subtly that the crab never overpowers the potato, adding instead to the overall texture and resulting in a pleasantly complex spin on mashed potatoes.

A recent addition and a must-sample dessert is the margarita torte, a delicately chilled dish with hints of lime, a strawberry garnish and a clever side of sour cream ice cream. Intriguing, yes?

For more information and reservations, call (949) 240-2000 or visit here.

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