RAYA, one of six eateries at the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, offers a locally-sourced restaurant menu influenced by Pan-Latin cuisine.
The ambiance makes it impossible to not fall in love with this AAA Five-Diamond Resort: the sound of the ocean’s waves, the salt-scented breeze and panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean from the 150-foot seaside bluff.
Two of my best friends and I have an on-going tradition to celebrate our birthday milestones together. At the courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, we celebrated with a sunset dinner at RAYA, a Richard Sandoval concept.
About the Menu
As someone who has dined in with a few different Ritz-Carlton properties, I knew it would be an enjoyable experience to celebrate my 30th birthday and experience the menu created by RAYA’s Chef de Cuisine, Jaclyn Corrales.
Chef Corrales celebrates eight years at the Ritz-Carlton and over 12 years of culinary experience. Her menu’s ingredients are locally-sourced and handpicked from the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market.
The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel’s beverage team collaborates together to produce crafted cocktails like the Holy Mezcal. The Holy Mezcal features mezcal, guava and lime juices, Cointreau and sliced jalapeño. Much like the dinner menu, you will find Pan-Latin influences on the cocktail menu. I would highly recommend taking a step outside to enjoy your cocktail with the fresh, ocean breeze!
We started out with a variety of light and fresh appetizers. Anytime I’m by the coast, I enjoy taking advantage of fresh seafood. As a result, the oysters were at the top of my list. From Baja California, Kumiai oysters feature a crisp saltiness and a subtle, sweet finish. For my gluten-free friend, she couldn’t get enough of the Brazilian Cheese Rolls– the avocado chile butter was perfect.
Chef Corrales recommends the Hamachi Crudo as a refreshing appetizer to enjoy on a sunny day by the ocean. Chef Sandoval, recommends the Lobster Tacos. These bite-sized tacos include black bean purée and chile de árbol salsa.
Again, with seafood being my priority, I ordered the Pan-Seared Scallops. But even if you decide on steak, you will still have the opportunity to taste seafood. With the Grilled Prime Filet, dungeness crab is prepared with the mashed potatoes. It was so good that I decided to get a side order for our table.
I didn’t initially share my scallops because I wanted to indulge myself to the very last bite. However, I knew I needed to save room for dessert which resulted in me grudgingly sharing. Chef Corrales surprised me with the scallops by creating a morita gastrique and mole blanco. For those who may be unfamiliar, Morita chilies are red smoked, ripe jalapeño peppers.
Generally speaking, going with the most unique menu item has served me well. I was eager to try the Mascarpone Cheesecake because I knew Executive Pastry Chef Sylvain Haage and his team probably spent a good amount of time perfecting the diverse flavors.
The cheesecake was just as good as I imagined it would be. Two maize sponge cakes held a light and fluffy mascarpone cheesecake, and on the side included avocado ice cream on a bed of blue-corn crumble. Añejo and jalapeño jellies added a subtle spice.
Chef Haage, a graduate from the highly-acclaimed Parisian Centre Européen des Professions Culinaires, enjoys seeking out unusual flavors that represent the restaurant and the Ritz-Carlton brand. In addition to the Latin market, Chef Haage enjoys mixing in Asian influences which are seen in the Lemongrass Shaved Ice and the Chocolate Bubble Waffle. He finds a thrill in combining popular street food with comfort food. For the famous Hong Kong bubble waffle, he incorporated a slightly, naturally-smoked chocolate from Bali.
Thank you to the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel for sponsoring this dinner.