Just about an hour and a half south of Los Angeles is the town of Laguna Beach, a seaside community, noted for its artists, beautiful beaches and fine restaurants. Recently, this writer made a call to James R. Chylewski, the Executive General Manager of Las Brisas Restaurant. His happy attitude enthralled me so much, that we had a wonderful conversation about food and music, a passion we both share. As a result, I decided to take a trip to Laguna Beach and savor the taste of the Mexican Riviera. When I arrived, I met Fouad Ziady, the gentleman who has spent 33 years at this establishment. Mr. Ziady informed us about the history of the restaurant.
Victor Hugo’s was built in 1938 as a world class restaurant, where celebrities would enjoy a getaway after finishing a film. In 1979 the Real Maz Corporation purchased Victor Hugo’s and renamed it Las Brisas. Since that time, the restaurant has specialized in Mexican cuisine from the Mexican Riviera. On this particular afternoon, the view of the ocean and the rose garden was so breathtaking that it made our culinary journey an occasion to remember.
My guest, Tony Wilson loves Mexican cuisine and perused the menu promptly. Our first choice was the popular Guacamole, made to order, along with a fresh Strawberry Virgin Margarita and a Coconut-Pineapple Drink. The Guacamole appetizer is prepared with Hass avocado, cilantro, Serrano chile, red onion; cotija cheese and fresh squeezed lime juice with an order of tortilla chips. The two drinks are prepared with fresh fruit, fresh coconut puree and simple syrup. Our waiters, Brian Brynes and Rigorbrito Miranda had many suggestions, two of which were the Queso Fundido, prepared with shrimp, chorizo, manchego, shitake mushrooms, chili lime chips, and Gazpacho soup. The soup is prepared with a chilled blend of seasonal vegetables, served with fresh tomato sorbet, Hass avocado, cucumber and crab. That is just what we needed to refresh our day.
As with any great restaurants, the chef and his staff make the success of the restaurant, along with good management. Executive Chef Aurelio Sanchez prepares his dishes from scratch. Concerning the clientele who enjoy dining at Las Brisas, Chef Sanchez states “We call ourselves United Nations from July-August, when The Pageant of Masters is upon us.” With that thought, it was time for our main entrees. Tony Wilson selected the Especial de Mexico, a steak enchilada with a shrimp rellano. I ordered the Sea bass Tomatillo, which is prepared with roasted tomatillos, fresh tomatoes, capers and garlic, served with sauteed seasonal vegetables and garlic mashed potatoes. Ah, what a delight.
The service and the ambiance are something that I will remember for years to come.
Fouad Ziady joined us for dessert and chatted about some of his experiences with celebrities. One of his stories was about Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones. Mick had come to dine when the restaurant was closed after lunch and Mr. Ziady asked him and his entourage to enjoy the patio. Apparently the rock star did not realize the restaurant was closed that afternoon. Other notables such as Robert De Niro and President Bush, along with O.J. Simpson and many football greats have enjoyed the tranquility of Las Brisas.
While dining, enjoying the ocean view and the beautiful rose garden, we ended our culinary journey with a coconut flan and a Chocolate Mousse served in a Florentine shell with coffee liqueur and creme anglaise sauce. For more information or to make reservations call (949) 497-5434 or visit www.lasbrisaslagunabeach.com.
Celebrity Scene News awards 5 stars to Las Brisas Restaurant for a fine dining experience and an incredible ocean view, with excellent service.