Just relaxing on an islet in the Caribbean

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Well known to locals as the old Pottery Shack building in charming Laguna Beach is “Sapphire Laguna” restaurant. Executive Chef Azmin Ghahreman (formerly of the St. Regis and Four Seasons) has been offering cosmopolitan dishes since 2007. Sapphire’s indoor/outdoor dining areas - enchanting outdoor fire pit, warm dining room ambiance, global cuisine and Chef inspired signature cocktails lure loyal locals and tourist alike.

When Chef Azmin is not overseeing kitchen prep and creating new menu items, he chivalrously spends time helping the children of our community by creating alternative healthy, low-fat meals for our local school cafeteria lunches. Kudos to Chef Azmin for his commitment and energy serving the progenies of Laguna Beach and surrounding areas!

I have dined at Sapphire on a handful of occasions for lunch and dinner sampling many different dishes and my favorite on the menu is the “Hawaiian Style Steamed Barramundi”. Barramundi is a dense Hawaiian fish and my fillet was moist-tender and melted in my mouth. The fish was served with a mixture of fresh ginger, shitake mushrooms, cilantro, green onions and shoyu – soy based sauce and was very well prepared.

A big hit on the menu are the “Home-Fried Potato Chips” which are lightly sprinkled with sage-rosemary sea salt and for a mere $4.75 should be ordered by every potato chip aficionado before every meal - they are pure potato chip perfection! There is nothing better than fresh and warm, thinly sliced potato chips!

My last dining experience at Sapphire invoked the global cuisine gods who bestowed upon me the desire to order “outside of the box” for a Laguna Beach restaurant. From the Global Cuisine menu I ordered three items to see for myself what this “global cuisine” fuss was all about. With seven different small plates to choose from, I decided on the “Tak-Koji Tacos”, “Shrimp and Andouille Sausage Skewers” and the “San Francisco Rickshaw Pork and Shrimp Dumplings”.

The Skewers were so-so with the shrimp in need of a little more gusto and the Pork and Shrimp Dumplings were pretty average with subtle flavor (guys, periodically I drive to Little Saigon in Westminster for some serious authentic Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine where dumplings are perfected hence, a tough standard to live up to). Alas, I did click my heels with joy when I tasted the Korean style Tak-Koji Tacos with tender grilled chicken meat that had been marinating in a spiced marinade sauce and served with freshly chopped cilantro and a lime sour cream. The accompanying Crunchy Sesame Slaw was slightly sweet and refreshing creating a nice balance with the savory spiced chicken in my tacos.

During one afternoon repast my dining partner and I shared the “Lunch Box” which offers a handful of “surprise” samplings. For the most part everything I tasted was good with a couple of minor exceptions. The “Southern Fried Chicken Salad” left no noticeable impression on my taste buds with an over-dressing of Buttermilk Ranch making a very soggy salad. Although, the "Crazy Cobb Salad" with fresh seafood and smoked pork was crisp and yummy! We also concurred that the “Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps” were rather “dull” but we thoroughly enjoyed the “Sesame Crusted Ahi Salad” with lightly seared Ahi and Enoki mushrooms and we agreed that the “Sautéed Jumbo Shrimp in Rosemary-Garlic Milk” was delicious ultimately leaving us totally satiated!

Chef Azmin does a wonderful job of offering many international dishes such as the “Greek Octopus Salad”, “Hong Kong Style Salt/Pepper Shrimp” and “Tiradito of Kampachi” to mention a few. Although I have yet to taste the various items on the menu, I am sure I will find more than one of them to satisfy my finicky palate.

Sapphire has a well stocked bar for those who just want to hang out, order a couple of small plates and whet their whistle. I have savored a couple of the chef inspired “Signature Cocktails” and the “Lychee Martini” with lychee puree was delightful. My dining partner ordered the “Pure Passion Martini” which was dressed with a cayenne sugared rim and mixed up with fresh passion fruit puree and vanilla vodka. One sip told me I should stick to my “lighter” Lychee Martini since her cocktail was a bit thick and sweet for my taste buds. I was informed by Chris the bartender that the “Adult Lemonade”, a refreshing libation made up of homemade lemonade, vodka and St. Germaine was also available for those desiring a lighter specialty tipple.

In addition to a full bar Sapphire has approximately 900 bottles of wine, 37 wines by the glass (rather impressive) and the gourmet food shop “Sapphire Pantry” which is conveniently located next door! In addition to a varied cheese and wine selection, the Pantry offers various “to go” items including sweet and savory for your beach picnic needs. During one trip to the Pantry I was thrilled to find “Boquerones” (Spanish white anchovies) in stock…these tender marinated plump white anchovies are pretty difficult to find and I am happy to know I can purchase them within a ten minute drive from my home!


Sapphire Laguna and Sapphire Pantry on Urbanspoon
Open Daily for Lunch and Dinner
Sunday for Brunch
Reservations recommended on a beautiful Laguna day!
Good $Price$ Point

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