It was an ethereal experience, but I expected nothing less from a Michael Mina restaurant: With open arms, we welcome Bourbon Steak. The mastermind behind 36 restaurants across the United States, chef Michael Mina presents an unwavering passion for food united with a commitment to phenomenal service. After an extensive renovation, the space, formerly the home of Stonehill Tavern at Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point, is a new Mina restaurant incarnate. It’s a fusion of steakhouse confidence and coastal sophistication, where you can gaze at panoramic ocean views from the dining room and the alfresco terrace. The signature butter-poached and dry-aged steaks are enough to draw you in, but the smoking shellfish platter will keep you coming back for more.
Executive chef Bryan Brown is at the helm, hailing from the much-beloved Bottega Louie in L.A., and his flavors are bold yet beautifully balanced. Tableside preparations create a culinary symphony in the dining room, while an extensive wine list from sommelier Michelle Morin (oh, how we love female somms!) impresses. And the service, led by a tenured management team, is bar none the best I’ve experienced since my last trip to Europe; attentive yet graceful like a ballet, it sets the bar high for professionalism.
But the menu is the most stellar measure.Begin by treating yourself to a taste of the french fry trio. Duck fat french fries, to be exact, are each uniquely seasoned and paired with an herbaceous green goddess dressing, black truffle aioli and housemade pickled ketchup. To whet your palate, peruse the cocktail list, a remarkable dichotomy of old-school and new-school iterations of the classics, like the Negroni and the Paloma. Also on the beverage front, The Bourbon Cart will allow you to enjoy a trio of the poison, paired with complementing garnishes that are individually smoked tableside—too cool.
If Champagne is more your speed, you could always delight in a glass of Mina’s namesake bubbly for the perfect pairing to the opulent caviar parfait. The soft potato croquette mingles with beautifully smoked salmon, creme fraiche and Imperial Osetra caviar for a celebration of festive flavors. The highlight of the menu though, aside from the steaks, just might be that aforementioned cast-iron broiled shellfish platter. Chock-full of oysters, gulf shrimp, lobster and king crab legs, all bathed in red miso butter, it’s finished with a lemon grass tea at your booth for smoke and sizzle. Sip a somm-recommended bone-dry chenin blanc to cut through the richness of the miso.
For meat lovers, the hay-smoked Snake River Farms wagyu is masterfully cooked and arrives under a showstopping smoked glass dome to up the drama factor. Joined by maitake mushrooms, roasted fingerling potatoes and green peppercorn sauce, it is perfection on a plate. On the side, black truffle mac and cheese, a Mina favorite, is not ever to be missed. To finish, warm spiced beignets with vanilla creme brulee prove the pastry chef’s dexterity.
At this point, you will no doubt be full, but do continue to savor the elegance of the dining room buzzing around you. Bourbon Steak is O.C.’s new gastronomic pleasure and it over-delivers. After 18 years of community contribution, Michael Mina’s next-evolution restaurant is only getting better.
1 Monarch Beach Resort N., Dana Point, 949.234.3900
Appetizers and shared platters, $18-$85; salads, $14-$34; entrees, $35-$87; accompaniments, $4-$40; desserts, $12-$18
5:30-10pm, dinner daily