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The Gossiping Gourmet: Nirvana in the fullest sense

March 06, 2013|By Elle Harrow and Terry Markowitz
  • Nirvana Vegetable Plate served at Nirvana Grille in Laguna Beach.
Nirvana Vegetable Plate served at Nirvana Grille in Laguna… (KEVIN CHANG )

The consistently good food and the changing seasonal menu keep bringing us back to Nirvana Grille in Laguna Beach. This attractive, comfortable space is divided into the bar area with tall communal tables for eating and drinking and the cozy dining room. A beautiful stone wall provides a backdrop to the bar while large windows give the room a light and airy feeling and small, original plein air paintings decorate the walls. Larger parties of 10 to 12 can dine at a private table in the back. In warmer weather, there is a covered outdoor patio upstairs called the Bliss Bar.

In keeping with the latest trend, the menu features a dozen or so small plates that can be shared or combined to make a meal. You might try the roasted poblano chile stuffed with spinach, artichokes, shallots, cream and Parmesan and served with cream cheese garlic toast. A popular French dish that we hardly ever see anymore is raclette cheese fondue, accompanied by boiled potatoes, green beans, proscuitto and cornichon pickles.

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A nice selection of salads can also be served in an entrée-size portion for $5 more. The restaurant is somewhat famous for its kitchen sink salad, which has a little bit of everything in it: baby spinach, romaine, applewood smoked bacon, blue cheese, red onion, roasted beets, green beans and croutons in a creamy balsamic dressing. A bit on the healthier side is the organic curly green kale salad with cranberries, red onion, feta, pine nuts and preserved lemon vinaigrette. You also have the option of adding one of nine different proteins to any salad or entrée for an additional price.

We started our meal with a "small plate" of sweet potato fries that could have fed a family of four. The crispy potatoes were dusted with cinnamon and paprika. They came with a tart, sweet, sour cream and maple syrup dip. We had to stop eating them to leave room for the rest of the meal.

Rack of lamb was lightly crusted with bread crumbs, pistachios and a touch of Dijon mustard, but the coating was soft and really didn't add much flavor. However, the juicy chops didn't need anything extra. The meaty quintet was served with some excellent Yukon gold mashed potatoes and buttered broccolini.

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