Even though school has started for many, the Summer lingers on all year long for adults who live by the seashore. My friend Robin recently moved and I went down past the “Orange Curtain” to see her new place and to spend a day by the pool. One of her friends is living on the beach for the month of August, and as the sun set, we decided to go get dinner. Even though I know and love many places in Laguna, like Sapphire and 230 Forest, I’m always happy to try new places suggested by locals.

After going through a list of possibilities, we were driving up PCH when we drove past Mare and both my friends literally swiveled their heads and said, “Let’s go to Mare”! Since they both thought it was a better place than the other options they had suggested, we pulled into the one remaining parking spot behind the Holiday Inn. Ok, I admit, going to a hotel restaurant, especially a Holiday Inn hotel restaurant is not normally my choice for dinner, but when two local food lovers literally decide in chorus that it is the best idea, I put my skepticism aside and enjoy the journey.

The outdoor space is absolutely lovely with flickering candle lights and a wall of warmth. Triangular canopies provide shade in the day but add a nice architectural feel at night. The style is casually elegant with wrought iron railings and a modern interior. Definitely sit outside if there is a table and wait if there isn’t a table.

The first taste of this bright garlic, olive oil, and parsley dip for the bread was addictive. We ate it so fast we asked for a second plate before we even ordered our appetizers.

The second plate of dip ended up being a zesty sauce for the $13 fried calamari we ordered to share as well. The sauces that came with the perfectly crisp squid were fine, but nothing exquisite, so we asked for more lemon and used the the garlic bread dip as our calamari dip!

Since we all loved carpaccio, we also shared the $14 filet mignon and although the picture does not do it justice, this was a great version of the classic, with quality olive oil and generous arugula, capers, and Parmesan.

I ordered the chef’s special, a $22 spaghetti verde with shrimp and peppers that was the definition of summer on a plate. The home made pasta was cooked al dente, the shrimp were tender and the zingy little peppers added just enough color and pizazz to make the lemon and butter based sauce sparkle. Everyone at the table loved this dish and I would gladly order it again. After the hearty appetizers, I barely made a dent in this bowl of pasta, so it became my lunch the following day, and it reheated to be as tasty as it was the night before.

The friend who was living on the beach decided while we were still in the parking lot that she wanted the $24 limoncello infused radiatore pasta* with Maine lobster, shallots and a pinot grigio sauce. If I had not ordered the special, I would have ordered this delightfully rich sumptuous dish.

My friend Robin ordered the $19 chicken with portobello mushrooms made with a Sicilian Marsala wine served with sauteed spinach and rosemary potatoes. The chicken breasts were tender and moist and the sauce was complex but I felt it need just a touch of salt.

Since all of us barely managed more than two bites of our entrees after eating all of the bread and appetizers, we all went home with lunch for the following day. And even though we didn’t order it for ourselves, one of the friends took home some meatballs for her boyfriend which she said were the best meatballs she has ever eaten. I would have taken an order home if I was not already bursting at the seams with an entree to take home already.

A wonderful night ended with the sight of a full moon as we walked out of the restaurant 🙂

*For people who are allergic to gluten they offer gluten free pasta for $3.50 more or whole wheat pasta for $2.50 more.

Mare Culinary Lounge on Urbanspoon

Advertisements