Located directly across the street from South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, California, Scott’s Restaurant & Bar is hard to miss. However, over the years I had never tried it, let alone stepped inside. Most everyone I know that frequented Scott’s raved about the seafood. Since I was never much one for fish, I always skipped over it in my mind as a dining destination. After becoming completely vegetarian, a friend once suggested Scott’s and after looking over a menu that was most definitely a meatatarian menu, I dismissed it once again.
Then last week, I went to Scott’s for a cocktail meeting. I didn’t think much about it, since we were only going for cocktails, not food. I somehow had it in my mind that Scott’s was an old and stodgy restaurant and I certainly hadn’t thought of it as a world class restaurant. Little did I know that I was in store for a wonderful evening that would dispel all of my preconceived notions of this restaurant.
Our party of four met in the bar/lounge area of the restaurant and since we were only there for cocktails, decided to just take a table there. The bar area is very comfortable, modern and well decorated. I certainly had not envisioned such a cool space being in there. Drinks ordered (3 Layer Cake Shiraz and 1 Scotch on the rocks), we settled in to discussion. The Layer Cake Shiraz was a new discovery for me and is definitely a keeper. Nice bouquet, full bodied, smooth....what’s not to like?
As our discussions continued, someone suggested ordering some food. And another suggested doing a tasting menu. Executive Chef Mike J. Doctulero came to our table and asked us what our preferences were, especially if there were special dietary needs. When he got to me, I told him that I was vegetarian, so not to worry about food for me. Without blinking an eye, he said that he would take care of me. I was intrigued, yet still pretty skeptical. With the exception of a few salads on the menu, there really wasn’t anything there for me.
Shortly afterward, the food began to arrive. For everyone else at the table, Chef Mike started out with Hamachi Yellowtail jalapeno roll with dungeness crab and spicy ponzu. For a vegetarian option, we got a Burrata and Zucchini Blossom Pizza and a Roasted Beet Salad with white balsamic vinaigrette, mache and goat cheese. The rest of my party devoured the Yellowtail Roll and didn’t need to give me their reviews. Their contented “mmmmmmmmmmm’s” said it all. Meanwhile, I started with a slice of the pizza. The balance of flavorings was wonderful with the smoothness of the Burrata complimenting the delicate taste of the zucchini blossoms. I then dug into the Roasted beet salad. I love beets and the pairing of red and golden beets with mache and goat cheese was really a delight. I of course fought against my inner voice telling me to horde these 2 dishes to myself and shared them with the rest of the table. For all I new, this would be the extent of vegetarian food for the evening.
Then the next course arrived. Chef Mike served a dish of Halibut with cous cous. For me, he served the same cous cous with vegetables (asparagus, carrots..). Again the consensus around the table was that both versions were hits with us. This was then followed up with a course of Branzino on a bed of edamame risotto and for me, edamame risotto with mixed baby vegetables. Again, the preparation was impeccable and the table thoroughly enjoyed this course. Both dishes were exquisitely prepared.
And then dessert. Now I am not one who ordinarily partakes of desserts in restaurants. I am usually quite sated with the main courses and appetizers and skip dessert (only to several hours later, at home, dressed in comfy clothes, devour more than my share of dessert!!!). But seeing as everything else had been so amazing, I couldn’t resist. We were served two desserts, the first being a Concord Grape Cabernet Sorbet with fresh berries. The sorbet was rich with intense flavor and pairing it with the fresh berries made it a light and refreshing end to the meal. But then came the piece de la resistance , Cheesecake stuffed beignets with vanilla bean panna cotta, caramel and creme anglaise. All I can say is wow!! I have had my share of beignet around the world (including the renowned Cafe du Monde in New Orleans) and these are hands down the best. The “cheesecake” filling is flavorful and light, almost airy. And the sauces were divine. If I had been at home, I would have picked up the plate and licked it clean :)
The service was attentive and friendly, definitely first class all the way. Next time I will sit in the beautiful main dining room (and yes, there will be many more next times!!). This is definitely not an old and stodgy restaurant. It is current, vibrant and chic.
Chef Mike Doctulero most certainly had made fans of the rest of my group. But he had also made me into a fan as well, a big fan. He proved that a good chef can make extraordinary food for non-vegetarians and vegetarians alike. He also proved that he could use his talents to make his guests happy and be accommodating to their needs without sacrificing his originality or his culinary vision.
I will certainly be returning to Scott’s and I am looking forward to more of Chef Mike’s amazing creations!! Thank you Chef Mike for proving my assumptions about Scott’s wrong.