Mexican-influenced California cuisine provides a flavor-filled escape at ‘Las Brisas’

A review of Laguna’s popular and historic eatery offering scenic views and a memorable fine dining affair.

The breezy retreat overlooking the Pacific in Laguna paired with fine dining can only mean you are at one place.

The iconic Las Brisas, otherwise known as a Southern California landmark is perched right above the scenic coastline of Laguna giving a unique and elegant dining experience for locals and visitors.

According to the restaurant’s website, it debuted in 1938 as the Victor Hugo Inn, a world-class eatery and celebrity getaway. 41 years later, the venue was renamed to Las Brisas in 1979 and continues to retain the beauty and charm of a romantic, bygone era.

With a sea-to-table menu infused with traditional Mexican flavors, Las Brisas’ dining room is open daily for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. This past weekend, I visited the restaurant for my third time experiencing the dinner menu to celebrate a friend’s birthday.

Let’s begin with the parking experience.

When we have come before, we usually park along the street in the metered spots. With that intention for this time, I mistakenly missed the turn onto Cliff Drive and found myself in the Las Brisas valet lot.

I was greeted quickly by a kind employee who could tell that I was confused. He assured me by asking, “Are you here for Las Brisas?”

“Yes,” I said with embarrassment. “We’re here for a birthday celebration.”

He responded, “It will be 10 dollars, for valet service and we can apply it to your meal bill.”

As there were other cars behind mine, I quickly decided to try the valet service, and I figured that it would most likely be less than the cost for the metered parking.

Now for the dining experience.

As you walk into the restaurant, you are immediately greeted with elegancy. The host and hostess were welcoming and showed their excitement upon my arrival. Proceeding to the dining room, the windows open up the restaurant to an inviting yet enchanting ambiance.

The tables are dressed in white with candles flickering at the center and the hardwood flooring that leads you throughout the maze-like dining room make you feel like you are at home, leaving your worries at the door.

To start, there is an abundance of appetizers to choose. From barbecue pork spareribs, tortilla soup, or a calamari ceviche tostada, our choice was to keep it simple ordering the chips and guacamole.

When the server brought it to the table, the chips were accompanied by two different salsas: a spicy red salsa and a zesty mild green salsa. The fresh and crunchy chips exceeded my expectations pairing well with the salsas and guacamole. To be honest, they disappeared quickly, resulting in our server asking if we wanted more chips multiple times.

In the previous times I visited, my choice was their salmon. It was prepared beautifully and tasted exceptional. Since the chefs have discovered a stellar ability to influence seafood with a Mexican flair, my entrée choice was the filet of beef.

Prepared medium-well, the filet had a beautiful presentation lying atop a mole-potato purée. The charred scallion brought a pop of color to the dark colors from the filet.

My rating on this meal would be 7/10.

The meat was seasoned well and cooked to my request but the mole-potato purée was definitely interesting. The spices from the traditional mole flavor did not match with the potatoes. I think the dish would have been better without the mole, but then it would not be “Mexican-infused,” right?

The overall experience was fantastic as was expected and I will continue to return. If you have yet to visit, go give it a try. It is an unforgettable fine dining experience.