This week I had the opportunity to visit Shades Restaurant & Bar, which is located inside of the gorgeous Waterfront Beach resort, which is one of the Hilton properties located on PCH in surf city, Huntington Beach where the land meets the sea. Huntington Beach is a gorgeous city with a bustling group of locals and tourists that regularly come to check out the gorgeous blue Pacific Ocean and visit some of the great shopping, hotels and places to dine. Shades Restaurant stood out to me in that it overlooks the ocean and the food…well the food was pretty damn phenomenal!
When I was invited in to Shades, I was excited to have the opportunity to meet the newest French Canadian chef that recently came aboard, named Executive Chef Ben LaFleche! He is a graduate of the Canadian Culinary Institute of Montreal and worked with the Executive team for a Hilton in Montreal as well. Ben’s creativity in the kitchen has definitely earned him the title of Executive Chef! He uses only fresh seasonal ingredients in the kitchen and even gives his facebook fans the opportunity to request special “ingredients of the month” in which he uses the ingredient as a showcased item in different recipes for the month!
Ben says, “I love being creative in the kitchen and adding seasonal items and unique dishes you won’t find at other restaurants. From appetizers to our special dishes using the ‘Ingredient of the Month, I want to add my own flair and give guests a truly memorable dining experience. I want every guest to feel, ‘ca ete un plaisir!’ (It has been a pleasure!!) to serve them.”
When we arrived at Shades, we had a gorgeous table set up awaiting us with many fabulous dishes to devour. Upon entry to Shades, I was served a delectable cocktail called the Lazy K Lemonade which included pomegranate liquor, pomegranate juice, lemonade, and blueberry vodka! This was so very refreshing! Wine for the evening was a gorgeous white wine from Zaca Mesa (One of my personal favorites to visit in Santa Ynez Valley – I have been there at least 3 or 4 times!) The white wine served from Zaca Mesa was a Viognier from
2010. For me, the Viognier white blend is usually hit or miss, but I must say by far I could not get enough of this Viognier and it is one of the best! The other wine I enjoyed was the Cain Cuvee from Napa Valley which was a red blend with the highest content of Merlot at 50%, along with Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot! This was bold in flavor and simply splendid. These wine choices paired nicely with the dishes to come!
For our first course we were served some delicious o’dourves that can be found on the lunch menu at Shades. To start we had Italian Sausage Risotto Stuffed Piquillo Peppers with Chili Aioli, Mini Crab Cakes with Roasted Garlic Aioli, and Coconut Milk-Braised Pork Sliders with Pickled Mustard Seeds and Rooster Sauce. While each of these plates was unique in their own right, my favorite was the pork sliders. There was a creamy texture that I believe came from the coconut milk and they were full of
flavor. The mustard seeds also added a bit of diversity and a nice crunch! I am not a fan of sausage, but my husband definitely enjoyed having 2 servings! The crab cakes were freshly made and devoured quickly! No seconds for my husband on that one! 🙂
For our starters we tasted Mac N’ Cheese with Hook’s Four Year Aged Cheddar and Pulverized Duck Fat Croutons, PB&J with House Made Bourbon Peanut Butter and Jalapeno Jelly, House made Grilled Flatbread with Ochoa’s Chorizo, Roasted Tomatoes and Mozzarella. I personally love the Mac N’ Cheese! I heard a few people at our table say that it was missing a little something and I honestly cannot tell you what they were talking about. This Mac N’ Cheese was perfect in flavor for any Mac n cheese lover like myself! The PB & J was decadent. I usually do not like to eat things spicy in flavor, but this dish had
just the right spiciness to give it a little kick and make it exciting! I could not taste much bourbon in the peanut butter though, so many be the jalapeno jelly overpowered it? Let me know what you think below if you tried it.:) The flatbread was delicious and the Chorizo was hand selected from a small market in Santa Ana so you know it was fresh in flavor. 🙂
For our entrees we tried Braised Duck Ragout and Pappardelle Pasta, Eight Hour Lamb Belly with Korean Chili glaze, Black Beluga Lentil Salad & Yogurt Sauce, and Pan-Seared Barramundi with Lobster Risotto, Pickled Black Grapes and Pea Tendrils! I am usually a huge duck fan and while this dish was great, it did not steal the show for me like the other 2 did. I never want to do Lamb Belly…I am usually afraid of it, but this lamb belly was cooked for someone just like me because it was perfect in texture and flavor and the presentation was beautiful. I thoroughly
enjoyed this dish. For those of you that have never had Barramundi, this is a soft and buttery delicious white fish that is found in Australia and Asia and is full of delicious flavor. I thoroughly enjoyed the Barramundi. The only thing I would change for my preferences would be to have a little less pepper on the fish, but this dish was to die for with large lobster pieces in the risotto as well. I will definitely be back again to order this dish in the near future!
Last, but not least we got to try the Tangerine mini cupcakes with basil meringue icing for dessert. These cupcakes were delicious and made with the “ingredient of the month,” tangerines!
To end this article, I just though this was too cute not to share…As an alternative high school teacher, I sometimes bring samples of the decadent and different types of foods I get to sample for my students to try and I wanted to share a quote from one of my students about this restaurant because he tried half of the items I mention above. My 18 year old high school student said, “As a journalist & student I have never tasted such exotic food. It seems so good and refreshing. The slow cooked duck ragout seemed very flavorful and extremely rich. I hope someday to actually go to Shades and try some of the crab cakes. Did I mention how expensive it was? When you are done, take a deep breath and try not to look at prices. Shades is perhaps the most diverse restaurant I have tasted.” How cute is that?:)
Please let me know if you have the opportunity to visit Shades with me below and let me k now what you order and what you think! Also, Shades currently has some awesome Happy Hour specials on their gorgeous patio, an all you can eat Sunday Brunch for $49/person with gorgeous ocean view & Wine tasting Thursdays in which you are able to sample 4 wines and purchase Charcuterie and cheese plates for a decent price! Shades is a fabulous place to visit for locals and tourists alike!
Don’t forget to also check out the new restaurant coming to the sister hotel next door at the Hyatt…The Grand Reopening of what used to be The Californian that will have a new name soon to be released… Check it out–> NEW RESTAURANT AT THE HYATT HB.
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