Beachfront restaurants rely on the setting way too often, knowing that customers will still visit for the valuable view, food be damned. Thankfully, chef Rainer Schwarz and business partner John Nye aren’t so complacent at Driftwood Kitchen and The Deck, sister restaurants that overlook crashing waves and suntanned surfers in Laguna Beach.
Yes, Driftwood Kitchen’s setting is great. An airy dining room and umbrella-shaded patio with retractable roof overlook a small beach. Double bonus: they have a full bar and some great California seafood. I was particularly enamored with their mussels, and even better, a Grilled Swordfish ($28) entree. This firm white fish is generally described as “meaty,” but Schwarz knows not to cook this substantial filet like a steak. Snow-white flesh is juicy at the center, sports a nice sear, and joins sunchokes (earthy puree and crispy chips), tender roasted baby artichokes, and Spanish almonds. Crunchy strips of yellow bell pepper and microgreens completed Schwarz’s beautiful preparation, which no doubt changes with seasons.