April 20, 2013 – Dinner at Harbor Grill in Dana Point
The Harbor Grill is a no nonsense seafood restaurant. Sitting in Dana Point Harbor with a nice view of the boats, this place offers very fresh seafood, with a lot of stellar choices. Since 1984 proprietors John, Wanda and Keegan Hicks have prided themselves on great quality and delicious food. Keegan Hicks took over from his parents as owner, and he decided not to change a thing. His folks have owned The Harbor Grill since 1984 when in 2003, Keegan stepped up to the plate and knocked it out of the park delivering flavorful, mouthwatering food.
Keegan graduated from Colorado State University with a degree in Resort and Restaurant Management and enhanced his culinary and cultural education with worldwide travel. Not much has changed here, even Cathy my server has been with The Harbor Grill since 1993, and the manager for 26 years. Why mess with perfection.
Executive Chef, Angel Fabian began his career with the Harbor Grill in 1986. He attended the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa Valley. Angel has also traveled extensively, visiting many places in South America. Angel’s sauces, salsas and unique flavored broths reflect an international influence including Latin America, Asia, Southwestern and Mediterranean.
There are some times when folks sitting next to me ask why I am trying so much food, they become overly curious and I have to spill the beans. With every new dish that came out their eyes were about to pop out of their heads. Philip and his wife Kerry started asking me about my job and if I was a food blogger, so we struck up a fun lively conversation. They told me of a relative of theirs who was doing the same thing in New York, but a little different from my story, this lucky nephew has been appearing on some celebrity chefs shows, like Anthony Bourdain. Maybe one day those chefs will come knocking on my door.
Here’s what I tried:
New England Clam Chowder, this is a wonderful version of a very popular soup.
Dungeness Crab Cocktail, very simple, just really good fresh crab, with great cocktail sauce
Fried Oysters w/ Spicy Cornicohn Tartar Sauce, this dish was a standout, with this luscious dipping sauce, and nice breaded oysters.
Steamed Clams, perfect broth, very fresh clams.
Smoked Halibut Salad, another standout, they smoke their halibut in house and the 2 dressings were terrific.
Pacific Swordfish Marinated Japanese Style, Cathy suggested that I try this and she was very right, tender fresh fish with an amazing sweet marinade.
Bouillabaisse, Mediterranean Style Seafood Stew with Lobster, Crab, Shrimp, Clams and fresh fish. I have had this many times, but this one was really a winner. The lobster in it was a nice surprise, plump and super tender, excellent menu item.
Grilled Scallops with Angel Hair Pasta in Serrano Chile Sauce, wow what can I say about this dish. The Serrano Chile sauce on the angel hair pasta was so different, but in a really good way. The very large scallops had been seared, this one I will crave for a long time.
Cajun Blackened Rib eye, kind of spicy with an abundance of good seared crust, I liked this one too.
Here’s the wine that I tried:
Mers Soliel, Silver Chardonnay, Unoaked, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey 2011. This wine worked so well with the oysters, it had some oak, but not enough to drown out the nice clean flavor of the oysters.
Chamisal Chardonnay- Edna Valley 2008. I paired this great wine with the halibut salad; it had some caramel and some oak so it went good with the smokey aroma of the halibut.
Pine Ridge Chardonnay, Dijon Clone, Napa Valley. When in doubt Chardonnay with shellfish is a sure fire winner, this was a good match with the clams.
Zinfandel – Sonoma County 2009. The Bouillabaisse had lots of shellfish, but it also is made with a tomato base sauce, so this wine gathered those flavors and ran with it.
Tierra Secreta Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina 2010. The Cajun Steak was a great pair with this fine wine.
Bread Pudding with Kentucky Bourbon Sauce, a little too sweet for my tastes, and I was way to full to appreciate.
Dulce De leche with chocolate walnut brownie layered with chocolate mousse and a caramel glaze. As full as I was I had to indulge my senses, this desert was killer, so rich and full of wholesome chocolate flavor.
Thanks to Philip and Kerry I tried the Crème Brule, which was a true winner.
I have to admit, this place is very special, just plain great cuisine. And why not? After all, they just earned the People’s Choice award for best chowder.
Whether enjoying the cozy dining room or the colorful garden terrace, the view of harbor sails encourages a leisurely meal while a pianist adds the perfect background music each evening.
The open kitchen and round mesquite grill is worth noting. The Harbor Grill offers a delicious daily array of fresh seafood cooked in a variety of inventive styles, including Southwestern, Pacific Rim, Caribbean, Cajun and Mediterranean. I could go on and on about the atmosphere and the back story but honestly, I really can’t wait for my viewers to stop reading and get in your car and go to The Harbor Grill in Dana Point. Happy eating.
The Harbor Grill
34499 Golden Lantern
Dana Point, CA. 92629