370 Common in Laguna Beach (Photos by Leonard Ortiz)
When I arrive, my guests are already seated and enjoying a glass of wine. I notice a mysterious bottle wrapped in a brown paper bag. “What are we drinking?” I ask, thinking the Wine Collector has brought something special from his cellar. I reach for the bag.
“Don’t look!” he says. “That’s part of the deal.”
“Deal? Who made a deal?” I ask.
“Well, apparently tonight is brown bag night,” he says. “The waiter offered us this bottle for $15, but we don’t get to see what’s inside.”
He grabs the bag and cinches it tightly around the bottle’s neck so that I can’t see the label, then he pours me a glass. The color is beautiful, like liquid rubies. It has great structure, too. A California cabernet, perhaps? It’s a bit young. Oh, how I hate guessing games. It tastes like it should be worth a lot more than $15…
I like to begin with the small bites: a sweet-spicy chicken wing, a miniature grilled cheese sandwich, a beautifully charred prawn, a shishito pepper stuffed with goat cheese and cheddar and tempura-fried – all of which are sold by the piece, not by the platter. It’s a sort of build-your-own amuse-bouche, and it’s a fun way to get things started…
The burger, by the way, is a mammoth heap of high-quality beef topped with a fried egg, poblano chilies, cheddar cheese and thick bacon. They call it a 10-napkin burger, and that’s an apt description. So I’m confounded as to why they don’t automatically serve it with a stack of napkins. I find myself dripping with grease and blood and egg yolk, wondering how and where to wipe my hands, my face, every knuckle. My one and only napkin is protecting my lap, catching the river of juices that flows from my chin. A waitress eventually senses my distress and brings me one extra napkin. Just one? Are they trying to torture me?
This is obviously merely a synopsis. To read my full review and see the star rating, and to view an extensive slide show by photographer Leonard Ortiz, check out the OC Register. Note: Subscriptions are required for unlimited access the OC Register online. We don’t give it away for free at the newsstand, and we don’t give away for free online, either. Anyone can receive one week of complimentary access, but after that you’ll need to be a subscriber. Alternatively, you can always buy a single day pass — cheaper than a cup of coffee — for 24-hour access.