A lot has changed at the St. Regis Monarch Beach lately.
For starters, it’s now just the Monarch Beach Resort, with a brand new, very beachy look throughout. The restaurant formerly known as Motif is now called Aveo, and that’s where I recently enjoyed one of the finest Nicoise salads I can recall.
Nicoise salads thrive on simplicity and purity. Fresh green beans, lightly steamed. Tender potatoes – in this case, a mix of tiny white peewees and beautiful little purple ones. Tomatoes and olives of various shades. A few small leaves of lettuce.
One of those trendy soft-boiled eggs but with a twist – it’s been dipped in panko breadcrumbs and deep-fried. Plus, the requisite tuna, which is absolutely beautiful, seared ever-so-lightly to seal its crust with a thin layer of herbs and spice.
The dressing is a white balsamic vinaigrette, applied so sparingly that you could actually eat this salad with your fingers if you wanted to, which I found myself doing before I realized what was happening, sitting next to the window on a languid, sunny afternoon.
Aveo Table + Bar
Where: 1 Monarch Beach Resort, Dana Point
When: Served Mondays-Saturdays at lunch. It’s slightly different for Sunday brunch.
This article originally appeared in the Orange County Register. To view more of my work for the Register, check out the archives. For more dining and travel inspiration, I invite you to follow me and join the conversation on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.