At Sapphire last weekend, I asked a manager and a hostess what they would recommend above all else on their brunch menu. They both said “oatmeal.”
Oatmeal is just … oatmeal. Milk, raisins, maybe some fruit if you’re lucky. But the #1 item recommended on the whole, entire menu?
As it turns out, Chef Azmin Ghahreman doesn’t seem to know much about the kind of oatmeal most of us were raised on. He and his Chef de Cuisine got to talking about how they were raised on “savory” oatmeal and ended up producing an oatmeal mixed with crispy pork belly, kale, Pecorino cheese, garlic chips and a soft poached egg (to boot). Now that’s an oatmeal!
And this is Sapphire Laguna, whose simplest concoctions of eggs, breakfast meats and pancakes offers your taste buds a wealth of celebration and happy awe.
Since its opening in 2007, Sapphire hasn’t missed a beat. From the start, Chef Azmin imbedded a fresh and innovative international flair to his menus, having served in top-level culinary positions all around the world. Understandably, most raves and accolades rain down about the highly-acclaimed, ever-changing dinner menu. The Sapphire brunch menu, though, is the bridge that crosses the moat, leaving ordinary fare behind and heralding that hint of sumptuous fare to come.
There is nothing ordinary about the Sapphire brunch menu, even if Chef uses common words like “pancakes” and “biscuits.” Even the Fire and Ice Bloody Mary carves its own unique path with Reyka vodka (the world’s first “green” vodka as it is distilled using sustainable energy from geothermal heat). Its mixed with Sapphire’s homemade Bloody Mary mix, a healthy dose of Serrano and topped with a Blue Cheese-filled olive wrapped in Jamón. Not a bad start, if I do say so myself.
An International Mecca on a Single Brunch Menu
The Sapphire brunch menu is divided between eight breakfast items and six lunch oriented items. True to its international promise, breakfast items vary enormously, from Eggs Benedict and Braised Pork Chile Verde to Pancakes with Vanilla Gelato and Turkey Chili Baked Eggs. On the lunch items side, Chef Azmin hops from country to country with items such as Blackened Fish Tacos, the famed Sapphire Kobe Cheeseburger, a Croque Monsieur and a Pulled Pork Quesadilla.
On my visit, my Creative Director, Patti, is along for the joyous Sapphire “moat crossing” as she’s working the weekend with me to finish my revised Best of Laguna Beach book. Between the two of us, we giddily try the Fried Chicken n’ Cheddar Biscuit, the Kobe Beef Cheeseburger and, of course, the Steel Cut Oatmeal.
As already noted the Oatmeal is a memorable study of absolute craziness. It could quite possibly be the most unique breakfast item I’ve yet tried in Laguna Beach.
The Fried Chicken N’ Cheddar Biscuit has no intention of taking second fiddle. It is a veritable pile of scrambled eggs and green onion-sausage gravy ladled atop freshly baked cheddar biscuits. This, in itself, would be a most satisfying exercise, but the crispy/moist fried chicken takes you to the mat. It’s a dish that leaves you verbally incapable of even moaning.
Now, I’ve met the Sapphire Kobe Havarti Cheeseburger before, and it’s been ranked in my “Top 4 Gourmet Burgers of Laguna Beach” for nearly a year now. Patti, however, felt she had to confirm my opinion.
As you probably know, Kobe beef is a Japanese export renowned as “the best” beef in the world. These cows must be of pure Tajima-gyu lineage, and only born and raised in the Hyogo Prefecture (or district). Rumor has it that Kobe cows are fed beer, massaged daily in sake, and piped classical music to keep them relaxed and stress-free. Kobe beef ranks at least two grades higher than the top ranking of “prime” here in the U.S., and it’s probably the only beef that is not recommended for cooking beyond medium rare.
The Sapphire Kobe burger is a melt-in-your-mouth kind of experience. Its mild manner is complemented with caramelized onion and peppery arugula and … uhmm … garlic fries (which I promise we did not wolf down).
Cross the Moat to a New Experience
Laden with “to go” boxes from our unfinished breakfast meals, our server Cassandra convinces us that we simply cannot live to see another day without trying the “lightest” dessert on the Sapphire menu, the Chai Crème Brulee. Although we can barely squeeze in two … or, well, nine … bites of the creamy stuff, it is admittedly a perfect meld of Indian spiced milk, eggs and sugar. Truly delightful.
In the end, the Sapphire brunch is more than just a great treat on a Saturday or Sunday – it’s that moat crossing to how a dining experience really should be.