Chef Michael Cafe Zoolu Laguna Beach

So, if you’ve seen my Laguna Beach “Best of” book, you know this guide for residents and tourists alike devotes 129 pages to restaurant reviews alone. 

So . . . ehrm . . . I happen to like a LOT of restaurants here in Laguna Beach.

But, when people ask me to name my “Top 5” favorites, Cafe Zoolu is always in that top tier. Manned by Michael and Toni for years and years, this tiny contraption of a restaurant serves up consistently incredible food. This last Saturday, a good friend was visiting from Australia, and I decided it was time to treat him to Zoolu. I asked Chef Michael to set us up at the bar, which actually serves as a front-and-center view of Michael working his magic in his kitchen just inches away. 

We started with Michael’s latest soup concoction, an intensely rich and light Seared Scallop Chowder. He then served up one of his best sellers, his fantastic Calamari “appetizer”. Unlike the fried rings and wavy antenna things you usually receive, this Cafe Zoolu Calamari is an entire mantle, breaded, flash fried and served over a thin ladle of Thai  Peanut Plum Sauce … the sauce alone I would happily gulp down for breakfast every morning and never complain. 

At that point, we were stuck. We were undecided between Chef Michael’s renowned Swordfish Sampler (huge chunks of fresh swordfish prepared in three styles: Lemon Caper, Macadamia Nut and Blackened) and the seasonal Grilled Baja Lobster. I finally gave up and told him to serve what he thought was best.

A few minutes later, half orders of both showed up in front of us with an accompanying Chef shrug. How can a Chef choose when both seafood items have showed up fresh just hours prior? 

Perfectly grilled and sauced, this was way too much food to handle. Still, we gorged until our plates were clean. It was embarrassing.

Keep this Chef busy – he deserves it. Reservations at Cafe Zoolu are (949) 494-6825. 

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