[singlepic id=413 w=320 h=240 mode=watermark float=right]Remember the days when you used to sit feverishly by the phone, scratching at your teenage pimples, waiting for THE minute when you could call in to win free tickets to the Journey concert?

Nowadays, all of us …much older and a bit less pimpleish … are waiting rather feverishly for Monday, August 29th to roll around … because that’s when the official website and MENU for the new, highly anticipated Laguna Beach restaurant, Broadway by Amar Santana, goes live. (Hours will be 5 p.m. – midnight during the week, and open till 1:00 a.m. on weekends.)

Will Laguna Beach’s Broadway by Amar Santana be open for business on August 29th? Not yet. Will it be taking reservations yet? Nope, not quite yet.

As of my interview with the three partners this last Tuesday, they’re looking at a soft opening for Broadway (in the old Five-Foot restaurant space on Glenneyre Street) somewhere in the first couple weeks of September.

But for these guys – Master Extraordinaire Chef Amar Santana, General Manager Ahmed Labbate, and an owner of a medical devices firm who just happened to like good cookin’, Rich Cadarette – the days couldn’t be moving any faster. After all, it’s been three years of noshing, thinking, tossing-and-turning, planting seeds in each others’ heads, and finally storming the kitchen at Charlie Palmer’s at South Coast Plaza to deliver a rousing pep talk about “The Dream” to our waffling Amar to make this all happen.

I look at the gleaming stainless steel open kitchen with the welder still there, his work spewing flame and sparks. I run my hand across the rough-hewn bar tables and thick granite bar slabs. I commiserate with the partners about the beautiful long leather benches that are two inches too long. I watch them – these enthusiastic conductors – with their big, waving arms, as they talk about the massive patina photograph of the Statue of Liberty they’re hanging on this wall, and the black-and-white New York skyline they’re putting over here.

But most importantly, I watch Chef Amar’s eyes as he pokes out from his turtle shell to talk about the “Modern Cuisine of the Americas” menu he’s created for Laguna Beach. These are items he’s never really extrapolated upon before, even after serving up his unique delicacies in all parts of the country with the famed Charlie Palmer.

For Amar in Laguna Beach, it’s all about creating something entirely new. This is a production de cuisine that’s never been seen before … much like a new show on Broadway in the heart of New York City.

This Laguna Beach restaurant’s throwback to 1930s New York is all about the Broadway Show.

Every restaurant diner will have a perfect view of the Broadway’s open kitchen, “The Stage,” (as the partners prefer to call it). And, while the hand-picked chef’s team turns out nightly menu items, Chef Amar, himself, will be entertaining just 8 people at his own chef’s station and dining bar with an ever-changing Tasting Menu – 6 original, non-published courses every single night of the week.

Pretty cool, actually. Instead of a “Chef’s Table” stuck back in the heart of a kitchen, you can enjoy a seat at Amar’s Kitchen Central, and kibitz with the chef about each course he’s producing for you right there in the middle of the restaurant.

While just 8 people get to sit at Broadway’s Chef’s Table, it’s not like the rest of the restaurant patrons will be suffering. The boys flap a printed, official Broadway menu at me; I do my best to instigate a sudden photographic memory. There’s a sashimi appetizer, cod fritters, chorizo-crusted sturgeon, foie gras terrine, short ribs, duck breast and … oh dang … the menu disappears in a whiff. I can still smell the risotto-something-something as Chef Amar tucks the menu behind his back.

And I think, “My, my. There’s an energy here I haven’t felt in a while in Laguna Beach.”

[singlepic id=415 w=320 h=240 mode=watermark float=left]For starters, these three partners are unique – each individually eclectic with a combined soul for truly amazing renditions of food and wine lists.

Rich Cadarette, the former medical devices guy, love to cook and loves great wines. A few years ago, he wound up at Charlie Palmer’s in South Coast where he befriended the Executive Chef there, Amar Santana. They became pals to the point that Amar actually began to share some of his recipes with Rich and teach him how to whip them up.

While Rich has no desire to interfere in the chef’s selections for Broadway’s menu, he was more than happy to participate in the selection of the wines. At opening night, the restaurant will have approximately 140 varieties in house, with about 20 wines by the glass. In keeping with the “Cuisine of the Americas,” Laguna Beach’s Broadway chose to offer about 70% of its wine menu from domestic wines. The partners gathered the remainder from all parts of the world, including Italy, Argentina, Chile, France and Australia.

Ahmed Labbate, the General Manager, has devoted his entire adult life to the finer foods of life, having first started down this path at the Disney World Morocco Pavilion when he was just a tyke. He went on to New York’s Aquavit, Las Vegas’ Aureole, and continued to work for Charlie Palmer another 13 years.

Executive Chef and Partner Amar Santana graduated from New York’s Culinary Institute of America, completed further training in London, and eventually started at Aureole New York (imagine that, two eventual partners starting at two different Aureole restaurants). From there, he opened two restaurants for Charlie Palmer in Reno, one in Dallas, then landed in the heart of O.C. at South Coast Plaza.

[singlepic id=414 w=320 h=240 mode=watermark float=left]And now, Chef Amar is here, wedged in this tiny space in Laguna Beach between Forest and Mermaid Street. He’s a big guy, like a wrestler or warrior. He has a tattoo of a pig on his shoulder … no, not a Miss Piggy kind of pig or a “This Little Pig Went to Market” kind of image … this is a perfect anatomical rendition of a pork cut chart.

Man. This guy is serious about his food.

Then, again, this is Broadway, an aptly named restaurant for a chef who’s devoted his life to the craft.


P.S. As an exclusive to LagunaBeachBest.com readers, be sure to register at this website for a chance to win a free Dinner For Two at Laguna Beach’s Broadway by Amar Santana  (a$150 value, awarded Oct. 1st, 2011). Nope, I’d never even think of selling your info. You will receive updates on all the best going on in Laguna Beach. If you’re already a subscriber to LagunaBeachBest.com, you MUST register again for this drawing. Don’t worry – you won’t get duplicate e-mails.  

More photos here:  [nggallery id=20] 


© August 2011, Diane Armitage, www.LagunaBeachBest.com

Get Laguna's Restaurant Updates!