For oh … maybe about 8 years … the ownership of the Red Dragon enterprise on Coast Highway has kept their cards close to the chest. But I’d say it’s about time NOW to get the word out about this fabulous restaurant.
Way back in June 2015, I first reported that the Red Dragon would be introducing native Cantonese cuisine to Laguna Beach via restaurateurs Ensan and Ruth Zhao. The couple began an intensive application and permitting process that city officials at that time thought would take about 6 months to hammer through. The process, however, went through so many iterations at Laguna’s Planning Commission that I seriously lost count of the number of rounds.
The initial hoped for opening of Red Dragon in Spring of 2016 was pushed back … way back … and at times, the project seemed absolutely dead in the water. (COVID shutdowns definitely did not help given that much of the design and negotiations had to happen with Hong Kong participants).
As I flitted back and forth between Laguna Beach and wine country Oregon this last year, I would always seek out updates on Red Dragon and end up with nothing much new to report. In early summer of this year (2023), the entity finally opened its doors to a long-term soft opening. Completely understandable, given the level of food and service this establishment wished to provide.
But it wasn’t until just a week ago – actually the day I arrived back in Laguna Beach for good – that I was finally able to visit Red Dragon for dinner. My two foodie friends, Greg and Terri, had arranged it.
Now, I haven’t had the opportunity to interview the owners or try the proper amount of dishes for a full-fledged review, but here are my initial thoughts:
1. This is a detail-centric restaurant ownership. Everything, from the style of bar and dining chairs, to the granite and marble everywhere, to the restroom mirrors, to the puffery additions in each of the cocktails is a work of art.
2. I can’t think of ANY restaurant in Laguna Beach that is more beautiful than the Red Dragon. It is impeccable, from its primary service area and bars to its spectacular rooftop with yet another giant bar and plenty of dining tables.
3. Until I visited the Red Dragon in person, various people told me that the food was very good but expensive. Let me make a correction to that: The food is absolutely excellent and, while primary dishes averaged between $20 and $50, there was PLENTY of it. While the food isn’t served in giant heaping amounts like you may see at more standard “Chinese restaurants,” the three of us shared two main dishes and a sampler dish and didn’t even come close to leaving hungry.
Red Dragon’s short menu of “Cantonese Delicacies” definitely runs at a higher price, between $78 and $98, and it’s listed first on the menu, which quite probably sends patrons spinning before they see the more regularly priced items below.
4. The craft cocktails were quite inventive and tasty, all with Cantonese styling, i.e., I ordered a Plum Negroni. and the best news about the cocktails – their new happy hour brings cocktails down to just $5 each!
Foodies, if you’ve been waiting for another memorable dining experience, get into Red Dragon sooner rather than later. We don’t want this fine dining experience to suffer through the winter in the least. I hope the Red Dragon will be nested here for many years to come.