I wanted a special dinner for my birthday and Studio certainly delivered! The restaurant is located at The Montage. The hotel reception desk gave us lousy directions by telling us Studio was behind the pool. When you walk out to the pool area, you don't know if you should walk to the left or right of the pool. Turns out, you should walk to the right and follow the path down and you'll see the restaurant on the right. Turn to the right before you pass the last building. That's the entrance.
The hostesses were friendly, ambiance is lovely and the view is amazing. If you can get there for sunset, do it. It's breathtaking. There is outdoor or indoor seating though I think it can get chilly outdoors (there are heaters outside).
Service was perfect. You'll be offered still or sparkling water. Still is Fiji water and both are complimentary. A very nice touch since the last time we ate out for a special meal, my kids drank $100 worth of water. We had a bunch of super friendly guys waiting on us but I think our head waiter was Miguel. He could not have nicer. He was personable but not obtrusive, super efficient, attentive and went out of his way to make us feel special.
Their bread choices were all good but the brioche was great. They serve it with three types of butter (truffle, garlic and Meyer lemon and another I think was a salted cow's milk but don't quote me, moo) which they provided generously.
I had called in advance and spoke with Scot (Livingston?) their sous chef. He helped me plan a tasting menu that would please all three of my kids as well as me. They didn't mind that my husband didn't do the tasting menu with us which was great since nothing pleases him. Some restaurants require that everybody in your party do the tasting menu so it was nice Studio didn't give us a hard time about that.
The amuse bouche was a delicious shrimp and shaved asparagus dish. It was as delicious as it was tiny (a little teaser of the goodness that was to come). Next was a (raw) Hamachi appetizer that was peppery and tasty with noodles, seaweed salad and cubes of tiny gel that I couldn't quite figure out. The noodles didn't add much to the dish but the rest was great.
The next course was a crab and ricotta cavatelli dish that was delicious. The pasta was gnocchi-like in texture and was bathed in a sinfully rich cream sauce. The single piece of Dungeness crab leg was perfect, just wish there was more of it. Speaking of perfect and wishing there were more of it, next we had the diver scallop. This perfectly seared morsel sat solo on a plate with a smear of onion puree, mushrooms and an interesting black garlic chip/cracker. So good! So sad there was just one but that's why it's called a "tasting menu" and not a "gorging menu". (Mental note to self, remember to check to see if they offer a gorging menu.)
Our next bite was the lamb chop. Cooked medium-rare served with fresh chick peas (who knew!?), hummus (chick peas x 2) and a single strip of flavor-packed oven dried tomato (so tender I wonder if they removed the skin). Fresh chick peas were fun. They were green and some were deep fried and crispy. Those were great (but the kids didn't love them as much as I did).
The last two courses are cheese and dessert but my boys claimed they were still hungry. I know that cannot be true. My daughter, mom and I were full so I know the boys just wanted more (they didn't need more) but everything was so good, I decided to ask the chef to give us one more course. He rose to the occasion and sent out an amazing venison loin. This time we got 3 pieces each and they were perfectly cooked slices of heaven. Even though I was full, I still ate all 3 pieces they were that good. Oh, deer! It came with farro and huckleberries that were yummy but they were just the supporting players for the star (venison). My daughter said she felt guilty she was eating Bambi but it was so good she was going to eat them all anyway. She was full before the venison came but ended up begging an extra piece of venison from my mom after eating her 3 pieces.
The cheese course was a triple cream brie-like cheese. It was delicious and adorable. You got two wedges that were so tiny; the wheel itself had to be about an inch and a half in diameter. How cute it that? It's as though Laughing Cow finally figured out how to make an amazingly good cheese. It came with a bit of nectarine jam and a sprinkle of crushed walnuts. Creamy, salty, sweet, tangy lusciousness.
The dessert course was amazing. They brought out a variety of chocolate desserts that were as unusual as they were scrumptious. I wish I had video-taped the first one. They brought out what looked like a chocolate ball and then they poured a warm chocolate sauce on top. The ball got smaller as it quickly melted then imploded into a pool of what I think was caramel but I'm not sure because my stupid sons (who have since been cut out of my will) ate it all so quickly, I didn't even get a bite. Happy birthday to me. Whatever.
My dessert was almost like a chocolate ganache but that isn't really a fair description because it was so much better than that. It was cut into wedges and rolled in cocoa and topped with a delicious cream (ice cream? It was so light and fluffy it was hard to tell) that complemented it perfectly. They also brought out a chocolate mousse-like dessert in honor of my birthday which was wonderful.
After all of that, they still brought more little plates with a variety tiny sweet treats which the aforementioned no-longer-in-my-will-sons gobbled up and then they gave us little packets of candied Marcona almonds to take with us. Whew! So much food! So much goodness! So much
happiness! I wanted to let Scot (the chef) know how amazing our meal was and to thank him for delighting us with his culinary talent. I asked Miguel to convey our appreciation and gratitude to Scot and he surprised us by offering a kitchen tour.
Miguel was incredibly knowledgeable about the history of the kitchen, equipment, design, etc. He also showed us the private chef's table which is a lovely dining area just off the kitchen. It has a homey, welcoming feel that allows you to see just how their edible magic is created. They have a great private dining experience that starts with wine and appetizers on their lovely grounds before you move into the private dining room. They also allow you to customize your own menu like we did tonight and it worked fabulously. The private dining room is a great idea for a larger party (looks like it'd work well for 10-16 people though I'm sure they could accommodate more or less). Anyway, this was all explained in a way that didn't seem like we were being pitched, more like Miguel was so proud of the amazing service they could offer; he wanted to share it with us. He could not have been more interesting, charming, sweet or adorable. Wish I could take him home (to adopt him, not in a creepy-cougar way).
I told Scot, and am happy to let you know, we ate at Le Jules Verne this summer and our meal tonight was vastly superior. I wish I could take their Michelin star and give it to Studio (and I wish I could give Scot another T to add to the end of his name because I keep wondering if I'm not spelling it correctly). Scot was as helpful and talented as he is tall (he is a giant). He did a great job making my big birthday a wonderfully memorable event. Super easy to work with and very, very nice.
This kind of perfection isn't free. My goal was to get out for less than a $1000 (for six of us) and we almost made it. We don't drink any alcohol so that was for just food. We can't eat like that every day but for a special occasion, it was surely worth it. We definitely felt special because the service was so excellent. The food was amazing and that is probably why I wrote so much about it. I am reliving it as I write this. Probably gaining more weight just thinking about it but I'd do it again in a heartbeat.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
October 11, 2013
I thoroughly enjoyed your humorous and vivid recounting of your incredible experience at Studio – what a talented writer you are! I will happily share this with the team, paying special note of Miguel and Scot as well as the culinary team for the “edible magic” that you and your family enjoyed. Happy belated birthday; we hope to be the site of many more special occasions.
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General Manager, Montage Laguna Beach
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