For all the photos of the Boathouse Collective, click here.
There is nothing better than an inspired, ambitious, and patient individual using a historic building to make their dreams come true. This is the spirit of the Boathouse Collective. From an old shipbuilding factory turned art studio, owner Clayton Peterson has dedicated ten years of his life transforming, in his words, “organically growing” this structure into the restaurant it has become today. Sporting two stages, one indoor, one outdoor, an organic garden outside, a sound/dj booth inside, and with a roof lined with surfboards, this venue is a must experience for any Orange County native. With a beating heart of art and culture, this father of two has a beautiful vision of sharing a cultural experience with all of us. Using recycled materials from the building itself and 40 foot shipping containers, the Boathouse has a very earthy feel to it. I spoke with Clayton, emphasizing an interesting point he made: there is no venue like this in Orange County. In San Diego and Los Angeles, sure, but nothing in Orange County has the kind of feel this place has. I agree.
This unique experience is matched by its amazing cuisine. Offering daily lunch, dinner, happy hour, and a Sunday brunch, one could enjoy something new every day of the week. Chef Mathieu Royer described his cuisine as “California fresh with an international twist.” However, with heavy asian influence, it feels more like Pacific fusion. In any case, everything on the menu is a must try. Starting with the seasonal sashimi, a light appetizer with shiso leaves, heirloom tomatoes, and fermented soy bean, it was a delicious start to the meal. Taking a sip of my old fashioned, a rye based cocktail with a rock sugar cube, I was amazed to how well it paired. The smokey feel of the cocktail paired with the scent of the orange peel as a garnish matched the horseradish in the sashimi to perfection. Continuing on my adventure, I dug into the grilled vegetable salad. I was amazed at how hearty the salad felt. Although very light, using herbs from the organic garden in the back and a vinaigrette, it had a satisfying feel to it. Somewhere between the wild mushrooms, expertly sliced zucchini, and avocado was the vegetable version of a prime rib; soft and succulent, but still filled your mouth with flavors. I am not a salad kind of guy, and coming to a place which prides itself on organic feeling meals, I was more than impressed. For my carnivore friends out there, this salad is a must try!
This next item is not for novice foodies. The Chicken Katsu, with a panko crust, asian barbeque sauce, and a nest of rough greens, it was my favorite item on the menu. I do warn you though, the hot mustard sauce that comes with it delivers! If expertly applied, it creates the perfect fusion of flavor and burn, blending with the panko crust amazingly. If applied too liberally, you will be taking another sip of your drink, which to my delight, was the boathouse sour for round two. A bourbon based drink using fresh squeezed lemon juice and angostura bitters, the bartender expertly removed a leaf from the nearby plant as a garnish. I was very impressed by this and inquired about it. She explained to me that it is a basil leaf, and they grow it in the garden in the back. Before I could comment on that amazing idea, she placed two maraschino cherries on a toothpick to top it off. I was expecting those bright red, preserved store bought cocktail cherries. But these were jet black, almost purple, and tasted amazing. Unbeknownst to me, real maraschino cherries are actually these little black pieces of heaven, not those processed bright red monstrosities. This organic feel was really starting to grow on me.
Dessert was a beautifully presented butterscotch panna cotta topped with a mint leaf. It was a light, fluffy dessert with a very sweet taste. I am usually the kind of person who cannot contain myself when it comes to dessert, and I will scarf down any nearby cheesecake or truffle. But this panna cotta was so delicious, I actually slowed down and enjoyed it. I slowly chipped away at it, hoping somehow, someway, it would extend the amount of time I could enjoy this delectable. But alas, all good things must come to an end, but before I could throw in the napkin, a peppermint shot was delivered. It was a perfect “after dinner mint” kind of feel, although still sweet enough to not be overpowering or bitter.
Leaning back listening to the pianist play, I looked around. Everyone was enjoying themselves, the communal seating created a relaxed feel where people could actually enjoy. It was very family style seating, family style menu, and with no smoking on the back patio, it was a family style venue.
Clayton also said to me,”I want to have a place for our generation, people between the age of 25 to 65, to come and enjoy and not be inundated with cigarette smoke or music too loud to enjoy your own company. I want to inspire children, and children at heart alike.” Well Clay, I think your vision has been materialized, keeping Costa Mesa cool, one day at a time.
Suvin Mehta - You can find me on facebook really easily. Only one other person and a horse share the name “Suvin.” Born and raised in southern California with an Indian ethnicity, I have a broad palette of tastes and experiences to share.