If you find yourself driving down the Pacific Coast Highway in Laguna, enjoying the sunset, I highly advise you to turn your head the other way. If you don’t, you might miss one of the most amazing dining experiences. Located walking distance from the beach at 480 S. Coast Highway is Tortilla Republic. With a beautiful dining area and bar, this modern Mexican fusion is a don’t miss. Head Chef Chris Tzorin has been trained in fine dining styles from Italian to French to Americana. Speaking with him, he said he wanted to go back to his ethnic roots with Tortilla Republic, while using his experience in other styles to create a fusion style dining experience.
I started out with a watermelon shooter. It was comical how we tried to figure out which way to consume this starter, using our forks and knives, until we just gulped it like a shoot of tequila. It was an amazing fusion of sweet and savory, a must try. I ordered my first drink, a Strawberry Fresca. The skinny (using real lime juice instead of the lime syrup) did not quite capture the almost candied flavor, so I do prefer it as is with the lime syrup. Before the next course of tacos, it was already time for my second drink. It was a delectable cucumber lavender. At first I was unsure of how this clash of flavors would agree with my palette. I was pleasantly surprised. As you sip, you can taste the smooth, refreshing taste of the cucumber, but it left a sweet lavender aftertaste. I looked around to see the bar where this amazing drink was concocted. The bar was large, with a very modern chrome theme. Behind the bar were a few TVs to watch a game. The most amazing aspect was the glass window behind the bar, looking right into the kitchen. You could see the servers and chefs hustle and bustle as they prepared your meal, it was very refreshing to have such an open view of the kitchen as most restaurants do not do this. Also, it was nestled in the back so it did not interfere with the dining experience.
The first appetizers came in and the Salsa Trio was the first. The three salsas were salsa de mesa, salsa de tomatillo fresca, and salsa de papaya habanero. Dont let the word habanero fool you, it is a papaya habanero, so it was not as biting as one would expect. It had the flavors of a habanero without the hard kick that would overpower the taste. The tomatilla fresca was actually a bit spicier! Then came the tacos, the duck confit, flautas de pollo,and the huarache de filete. The duck confit was superb, buttery but still light with an amazing kick from the sour cherry salsita. The flautas de pollo was very hearty, and had a beautiful presentation. The huarache de filete was made to perfection. The tenderloin was soft and succulent, the mixture of the manchego cheese, tomatoes, queso fresco, and caramelized onions created a mix of flavors that flowed very well together. The fusion style was very prevalent in these tacos, and it created a blend that anyone would enjoy. Off to the main course!
Starting with the Lobster Enchilada. Two enchiladas covered in creamy truffled tomatillo sauce, not only a beautiful presentation, but an amazing flavor. I usually do not prefer seafood, but the soft taste of the lobster was perfect. If you have never tried lobster, this would be a good start for the adventurous! Since my experience with the lobster enchilada was delightful, I became a bit adventurous myself. I tried the ancho seared salmon. With a beautiful mixture of roasted poblano, onions, mango, herb infused long grain rice, cilantro citrus sauce, and habanero carrot sauce, it looked too delicious to pass up! The flavor was amazing! In tradition with Chef Tzorin’s vision of fusion, it had a blend of flavors that tangoed together to provide an experience even non seafood foodies would enjoy. I believe one of the biggest fears of people who dont prefer seafood is that fishy taste. This salmon did not have that issue. Since it was seared, it had that hearty feel of a steak, but since it was salmon, it melted in my mouth like butter. Another must try for anyone! The final entree I tried was the Pork Chop Al Pastor. A spiced caramelized pork chop with jalapeño potato purée, caramelized pineapple & onions, al pastor sauce, and topped with grilled asparagus, it was presented like a $50 steak. Although half that price, it was twice as good! For me, the asparagus is a good test of a restaurant’s quality. And in the spirit of the theme of the day, it was grilled to perfection. Pork is a very difficult meat to cook. It has to be done just right or else it will be too raw, or too tough. This pork chop could be cut with a butter knife (to match its buttery taste I might add). It was a filling portion, matching with its potato puree brilliantly.
The night was winding down, I looked behind me and saw a beautiful view, the sun kissing the top of the ocean. With this pristine view, I asked my server for a nice drink to finish the night off. Many a time in my novice days I would order two spicy jalapeno margaritas to end the night, just to begin the next morning not well, so I asked for something light but still savory. With fresh agave, triple sec and tequila, there is a reason why they say save the best for last. At the bottom of the drink menu was the one word that was the cherry on this dining cake: Hydration. An amazing drink, with coconut water, topped with a fresh lime garnish, was so refreshing and hydrating! One sip, and I got goosebumps. It was so refreshing it could cure a hangover! Everybody at the table was amazed at this drink as they ordered it themselves. This drink was my favorite food/beverage on the menu. Perfect for clearing your palette for the next food or for clearing up any of that spicy bite you may experience. It was not too sweet, not too soft, it paired perfectly with the ocean breeze coming in from the open window behind me. I turned my head, took another sip, ahhh, and finished watching the sunset, only at Tortilla Republic.