New coastal seafood restaurant to offer shareable menu and social dining at Dana Point

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By Breeana Greenberg

Outer Reef, a new coastal seafood restaurant from chef John Tesar at the Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa, is set to open Friday, April 29.

The restaurant will offer a distinct West Coast twist on seafood restaurant favorites Tesar’s Spoon Bar and Kitchen in Dallas, with a menu focused on the philosophy of primarily raw, lightly touched and lightly cooked preparation.

The restaurant was supposed to open in 2020 but was delayed due to COVID-19. Outer Reef is part of the hotel’s recent $25 million renovations, which included renovating 378 rooms.

“Basically, I was asked to do this restaurant so that it wasn’t a hotel restaurant, in a hotel,” said Tesar, a four-time James Beard-appointed chef.

Initially, Tesar had hoped to create a highly focused, upscale seafood restaurant serving ultra-fine cuisine. However, he said with COVID he had to rethink and change the concept. Outer Reef will always provide a fine dining experience, but Tesar emphasized the food-sharing aspect of the restaurant.

“The menu is high, but accessible and very shareable,” Tesar described. “A group of people can come to dinner and order a whole fish, a lobster and a steak and taste a bit of everything, sort of creating their own tasting menu. It’s more social than sitting behind a table for three hours and making a multi-course tasting menu.

The menu will be divided into three main categories: raw dishes, lightly touched dishes and lightly cooked dishes in addition to salads, pastas, steaks and sides. The menu will vary depending on seasonality and availability, using fresh seafood sourced from the West Coast.

Outer Reef will also feature dry-aged steak from Tesar’s steakhouse, Knife, with dry-aged rib eye, sirloin and premium beef tenderloin.

“I adapted this menu based on the changing dining style and what I think is the way people want to eat these days,” Tesar said.

“I think our guests will be pleasantly surprised by the unique perspective we put on classically prepared recipes,” he continued. “All fish are native to this ocean, so in that sense it will be familiar, but we’ve done it differently with scrupulous attention to detail.”

The restaurant’s design incorporates coastal elements throughout the space, according to Tesar. Outer Reef also has an outdoor patio with five fire pits.

“The restaurant was designed as a beautiful beach house in the Hamptons because that’s where I grew up,” he said. “It’s all white and blue with clean lines, but it’s also really fun and whimsical, like you’re visiting someone’s beautiful beach house.”

Opening to the public on Friday will offer limited seating while the restaurant “goes into full gear”. Tesar will be in town, cooking at the restaurant.

“Especially if you like steak and seafood, good socializing and a great patio, this is a great place to come and eat and drink, grab some snacks to eat,” Tesar said. “It’s just another beach front in Dana Point and great food.”

The restaurant will offer dinner to begin with, but there are plans to eventually offer breakfast and lunch. Outer Reef will be open from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. Reservations are available on OpenTable.

Breeana Greenberg

Breeana Greenberg is the city reporter for the Dana Point Times. She graduated from Chapman University with a Bachelor of Arts in English. Prior to joining Picket Fence Media, she worked as a freelance journalist for the Laguna Beach Independent. Breeana can be reached by email at [email protected]

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