Savannah Chophouse Review: Posh American Cuisine Meets Southern Hospitality with a Twist!

Posh American Cuisine Meets Southern Hospitality with a Twist!

Fall is here and it’s finally time for boots, scarves, and pumpkin spice lattes.  It is a time dedicated to family and friends, enjoying the warmth that comes from those beach bonfires, and allowing yourself to indulge in the homey comfort foods of the season (without worrying about swim suits).  When I walked into Laguna Niguel’s Savannah Chophouse I felt that instant home feeling I associate with family get togethers and holiday parties.  Though it maintained the upbeat ambiance of a posh Orange County restaurant, Savannah Chophouse offers that “getaway” atmosphere that took me away from the beach and into the south, where hospitality drives business and everyone is family.  
 
Upon entering I was immediately drawn to a large firepit blazing in the center of the outdoor patio.  The view from the balcony was breathtaking, the ocean barely visible on the horizon, and instantly reminded me why I fell in love with Orange County.  There were couples around the veranda, contentedly sipping their wine and enjoying the views, comfortably aware of the relaxed atmosphere, knowing there was no hurry to return to their seats.  The interior was that of a well-kept southern home: cozy, warm, and welcoming.  The restaurant is divided into wings: the west wing featured a full bar with flat screen television, perfect for that sports fan who just has to catch the end of the game, while the east wing features a large roaring fire place, dim lights, and is designed to set a more romantic ambiance.  Separating the two wings is a large dining room, which offers a just got back from a hunt southern lodge feeling: overstuffed booths, a large homey fireplace, and high wood ceilings.  The booths were open facing, creating a sense of community in the room that complimented the intimacy of the lighting, allowing Savannah Chophouse to maintain a neighborly ambiance without losing the affinity of a date night out.   


After wandering and admiring the décor (which took some time because both hosts and chefs alike were eager to stop and have a conversation), I returned to my table to be a served a tempura style zucchini stuffed ricotta and crab in a yellow heirloom tomato concasse.  Chef Mark Anthony Pariano was excited to describe that most of his inspiration for his cooking comes from his father.  In this particular appetizer, Chef Pariano reminisced about his time spent fishing with his dad and the smells of herbs that he associates with his memory.  “I want to honor my dad through my food.  He was the one who instilled a passion for cooking in my life, and I am where I am because of him.”  Chef Pariano’s love for cooking and his passion for transforming every dish into a personal experience are evident in every bite.  And it doesn’t stop there!  Each dish is expressly altered to cater to a more modern (and personal) twist on a traditional southern specialty.  The blackberry soup served cold with buttermilk custard was followed by an orecchiettie with fresh pea mint pesto.  The intermixing of fresh fruit flavors with the savory undertones of that traditional down-home cooking made for a genius combination.  The Roasted Duck Breast was served with “cheesy grits” and an apricot, candied ginger, and honey marmalade, accented with a California cherry reduction.  My first bite of the fresh marmalade and cheesy grits transformed me into the heart of southern Georgia, while the cherry reduction added a contemporary twist that left my table certain to never forget Savannah Chophouse.  For dessert, chocolate purses made of phyllo dough and stuffed with a nuttella hazelnut ganache and served with peach gelato and an Oregon Vin de Glace concluded the night’s festivities.  
 
Chef Mark Pariano and Managers Megan Pakeltis and Kelly O’Callaghan are very passionate about the community atmosphere within Savannah Chophouse.   Chef Pariano moves from table to table striking up conversation, explaining the different courses to anyone who asks, while managers and waiters (not just your waiter—but all of them) greet the tables and stop to chat.  My night at Savannah Chophouse was a delicious adventure and I left overwhelmingly content, full to bursting, and dreaming of that delicious chocolate purse!  
Chef Pariano, however, would not let this be the end.  He was eager to discuss his next ideas on how to improve each dinner.  “We won’t let ourselves get complacent!  Next big dinner here will be a communal table,” Chef Pariano says with passion, “Lots of food, lots of wine, lots of conversation.  Like a big family.”  I just hope I get an invite!


Native knowledge:

  1. You can call ahead and the chef will make accommodations…you can request items off of a secret menu!  If there’s something on the menu that you liked but isn’t on the menu anymore, you can call ahead and the chef will make these accommodations.  Sweet huh?  If you’re taking a girl on a romantic third, let’s get a little more intimate, date, you can call ahead and request a dish not on the menu!  Can you say bonus points?
  2. If there is a long wait (especially during those starving hours), the chef will personally bring out cups of his delicious butternut squash and lobster bisque with truffle crème.  “I want to show them that I care, I know they are hungry, and they will soon be taken care of!”
  3. Cold outside?  If the huge fire pit doesn’t keep you warm, your server will be happy to bring you out a soft down blanket to cover you.  While at Savannah Chophouse, you are family.  

6ix Park and Folley Wines

This past Thursday, Foley Winery and 6ix Park Grill at the Hyatt Regency in Irvine uncorked Foley Winery’s 2006 Chardonnay in celebration of California Wine Month.  Hosted on the patio of the restaurant, the mixer brought together businessmen and women from the surrounding areas, wine connoisseurs, and locals alike.  The décor is evident of the Hyatt’s newly revamped “California Coastal” theme.   There is a cozy fire burning in the center of the veranda, where guests have the opportunity to enjoy handcrafted cocktails, order appetizers, or create their own smores.  That’s right!  6ix Park Grill guests can request to have graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows brought outside, where they can toast and create their own desserts next to a warm fire.

“The Hyatt Regency in Irvine is doing something unique here,” says local businesswoman Connie Davis, “These mixers give people the ability to meet other locals in the area in a relaxed environment. Plus the Chef is awesome!”  She couldn’t have been more right on [that].  Chef Ted Hill has a unique vision in the kitchen, and one he and his staff were eager to share.  “Everything is Pacific Coast,” said Director of Food and Beverage Don Hanson with enthusiasm, “We showcase dishes made from locally grown produce and fresh cut meats.  Why waste the energy transporting food from across the country when we have such a great selection right here in California?  It adds to the freshness of the product and gives back to our community.  Win win situation for everyone!”

The 6ix park grill is one of many dining options at the Hyatt Regency in Irvine.  Chef Ted Hill is especially proud of the wood fire grill, where prime cuts, seafood, and fresh produce are grilled to perfection.  Showcasing dishes such as loch Duarte grilled salmon with an herb quinoa, pearl vegetables, and raspberry coulis and natural top sirloins with barley risotto, mushrooms and grilled tomatoes with demi-glace, guests are guaranteed to leave feeling more than satisfied.  can enjoy handcrafted cocktails from the bar, featuring fresh juices and local venders.  For dessert, a goat cheesecake with fresh berries, or a lava cake with freshly made whipped cream.  Looking for a cocktail after a long day?  My favorite was the Ultimate Napa Crush, a delicious blend of Ultimate Vodka, fresh muddled grapes, basil, and lemon juice served over ice, is a personal favorite of Director Don Hanson and Chef Ted Hill. “The bartender and chef are given a lot of creative liberty.  We want them to have fun with it, be able to let their passion come through in the food and drinks.  It makes everything much more enjoyable for everyone.”

Dinner showcased local free range chicken breast and natural top sirloin.

These personally crafted meals showcase both the talent and enthusiasm of the chef.

Guests could not stop raving about Foley’s 2006 Chardonnay, which was incorporated in a variety of appetizers and cocktails.  A personal favorite was Chef Hill’s newest creation, oyster shooters: a blend of chardonnay, tequila, Tobasco sauce, olive juice, with an oyster bomb.  The featured cocktails were also inspired by Foley Winery’s chardonnay: sangria with a chardonnay base, vodka, and a variety of fresh squeezed fruit juices.  The chardonnay itself is a mix of two chardonnays: one aged in a steal barrel and the other aged in oak.  A 93 rating for the wine enthusiast, this chardonnay is a flavorful blend of vanilla, peaches, pepper, and marshmallow with a light lemony finish.  “Foley is a widely recognized California wine and known for their great chardonnay.  It was an easy choice,” quotes Hanson.  “Next month, the Hyatt will celebrate Oktoberfest with local brewing company Karl Strauss.  It’s always a lot of fun to host and promote our neighbors.”

 

LA History meets Modern Culture at Salvage Bar and Lounge

 

 

There are no markings that show the entrance to Salvage Bar and Lounge, Los Angeles’s latest hot spot.  Set in the heart of the fashion district, Salvage Bar is the mix of LA history coupled with modern culture.  The bar was built using the ruins of the old Roosevelt Lofts on Seventh Street, a tribute to the 1926 vestige that is now known for the posh Roosevelt lofts.

 

The waitresses and bartenders were upbeat and personable, taking the time to make conversation, explaining the unique qualities of the drinks and bar before asking for orders, creating an air of hospitality and openness even in the busiest of crowds.  The specialty drinks are completely organic, using fresh squeezed lemons, mint sprigs, and real fruit juices to create a cocktail that guests will remember (or maybe not remember).  The margarita, a blend of 100% agave tequila, fresh acai juice, and squeezed limes over ice is a personal favorite and recommendation from waitress, Sydney Smith (and my guest as well).  Sydney states, “You don’t see many bars using organic and fresh juices in their cocktails, but that’s what makes Salvage stand out.  Especially in this city, a bar needs a hook, and we have tons here.”  Sydney went on to explain how the stained glass above the bar was taken from the remains of a 180 year old church’s stained glass window.  You can hear the excitement in her voice as she drew my attention to the various historical pieces, nonchalantly placed throughout the lounge, including the old Roosevelt door panels that now function as the bar top.

 

This juxtaposition of old and new within the lounge is a vision owner and designer Solomon Mansoor remained passionate about from the early stages of planning.  Because he sought to maintain the restorative value of the location, breaking down the cement walls was out of the question.  This idea created potential sound problems in the early stages of development.  “Tearing down walls wasn’t even an option,” joked close friend of Solomon, Eugene Gordon, CEO of No Static.  Gordon was placed in charge of the sound for the bar and was eager for the challenge.  He told me the predominate focus was wiring the rooms so that the sound would not tunnel or echo.  To do this, Gordon installed a single unit amplifier system with wires running through the walls of the building, allowing for the most clear sound system available.  The engineering definitely paid off in the final result.  The music, an upbeat blend of dance, high energy electronic and alternative beats resonated perfectly throughout the lounge and patio.

 

Sarah Finn, an artist and interior designer worked directly with Solomon to carry out his vision.  “Solomon had this idea to use old parts of the Roosevelt to create something new.  Careful planning went into each aspect of the bar, from essentials like sound and lighting to the smallest of artistic definitions.  The walls are designed to intermingle history with the present.  Everything is in layers.  “It’s the perfect location for the atmosphere,” she said proudly.  After work you want to unwind, have a drink, and relax without added stress.  We are set right in the middle of the city, so it’s really the perfect location.”

 

It’s that careful attention to detail that makes the Salvage Bar and Lounge the place to be for a night of music, drinks, and conversation.  Solomon’s idea to not compromise the history of the Roosevelt was a challenge rather than a deterrent.  He just knew the concept would attract attention.  Close friend and personal guest of Solomon was proud of the turn out, but definitely not surprised.  “He’s a taste master,” founder of A.M.E.N. clothing line stated, “He knows what’s going to be the next thing.  He was known for this in the 80’s.  (Solomon) would have this great idea for an underground bar, carry it out, tell only a few people, and then it blows up.  Great taste.”

 

Salvage had a soft opening earlier in the week, where crowds clamored for entry.  “It’s funny,” Public Relations Coordinator and friend of owner, Sergio said as the patio area began to fill with guests, “There aren’t even any signs out front, but the patio was so crowded that it attracted attention from people on the street.  The patio is the best advertisement.  People always attract more people.  Signs are unnecessary.”

 

Solomon was part of the development team for the building when they converted it from office to lofts.  He was inspired by the rubble and decided to put the old materials in basement storage, even though they didn’t have an immediate purpose.  Solomon claims those materials “dictated his design, becoming an integral part of the Bar build-out.”  In a way, the bar named itself: a true inspiration.

 

Salvage Bar and Lounge will soon be a topic of conversation amongst locals and “taste-masters” alike.  The upbeat ambiance, the friendliness of the staff, and the uniqueness of the drinks and décor will continue to attract attention amidst the bustle of downtown Los Angeles.