I needed a place to celebrate my girlfriend’s birthday and was looking at local McDonald’s, but after threat of violence I ended up deciding on Michael Mina’s Stonehill Tavern in the St. Regis Resort, Monarch Beach in Dana Point. And boy was I glad I did. Aside from the price, this was one of the most satisfying dining experiences I’ve had in Orange County. The food was surprisingly good and the interior, with contemporary touches and glassed-in booths, was way more sophisticated than what I expected from a stuffy Orange County resort. And let me be clear, what I expected from a stuffy Orange County resort was Tommy Bahama. And I don’t mean that in a good way, because nobody ever refers to Tommy Bahama in a good way.
They had an a la carte menu as well as a “Vegetable Discovery” tasting menu which is like a normal tasting menu except way worse because it’s only vegetables. Because this weird vegetable thing was the only tasting menu they had that night, we decided to order a la carte like plebeians. The food was light, and every dish managed to surprise me in a way I no longer expect from restaurants like this.
I’m not exaggerating when I say this is the best bread spread I’ve ever had. Ricotta cheese, honey, and pistachios. Most places give you butter and dress it up with a little sea salt or something, but this was on another level. And it was free. If it was socially acceptable, I’d come here for the free bread and leave after “changing my mind.” And I’d do it six times a week.
$29 The ‘OC’ Salad (chilled Maine lobster, farmers market citrus, avocacdo, toasted brioche)
Lightly dressed so you could actually taste the ingredients. Plus there’s a chilled Maine lobster in there. If you manage to ruin a dish that has a Maine lobster in it, you should have your chefing license permanently revoked.
$23 Kona Kompachi (barely touched, green apple, jalapeno, yuzu kosho, perilla)
$59 Black Sea Bass (burdock root, soy beans, cockles, salicornes, black truffle dashi broth)
Very reminiscent of Asian cuisine, and I mean that in the best possible way. Light and delicious, and unlike the typical seafood fare you get from establishments like this.
$47 Heritage Breed Pork Chop (duo of medallions & pork belly, smoked onion soubise, kohlrabi, sake, meiwa kumquat)
Pork served two ways. Two very delicious ways. I’m not usually a fan of pork belly, but this was so perfectly cooked and seasoned that I let out an audible moan when I bit into it.
The biggest issue with Stonehill Tavern is the price, and I imagine this is where most of the negative reviews stem from. $29 for a salad is a bit excessive. $59 for sea bass is borderline criminal. Assuming you’re rich, Stonehill Tavern will exceed what little expectations you have of it. Assuming your’re poor, Stonehill Tavern will probably make you wash dishes to pay for the meal you just ate.
1 Monarch Beach Resort
Dana Point, CA 92629
Phone: (949) 234-3318