RAYA | The Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel

I originally published this post on The Trend Tribe during one of our hosted Trendsetter Supper Clubs at RAYA inside The Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel. Since many of our Jet Set Family readers are spending time at the property this weekend for the annual Mom 2.o Summit with their families, I wanted to share one of our favorite dinner spots for you to enjoy.


There is something very special about the fine dining experience. Especially, when you are surrounded by those who empower you, lift you up, make you laugh and simply bring joy to your life. If you can look around the table and appreciate who your company is, well then you’ve hit the jackpot my friend. This is exactly what happened when our very own Trendsetters were  invited to The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel for a very special dinner at Raya, that none of us will soon forget. 162-feet above sea level, Raya, a restaurant concept by acclaimed Chef Richard Sandoval, is known for its signature Latin flavors and breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean.

Some of the most creative and inspiring women I know feasted on everything from soup to nuts (literally) while enjoying wines, cocktails, adult snow-cones (yes, they do exist!!!) and some of the most hysterical stories I’ve heard in a really long time.  I’m proud to announce, The Trend Tribe shut the place down.

It all began with sunset drinks inside Bar Raya where I broke out of my shell and asked the bartender to “mix something pineapple-y!”  Let’s just say it was vodka with a side of pineapple. Remember in cartoons when bells, whistles and firecrackers fly out of the characters ears? This drink packed a severe punch! Soon thereafter,  Chef  Matt  brought out Smoked Swordfish Tacos consisting of a crispy wonton shell, mango salsa and pico de gallo and I believed in Santa Claus all over again.

We then moved to the main dining room of Raya where Orange County native, Chef  Marissa Gerlach, delivered to our table a selection of Pan-Latin Coastal Cuisine appetizers and first courses made up of sustainable seafood, local produce and organic meats. Santa Barbara Mussels, shrimp tempura lettuce wraps and the most amazing Chilled White Gazpacho I have ever tasted. I swear the flavors were doing the Cha-cha in my mouth.

PHOTOS: 2012 Event || Raya :: The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel

Each Trendsetter ordered something different and you can bet your bottom dollar that no plate within my reach was safe from my fork as it trespassed, snatched and held no prisoners by tasting everyone’s entree! Oh yes…I went there. I was *that* person. Some of the plates that stand out in my mind:

:: Grilled Ponzu Pacific Swordfish ::

sweet plantain rice / black bean purée / mole verde / frisée salad

:: Pan Seared Sea Scallops ::

roast corn / sushi rice / nopalito / char siu pork belly / snap peas / white soy mojo

:: Dry-Aged Natural NY ::

dungeness crab potato purée / grilled pickled onions / chipotle hollandaise / truffle chimichurri

:: Chimichurri Jidori Chicken Breast  ::

pipian sauce / truffled farmers market carrots / turnips / red onions / truffle creamy wild rice / mango-pine nut-lime salsa

:: Seafood Risotto ::

maine lobster / prawns / santa barbara mussels / calamari / spanish chorizo / saffron rice

:: Grilled Thai Prawns ::

adobo marinade / fufu / tomato-olive-caper sauce / pickled poblano / tostones

The Dessert Sampler was beyond my wildest dreams and exceeded my expectations unlike anything I could imagine. Milk Chocolate Coconut CakeCinnamon Spice ChurroKahlua PuddingDulce de LecheAlmond Tres Leches…and Praline ice cream. NOM. Oh, and the Panko Crusted Banana Fritter Split? To die for. It had pina colada & banana ice creams with caramel rum & chocolate sauces and candied peanuts. Le sigh.

The whole evening was truly amazing!

Raya at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel |One Ritz-Carlton Drive | Dana Point, California | (949) 240-2000 
Hugs & passports,

– Nicole

Nicole_StandleyNicole Standley a.k.a. Jet-Set Mom, is a social influencer + lifestylist covering luxury travel, fine-dining, fashion & pop culture for The Trend Tribe. Contributor for CBS LA, Lucky Magazine, Burke Williams Spa & Moonfrye.com, follow her latest travels and escapades on Instagram, Google+ and Twitter.

Photo credits: Nicole Standley

One thought on “RAYA | The Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel

  1. Such a great night and that food and service was sublime. Those prawns still get into my dreams. And in addition, can you believe our Trendsetter Raya night was almost a year ago? Have a wonderful time at Mom 2.0 and tell me everything when you return.

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