Shuttered since 2017, the 92-year-old Laguna Hotel has reopened its doors with two new restaurants—Larsen and Fin—led by award-winning local chef Craig Strong. Here, Strong sounds off on his next culinary chapter.
Sip the Diver’s Cove cocktail at Hotel Laguna’s new Larsen restaurant. PHOTO COURTESY OF HOTEL LAGUNA
While we’re eagerly awaiting the forthcoming launch of Hotel Laguna’s rooms, we’re thrilled to be able to step inside and enjoy Larsen, your signature restaurant, and Fin. What inspired you to get involved with this project? Craig Strong: I live here in Laguna Beach and know about Hotel Laguna’s remarkable history and historic charm. The hotel was closed for several years, and the chance to work with the Laguna Beach Company—the locally owned real estate company led by Mo Honarkar and his daughter Hasty Honarkar—on its incredible revival of such an important community asset was a great opportunity.
Executive chef Craig Strong PHOTO COURTESY OF HOTEL LAGUNA
Tell us about the restaurant’s names and design. Larsen is named in honor of Eiler Larsen, Laguna Beach’s unofficial ‘greeter,’ who was a fixture of the community for decades until the 1970s. And we thought Fin was a natural name for our fresh sushi restaurant. The lead designer was Laguna Beach Company Vice President Hasty Honarkar. She set out to create a space that felt simple, clean, light and airy, with a hint of old Hollywood. The intention was to allow the panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and Main Beach to become the focal point, framing the seascape like a painting.
The waterfront dining room at Larsen PHOTO COURTESY OF HOTEL LAGUNA
How would you describe each restaurant’s cuisine, and what should we order? Larsen is coastal California, focused on fresh ingredients prepared by French technique. Larsen nods to the seafood but has many other options available. Fin is our sushi and sashimi restaurant with pristine fish carefully crafted by our two sushi chef experts. The short rib cigars have a great presentation, and the octopus dish reminds me of my time in Barcelona, as well as the sea bass from Baja. The spice cake with the orange creamsicle ice cream is a great finish.
And what should we sip? Smoking With Angels is a bourbon cocktail with a tableside smoking presentation. It’s amazing and memorable.
Found on its lunch menu, Larsen’s open-faced tuna tartine includes paprika-dressed sushi-grade tuna on avocado toast with a side green salad. PHOTO COURTESY OF HOTEL LAGUNA
What’s next? We’re planning to change the menu for the next season and add a cod dish with chorizo, olives, potatoes, calamari and clam olive oil broth. It is a rich olive oil-driven dish that is inspired by my time in Spain. This is something to look forward to.