The Cafe, a revamped restaurant in the Westin South Coast Plaza. Formerly known as the Orange Grove Cafe--which was shuttered in September as part of the hotel's yearlong, $10.5-million renovation--the upscaled dining room officially reopened Monday night with a cocktail reception benefiting the American Heart Assn.
As with the rest of the redo, beige rules. Subtle accents amid the flesh-toned 155-seat restaurant include blond wood ceiling beams, upholstered booths, chairs made in Asia, touches of greenery, soft lights. "Did you see this place before they fixed it up?" asked a waitress, slinging a tray loaded with hot appetizers. "It was--what can I say? It had orange crates for decoration, y'know?"
"Heart Smart" are the catchwords for the lite fare on the new menu. "We wanted to go trendy and we wanted to go according to what the local needs are," said food and beverage director Ingo Schweder, who grew up in Europe and therefore can be forgiven for using "trendy" without irony or disdain. "California cuisine, with a touch of Asia," Schweder elaborated. For the party, Cafe chef Dennis Sauceda dished out turkey scallopini (sauteed in margarine ), while executive chef Daniel Simard tended the chicken salad chinoise. The two worked side by side on the restaurant's patio, the steady rumble of a waterfall at their backs. Inside, Swiss chefs Adrian Stadler and Andreas Stubi--shipped in for the restaurant's "Taste of Switzerland" promotion--worked their culinary magic at a buffet loaded with fresh fruit and vegetables, cheeses and breads, pastries and other delicacies.
With a modest $15 optional donation at the door, the party drew a few hundred guests for flutes of champagne and great food on tiny plates. Dick Goodman and Al Estremo stopped by " 'cause he's got a long drive home," said Goodman, "and my wife had a class tonight." Nancy Sorosky, who took up residence in the hotel five months ago, chatted with Yorba Linda real estate manager Terry Short. Carol Perkins brought friend Tulare Marx when her boss passed along his party invitation. "We thought we were coming to a culinary demonstration--like where a chef comes out and goes zup-zup-zup and makes some food and you just watch," said Perkins from her perch at one of the patio tables. Champagne glass in hand, she added: "This is much better." Jill Borton hummed and smiled over a plate of Peking Duck appetizers. "This stuff is so fantastic," she said. "I could just eat this sauce with a spoon."
"Oh, you're taking a picture? What's this a picture of? Me stuffing my face?"