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High class and down home at Woody's

August 30, 2002

DINING OUT

When Joel Herzer took over the failing Viktor Viktoria four years

ago this month, he introduced to Laguna Beach an upscale venue for

fine dining, warm hospitality and a showcase for new and thriving

artists.

Viktoria, along with the considerable expertise of personable

Alford Harrison, director of operations, has now become the first

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real success in that location since the former Little Shrimp of early

day Laguna renown.

Following four months of extensive remodeling, the inventive

Herzer opted to expose a rustic beamed ceiling where the bar now

reposes, opened up the patio adding a trickling fountain and tables

for alfresco dining and carved out capacious rear windows to showcase

an ocean view in the main dining room.

The subdued color scheme of pale yellow and beige became a

definitive background for the continuing art displays celebrated here

with festive receptions every month or so.

It is the creative menu devised by executive chef Zachary J.

Zeigler, however, that has made Woody's at the Beach a destination

for serious foodies. Utilizing the premier ingredients available

through Danko Foods' executive Dan Ketelaars, who is a partner with

Herzer Zeigler, has access to the freshest and best of wild game,

meats and seafood. These are the basis for the incredibly innovative

menu of entrees and appetizers that are updated accordingly and

complemented with new daily features. The dishes are so inspired, it

is not unusual for guests to dawdle over dinner for three or more

hours of indulgence.

Among an octave of appetizers and as many salads, start your

repast with the whopping seafood tower. At $26, three or four guests

will be deliciously indulged. This tall triple tray presents a

varying plethora of tastes. On one level perhaps, huge succulent

pan-roasted black mussels with garlic chardonnay sauce. Next, there

might be plump salmon spring rolls spiced with ponzu dipping sauce.

On the top level, possibly Washington state oysters with champagne

mignonette and seaweed salad.

For a teasingly pungent dose of garlic and butter, the cognac

braised escargots for $9.50 are presented in a circle-indented

pottery platter which keeps the delicious denizens piping hot to the

last bread-sopping morsel. For ahi fans the thick blackened cut

succulently sandwiching Dungness crab meat promises another sensation

starter at $11.

A quick glance at main course selections once again reveals the

chef's extraordinary culinary imagination. A bias-sliced flat-iron

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