Sapphire, Cellar. Craft. Cook Opens in Laguna Beach

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Sapphire, Cellar. Craft. Cook, formerly Sapphire Laguna Restaurant and Pantry, an indoor-outdoor restaurant that underwent an ownership change and name tweak in March, opens for full-service dining at 4 p.m.

Sapphire, Cellar. Craft. Cook has begun lunch service at the historic location in Laguna Beach, just in time for summer. The menu features popular midday fare such as organic sweet gem lettuce and goat cheese salad, jumbo lump crab, heirloom beets and ruby star grapefruit, the popular American Wagyu burger and crispy chicken confit sandwich. Entrées include wild-caught Alaskan halibut and farmers market vegetables with organic Italian farro.

Lunch is served daily from 11:30am-4pm and reservations are advised, for both the spacious patio and indoor seating. Social distancing is observed. Weekend brunch will be introduced later in the year. Guests may also order takeout from The Pantry which opens daily at 7am.

The landmark eatery, located on a storied site at 1200 S. Coast Highway, features wine country cuisine. Local firm Teller Architects created the restaurant’s original distinct vintage vibe of warm woods, natural finishes, custom-made blown-glass lighting fixtures by Laguna Beach’s John Barber, and cozy outdoor seating illuminated by a fire pit.

Earlier this year respected industry veteran Russ Bendel took over the popular dining spot, which includes The Pantry for takeout breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Azmin Ghahreman, executive chef and CEO of Sapphire Culinary Group, opened the restaurant 13 years ago on a property known as The Old Pottery Place, whose roots as a commercial enterprise date back nearly a century.

A team led by Bendel, owner of Vine Restaurant in San Clemente, Ironwood in Laguna Hills, and Olea in Newport Beach, has made minor enhancements to the property, including subtle cosmetic changes in the dining room, new flooring and a back-of-the-house update.

With restrictions on in-person dining recently eased, Sapphire, Cellar. Craft. Cook has implemented vigorous COVID-19 safety procedures as mandated by the California Department of Public Health.

Since April 1, The Pantry has been open for takeout with a limited menu. The restaurant is opening initially for dinner only, with weekday lunch and weekend brunch to follow. The Pantry will continue to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner for quick service or takeaway dining.

“We’re thrilled to offer dine-in service at Sapphire, a landmark in Laguna Beach,” Bendel said. “Much like when I took over Vine in San Clemente seven years ago, we polished up the property and brought in touches from Vine, Ironwood and Olea, but have kept the hospitality and ambiance the same. My colleagues and I are excited to continue the Sapphire legacy on such a historic property.”

Executive chef and partner Jared Cook’s signature dishes such as duck meatballs, schnitzel with garden herb spaetzle, wild-caught Alaskan halibut, and Pacific Northwest filet mignon with melted garlic and crème fraîche potatoes are on the menu.

Dishes created expressly for Sapphire, Cellar. Craft. Cook include local sea bass and Mexican white prawn ceviche, farmers market vegetables with organic Italian faro, and Cornish game hen au vin blanc.

For weekend brunch, Cook has designed a menu with dishes such as scallion and sharp cheddar buttermilk biscuits with house-made sage-garlic sausage and two versions of waffles: Meyer lemon crème fraîche and caramel, sea salt, Nutella.

Beverage director and partner Gabe Whorley has developed a signature cocktail for the new restaurant, The Greeter, made with vodka, Aperol, watermelon seltzer, Angostura, lime, cucumber, and lavender.

The Pantry is open for quick takeout of tasty breakfast sandwiches, burritos, pastries, and handcrafted coffee drinks. Guests also will find an array of lunch and dinner offerings prepared to order, or grab-and-go baguette sandwiches, salads, and charcuterie plates.  Craft cocktails, cleverly packaged in Mason jars, and curated wines are available for carryout.

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