The Bungalow is a charming restaurant in a building that actually looks like a bungalow.
The main entry is in the rear, where there is valet parking. The low walls are made of stone, as is the entryway. A trellis of flowers adorns the area.
You walk up a few steps to a covered patio dining area featuring a stone fireplace. Continue up the stairs to reach the main dining rooms and the hostess station. A large bar room in the front also serves as a dining area, and there are two other rooms, one on the lower level.
The rooms are distinguished by the fine reproduction of the dark woods and beautiful joinery of the Craftsman style. A brightly colored abstract mural covers one wall.
The first menu category is "Plates." These are not exactly appetizers but include a cheese plate and a prawn cocktail. Also offered are items like a half-pound filet mignon burger, shrimp scampi, lamb lollipops and ahi poke.
I couldn't resist the crab cakes. The large square plate had two plump cakes at each corner, accompanied by a salad of bright green baby spinach and roasted yellow corn in a very light dressing. Also on the plate were swatches of a rich cream sauce with just a hint of jalapeno. On two sides were three dots each of hot sauce. It all made a pretty picture.
The minced crab was seasoned with spicy green chilies, bits of red pepper and green onion. The cakes had a lovely browned crust. It was fun to be able to add heat and creaminess to taste with these delicious patties. They were certainly big enough to share as well.
On the lighter side was a pear salad. It was also very large, the size of a dinner plate. Romaine and purple lettuce were mounded high and topped with pear slices, dried cranberries, candied walnuts and a sprinkling of feta cheese. The dressing was light and lemony.
Our only complaint was that the pears were unripe and thus tasteless. Otherwise the salad was quite good.
Chilean sea bass is hard to find on menus these days, since it is strictly regulated. It is one of my favorite fishes and I order it whenever I can. The bass, with its mahogany-colored skin, was also beautifully presented. It rested on a bed of rice and was surrounded by a gorgeous sauce of dark sweet balsamic reduction intertwined with coconut cream.
On top of the moist and tender fish were salty green pea sprouts, bits of green onion and sautéed mushrooms. Two fried slices of lotus blossom finished the picture.
All of the restaurant's steaks are prime. The rib eye was cooked exactly as requested, medium rare, and slathered with a sauce of banyuls jus (old vine sweet dessert wine). The quality of the steak was excellent, and it had a deep meaty flavor. It was also nicely presented, with a bed of spinach mixed with olive oil, smashed fingerling potatoes and caramelized shallots.
If you can't make up your mind, a "surf and turf" made of any combination from the menu might satisfy.
The special dessert of the evening was a dulce de leche cheesecake with a very dense layer of regular cheese cake filling. It was then topped with a layer of caramel–flavored dulce de leche filling and finally with a thick layer of cream cheese.
It rested on a crisscross pattern of caramel and raspberry drizzles. A somewhat unnecessary mound of whipped cream rested on the side. the dessert was very rich and very good except that being in the refrigerator had made the crumbly crust soggy.
The Bungalow is an attractive place to dine, with good food, good service and a pleasant atmosphere. The menu is rather pricey, and perhaps this is why it draws largely an older crowd.
TERRY MARKOWITZ was in the gourmet food and catering business for 20 years. She can be reached for comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If You Go
Where: 2441 E. Coast Hwy., Corona del Mar