There’s a new dining option at the luxe Resort at Pelican Hill, an elegantly rustic chef’s Tasting Table next to the Pelican Grill’s dining room with unobstructed sightlines into its large, open kitchen. The table and the kitchen are both presided over by chef Derek Brooks, who was sous chef at alta cocina Italia Andrea when the resort opened in 2008, and did a stint as banquet chef before taking the helm of Pelican Grill last year.
For up to 10 lucky diners, the table makes the perfect perch from which to observe Brooks prepare, plate, and serve each course of the prix fixe menu, which is seasonal and subject to market availability. None of the dishes served at this Tasting Table are on the Pelican Grill’s regular menu—at a recent preview, Brooks told some Orange Coast editors that the Tasting Table gives him a chance to use ingredients he’s not able to get in quantity or that are too expensive to add to the grill’s daily menu. Even the tableware is exclusive for this Tasting Table.
One of our dishes was perfectly pan-seared turbot, with delicious, saline sea beans, king crab, and an uni beurre rouge. Another was tender, deeply flavorful bison osso bucco which Brooks braised in port and served with stoneground white polenta and glazed Irvine Ranch carrots—all the resort’s restaurants emphasize produce from this local source. Special menu requests can be accommodated as well—Brooks showed me a completely plant-based menu he’d created for a group of vegans that included dishes like roasted Oregon mushrooms with shaved black truffle, seared tofu “scallops” with orange scented coconut milk and black rice, and a phyllo strudel of winter squashes.
You don’t have to wrangle 10 warm bodies in order to partake—seven is sufficient to book the table, and for multiple couples and smaller groups the evening becomes a communal experience. The price starts at $85 per person, with optional wine pairing an additional $45, not including tax or tip. To plan your own Tasting Table, call 800-820-6800 at least 48 hours in advance.