You’ve probably heard that chef Amar Santana, whose Broadway in Laguna Beach is on pretty much everybody’s Top Ten List, is branching out. Possibly as soon as summer of next year he’s opening Vaca near South Coast Plaza, with business partner and fellow Charlie Palmer veteran Ahmed Labbate.
I ran into Santana at a recent media event and was happy to hear some details. Befitting the name, there’ll be beef—some of it spending supervised time in a custom, glass-walled aging room being built on site. Santana wants to go beyond the usual filet and ribeye to less-often-seen cuts at approachable prices—though not excluding the highest end, like Kobe beef running into three figures. And forget the usual steak house sauce upcharge. Santana will serve four house-made sauces with all his steaks: chimichurri, red-wine demiglace, romesco, plus classic steak sauce. Doesn’t the latter have something like 100 ingredients? “Yes, or more,” Santana says.
There’ll be paella—Santana is still mulling game and vegetarian types, along with seafood. Mediterranean seafood flown in twice a week will also figure into the tapas, “Real tapas, not a regular-sized Caesar salad split in two and served on small plates,” he says. “Small plates are not the same thing as tapas.” The wine list will be maybe 70 percent Spanish, with established favorites, including lots of Californians making up the balance.
Vaca will make two restaurants for the Broadway team. Three, and it’s a mini-empire—something I bet we’ll see before too long.