31760 Old Mission Road, San Juan Capistrano, 949-503-2654
How fitting that blossoms are the top-selling appetizer at Bloom, a welcome 2022 arrival in San Juan Capistrano. Crispy zucchini flowers ooze Manchego cream under green frisée with a rosette of pickled red onion. Bloom is ready to pack its 90-seat house with followers of its siblings (Olea, Vine, Ironwood, and Sapphire) and fans of wine country cuisine by Jared Cook, craft cocktails by Gabe Whorely, and expert hospitality by owner Russ Bendel. Cook frontloads the dinner-only menu with irresistible starters such as barbecue quail offset by celery leaf slaw and tart chow chow; endive salad with sweet Charentais melon and intense duck prosciutto; and bourbon-scented pâté with apricot preserves and singed rustic bread. Entrees earn extra points for not being a la carte. Herb-marinated pork porterhouse includes fromage blanc grits and seasonal vegetables. Cippolini onions and bacon-braised kale accompany the terrific Jidori half chicken. California wines dominate the list, so apropos given Father Junipero Serra reportedly planted the state’s first vineyard in 1779. Not as historic but divine all the same—the popular tequila cocktail Ortega, with Aperol, lime, and Tajín. Bloom is purposely petite, having been retrofitted into its landmark 1930 brick structure, the town’s first city hall. It couldn’t be more visible, just steps from the treasured Mission San Juan Capistrano.