Riviera is a Coastal Retreat in San Clemente

New spot joins the trend in South County.
Photo courtesy of Riviera.

The restaurant and bar scene in San Clemente has been on fire lately; Riviera, at the San Clemente Inn, is among the new spots fanning the flames. Chef Bryan Balzer previously helmed Henry’s in Huntington Beach; beverage director James Shaphard came from highly regarded bar Jane across town. Among Balzer’s raw starters are the avocado and ono tartare with escolar, hijiki, and house ponzu. Yellow gooseberries and house-whipped chevre star in the beets and berries salad. Don’t-miss mains include: Washington mussels with Spanish chorizo, espelette-saffron pan emulsion, and grilled sourdough from 6100 Bakery; and the short-rib “ballerine” pasta, whose shape suggests a spinning ballerina. Mochi beignets—with five-spice chocolate fondue and strawberry jam—are the signature finish. Shaphard’s cocktails are brilliant. The V, which is made only with spirits, ingeniously mixes Michter’s Straight Rye, Yellow Chartreuse, Drambuie, and Italicus. Psyops bravely blends Xicaru 102 mezcal with Barr Hill Tom Cat aged gin, pistachio, chamomile, and “kitchen juice.” 2600 Avenida del Presidente, San Clemente, 949-503-2222, rivierasc.com