Before he was earning acclaim as the executive chef at Charlie Palmer’s at Bloomingdale’s South Coast Plaza, Amar Santana was building a passionate zeal for cooking through the hyper-competitive kitchens in his native New York City. So when he and business partners Rich Cadarette and Ahmad Labbate had the opportunity to open a restaurant in Laguna Beach (set to go live toward the end of September), he felt compelled to create a venue that would honor his culinary roots. “I always wanted to have a restaurant that had a New York feel,” he says. “I wanted that vibe to be so strong that locals would feel like they didn’t need to travel New York to have the kind of experience I was offering.”
Named after the famed New York thoroughfare (as opposed to Laguna Beach’s passageway to the canyons), the industrial-themed Broadway contains theatrical elements from Amar’s hometown. Case in point: the restaurant’s enormous open kitchen—a space that Amar claims is the most visible of its kind in Orange County. The work area’s transparency serves a purpose that is very important to him. “The reason the kitchen is so visible is that I want people to see what I am all about and that I love food,” he says. “I want them to know that they’re getting the real deal when they come here.”
Once Amar develops this connection with his Laguna Beach clientele, he plans on deploying a culinary strategy filled with Gotham-sized dramatic bravado, as envelope-pushing items such as calf’s liver and sweetbreads will be available alongside his diverse assortment of contemporary dishes.