Need a cure for lunchtime blahs? Head to Okura, perfect for lunch meetings (and dinner conversations)

Story and photos by LAURA BUCKLE

Six weeks ago marked the arrival of Okura Laguna Beach’s new manager Chad Abell. Managing restaurants is in Chad’s blood. Originally he hails from northern California, where his father worked in fine Italian dining all of his life before going on to run a selection of Fiore restaurants in the region.  

Chad moved to southern California and began to manage the Marbella Country Club in San Juan Capistrano, before moving onto the St Regis where he obtained his Fine Dining training. A shift in the management of the St Regis saw him leave there and take up a position at Mozambique, where he worked as the banqueting captain for three years before moving to Okura to become the manager of the restaurant.

Click on photo for a larger image

Yum, oysters

And Chad has big ideas. Okura is Laguna Beach’s largest sushi restaurant, located where many businesses have sadly struggled, due to the size of the space. However Okura seems to have been ticking along nicely since 2015. 

As with most businesses, there is always room for growth and improvement, especially during the quieter winter months.  Chad is already working on a new cocktail menu, which will incorporate Japanese inspired cocktails such as a green tea martini and an alternative Bloody Mary. They have also introduced happy nights on a Monday and Tuesday, where the regular Happy Hour, which is 4-6 p.m. every weekday, has been extended until closing time. This is one of the best happy hours available in a sushi establishment, with many dishes and drinks being half the price.  

Chad explains that the food in Okura sells itself (more on that from me later): he is eager to focus on the regeneration of the bar area.

The next step is to try and obtain a live music license (pretty please to anyone on city council reading this). It’s surprising that such large space does not have this feature, but Chad is confident and determined to get this passed. Their recent sponsorship and collaboration with our local radio station KX 93.5 means that if and when they do get a live music license, you will be sure to see some great local artists performing there.

Click on photo for a larger image

Sashimi and sushi is fresh and delicious

In the meantime, Okura offers a phenomenal lunchtime menu. I regularly use Okura for business meetings and hopefully by the end of reading this report, I will have convinced any business owner out there to do the same.  

As mentioned previously Okura is a large restaurant, with the capacity to seat many big parties, perfect for a large business lunch or meeting. It is also very well arranged, so that the spacing of the tables allows for intimate conversation, should there be just a couple of people.

The tables themselves are also large, accommodating laptops, notepads or any other equipment you may need for a working lunch. The restaurant is air conditioned, which is a must (especially over the last week).

The lunchtime menu is a colorful array of salads, lunch combinations, bento boxes sushi sashimi rolls and specialty rolls. It also offers a wide range of Gluten Free alternatives. There’s truly something for everyone.

Click on photo for a larger image

Sushi can be ordered gluten free

During the lunch menu drinks are available at happy hour prices, but this was a business meeting with my other boss Tyler Russell of KX 93.5 FM and I needed to keep a clear head. 

I ordered a surprise, but specified I wanted the gluten free option, eager to see if it would be as good as the rest of the menu. I was not disappointed. I was presented with the shitake beet salad, crispy shitake mushroom, goat cheese, and walnuts with marinated beet. Alongside this was an array of sashimi served of course with wasabi and ginger and tamari (gluten free) sauce. This was light, tasty and felt so incredibly healthy. It was just the right amount of food for me at lunchtime, without leaving me with an overly full feeling.

Tyler also ordered a dish to be surprised but this time not gluten free…in fact, he ordered extra gluten ha ha! He was presented with a variety of sashimi served over sticky rice and colorful special rolls. It was all perfect and a delightful accompaniment to our working lunch. 

Chad then treated us to some Kumamoto oysters, these were the cream of the crop, delicious tasty oysters, with a magnificent kick. I would highly recommend these if you can cope with a little spice.

All in all my experience at Okura was, as always, really great. The food is consistently spectacular and if you take advantage of the weekly happy hours and specials, it can be a cost effective place to eat.  

Okura is available to hire as a private venue and it also offers outside catering. (949) 793-4320 · 858 S Coast Hwy