“Smell that?” The aroma is unmistakable. Somebody in this restaurant is smoking weed. I glance around the dining room to see if I can spot the illicit doobie.
And there they are. There’s a girl at the bar pinching a lit roach between her fingers, although she isn’t bringing it to her lips.
And over there, on the patio, I see a dude passing a joint to his friend as they both laugh and toast their cocktails.
“What’s going on here?” I whisper to the waitress at Pacific Hideaway, the new restaurant inside the recently revamped Kimpton Shorebreak Hotel in Huntington Beach.
“Dazed and confused,” she says.
“No kidding,” I say.
“No, really,” she says, pointing to the menu, tapping her finger on a cocktail called “Dazed and Confused.”
It’s a drink made with rum, pineapple juice, ginger and lime. I look up at her, confused.
“It comes with a little joint,” she says. “But don’t worry. It’s not real. It’s just herbs or something.”
But of course “herbs” is what we used to call it back in the day. “I’ll have one of those,” I say.
It’s a great drink. It is somewhat sweet without veering into tiki territory. It’s more sophisticated than that. It arrives with a smoldering roach clipped to the rim of the drink with a miniature clothespin. While not exactly skunk weed, it really does smell like reefer.
The drinks here are universally great. What’s even better than the Dazed and Confused is the Trickster, a cocktail made with mezcal, tequila and ancho chile liqueur. And the Bloody Mary might be the best you’ll try this year.
The restaurant itself is beautiful. The dining room is breezy and fun, with garage-style doors opened onto a patio that overhangs 5th Street, offering a VIP perspective of local street life and partial views of the beach. The vibe feels slightly like a mythical Ensenada beach resort, with a few Mexican pigskin chairs and a couple of faux swings incorporated into the eclectic mix of furniture.
The menu flirts with flavors from Mexico and Asia. It’s an interesting juxtaposition of cultures. The thread that loosely ties it all together is a beachfront theme. Not everything works, but there are some very good dishes in the mix. For example, the Lao-inspired sausage with crispy rice is a highly reputable riff on the classic Thai/Lao salad.
Lacquered pork spare ribs blur the line between an American smokehouse and the sweet sticky spareribs of Chinese dim sum. The ribs are meaty and tender oddly satisfying.
Amberjack crudo is nicely done, as are the mussels in coconut curry. Meanwhile, the tuna tacos are a stark reminder that you are in a hotel restaurant. Although perfectly edible, I probably wouldn’t order them again.
I think I would have liked the beer can chicken better if it weren’t bogged down in a thick sludge of black bean puree. And I might have enjoyed the tres leches more if the kitchen hadn’t called it tres leches because that’s simply not what it is. They’re setting you up for disappointment by teasing you with a Mexican classic when what they’re really serving is strawberry shortcake. Adjust your expectations accordingly.
Dinner is better than lunch, primarily because the lunch menu is comprised mostly of breakfast foods. In all fairness, though, they don’t call it lunch. They call it brunch (served every day, not just weekends). And for what it’s worth, the huevos rancheros are very good. As is the banana-nut French toast, which isn’t really French toast but rather a huge plate of fried banana bread with syrup and fruit. It is ridiculously sweet but undoubtedly delicious, particularly if you enjoy dessert as the main course.
It’s important not to get your hopes up about service here. It will be slow and probably somewhat scatterbrained. It might even be downright dazed and confused. Coincidence?
Where: Kimpton Shorebreak Hotel, 500 Pacific Coast Hwy., 2nd floor (entrance on 5th Street), Huntington Beach
When: Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily