Oak Grill and Aqua Lounge roll out an impressive list of culinary experiences for the season ahead.
By Sharon Stello
Following a celebration over the summer to mark their fifth anniversary, Oak Grill and Aqua Lounge—both at Fashion Island Hotel—are ushering in fall with a dazzling array of culinary events that are sure to please the palate.
During the anniversary party to mark their milestone, the bar and eatery showcased award-winning short ribs with barbecue-braised macadamia nuts and grilled peaches as well as smoked salmon deviled eggs (also on the menu for Oak Grill’s Slow Smoked Sundaze), both by Executive Chef Brittany Valles.
An ice sculpture with a variety of seafood added to the culinary scene while Pastry Chef Andy De La Cruz’s little doughnuts and mini versions of Oak Grill’s desserts were the perfect finale to the evening.
The event also featured a DJ, photo booth and signature cocktails—including one featuring Woodford Reserve bourbon that was infused with smoke in a special chamber.
Oak Grill features seating both indoors and outside, but it’s the patio that truly shines, with tables set beneath light-filled trees. Fire pits are also nearby for gathering with friends or family to enjoy some pre- or post-dinner sips. There will be plenty of reasons to visit this season with the packed culinary lineup that’s planned.
A new Sunday Jazz Brunch is offered from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Sunday for those who would like to enjoy a leisurely morning or afternoon meal accompanied by live jazz. But music isn’t the only thing that will strike a chord with diners: must-try dishes include house-made monkey bread (while supplies last), a chicken-and-waffle Benedict, sweet or savory crepes, shrimp and cheesy grits, and a breakfast flatbread complete with bacon and an egg cooked over easy. Bloody marys and bottomless mimosas are also available.
Also, mark your calendars for the Orin Swift Cellars Wine Dinner at Oak Grill on Oct. 24, starting at 7 p.m. following a reception at 6 p.m. Come hungry as Valles will be whipping up a five-course meal paired with wines from Orin Swift Cellars, which will have a representative on hand to talk about the varieties like Blank Stare sauvignon blanc and Papillon Bordeaux blend. The cost is $165 per person.
But there’s no need to wait until the month’s end to visit Oak Grill: the Chef Dinner Series returns this fall on Wednesdays and Thursdays beginning at 5 p.m. throughout the month of October. A three-course dinner, for $65 per person, will feature seasonal flavors in new dishes created by Valles.
On Sundays, now through October, come for the Southern hospitality at Slow Smoked Sundaze, featuring menu items like cheddar cheese biscuits, fried green tomatoes, smoked salmon deviled eggs, house-made pickles, barbecue brisket, smoked chicken and more. The cost is $45 per person or $17 for kids age 5 to 12; those of drinking age may order a glass of Hometown Punch, made with Old Forester Signature 100-Proof Bourbon, for an additional $10.
Of course, the evening doesn’t need to end after the last bite or sip. Fireside Sessions run from 6-9 p.m. every day except Sunday, when they go from 5-8 p.m., with live acoustic music accompanied by happy hour pricing—$7 for small plates—until 7 p.m. Or, try a wine flight at $12 for white varietals and $13 for red ones. Close out the night with s’mores around the fire pit: Kits have all the fixings needed to make two s’mores per person, priced at $10 for two people or $15 for a group of four. Then, satisfy late-night cravings with $5 s’mores and flatbreads from 9 p.m. until closing.
Over at Aqua Lounge, a Black Diamond Party kicks off the season Sept. 20, with a pre-party on the patio, followed by the main festivities at 9 p.m. The bar will be pouring House of Carbonadi Black Diamond vodka martinis: The luxurious liquor is distilled through active charcoal five times before another filtration through uncut, microporous black diamonds to remove impurities. In keeping with the theme, the pre-party will feature a station with jewelers Rosalina Lydster and Kimber Frankel to showcase custom diamonds and vacation diamonds that will be for sale and available for guests to try on. After perusing the wares, guests may also nibble on charcuterie and cheese, s’mores shooters, assorted French macarons and ahi tuna cones, all while enjoying music by DJ Halo.
Head back to Aqua Lounge for Oktoberfest Bites from Sept. 23 to Oct. 4, between 3 p.m. and closing time. Special Oktoberfest brews and bites will be served including Build-Your-Own Brats and Bavarian pretzels accompanied with beer cheese and whole grain beer mustard.
Then welcome the spooky season with an All Hallows’ Eve Party at Aqua Lounge at 9 p.m. Oct. 26. A $25 cover charge includes a ghoulish cocktail while VIP booths will be available starting at $250. Enter the costume contest for prizes like a 60-minute massage at The Spa at Fashion Island Hotel or dinner for two at Oak Grill.
And, throughout the season, football fans will find a place to watch the game on Monday nights at Aqua Lounge from 3 p.m. to closing time Sept. 9 and from 5 p.m. to closing all other Mondays. NFL specials will be offered, ranging from short rib sliders for $8 to six wings for $12 with flavor options like buffalo, Asian barbecue, lemon pepper or truffle Parmesan. Wash it down with a 16-ounce glass of craft beer for $5. Note: Happy hour also runs from 4-7 p.m. daily with $7 menu items at Aqua Lounge.