SoCal, SoCool

Heading to the West Coast? Add Bluegold and its secret little sister, LSXO, on the picturesque Pacific Coast Highway to your itinerary. The first serves breakfast, lunch and dinner – clean, coastal California cuisine – in a prime Orange County location with a blue-gold water view. The second is mysteriously tucked inside Bluegold, a restaurant within a restaurant, drawing raves of its own for its Vietnamese food and drink. ASPIRE DESIGN AND HOME asked Jed Sanford, a Southern California native and CEO of Blackhouse Hospitality, why his company’s new Pacific picks are trending.


BlackHouse_Bluegold_7_©Simon_NichollsQ&A
ASPIRE DESIGN AND HOME: Why is clean food a buzz phrase?
JED SANFORD: It’s a little on the lighter side, not overly seasoned or overly done, not too many sauces and finishes. Less is more – the meat, fish and vegetables stand out. Bluegold serves fresh foods from local sources.

How did you decide to hide a restaurant in your restaurant?
JS: We laid out a lot of floor plans to maximize the ocean views. We like a lot of zones – high tops, lounge, banquettes, cold and hot bar seating – so you don’t feel like you’re in an 8,000-square-foot cafeteria. The wall facing the ocean had a pillar. We thought of putting in a private dining room, but that’s kind of boring. So, we added a hidden spot, like a speakeasy. People really like the surprise of LSXO.

Bluegold offers a taste and feel for California’s abundant landscape. Sip a “pASHionista” (with passion fruit and habanero rum) on the patio, taking in the view as you breathe in the fragrance of the chef’s citrus garden. The interior takes design cues from early 18th century missions, with crosshatch ceiling beams; the main dining room is lined with pale limestone with accents of tile, stained oak, taupe leather and raw steel. The best part is the wraparound view of the Pacific Ocean. Standouts include the hot steam kettle bar, paella for two and shakshouka, the newest brunch fave. Save space under your Malibu-blue shirt for a slice of peanut, butter & jelly cheesecake with brioche crust.

BlackHouse_LSXO_-¬Simon_Nicholls-1Behind an unmarked door, LSXO guests are transported to an intimate, 28- seat setting in District 1 (Chinatown) in Saigon. A spinoff of Sanford’s and Blackhouse chef/COO Tin Vuong’s Little Sister restaurant, LSXO is billed as “a love letter to the culture and heritage of Vietnam,” where Vuong’s roots are. The decor is colonial style and Old World European with shelves of aging maps and cigar boxes. The lath and plaster walls give a crumbling, post-grandeur effect; the bar has “graffiti” wallpaper with flowers and butterflies soaring out of machine guns. “The lath and plaster walls make it feel like a secret place,” says Sanford. “Since they’re backlit, it’s like you snuck behind them. People really like it.” They also like the cocktails that quench the thirst of up to six sippers. LSXO’s “Cool Runnings” comes in a copper, pineapple-shaped tiki glass. Yum all around.

Do you and Chef Tin go way back?
JS: This is our seventh year working together. Tin grew up in Southern California too. We’re changing things a lot. With LSXO, we decided to just let it happen, to let it take its course without marketing it. It’s one of our experiments that worked out well. It’s a surprise to walk into a venue and find something you didn’t expect. There’s a sense of exploration.

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