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Raya | The Ritz-Carlton

Raya | The Ritz-Carlton

There is something very special about Girls Night Out. And when you are surrounded by women who empower you, lift you up, make you laugh and simply bring joy to your life, well then you’ve hit the jackpot my friend. This is exactly what happened when our very own Trendsetters were  invited to The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel for a very special dinner at Raya, that none of us will soon forget. 162-feet above sea level, Raya, a restaurant concept by acclaimed Chef Richard Sandoval, is known for its signature Latin flavors and breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean.

Some of the most creative and inspiring women I know feasted on everything from soup to nuts (literally) while enjoying wines, cocktails, adult snow-cones (yes, they do exist!!!) and some of the most hysterical stories I’ve heard in a really long time.  I’m proud to announce, The Trend Tribe shut the place down.

It all began with sunset drinks inside Bar Raya where I broke out of my shell and asked the bartender to “mix something pineapple-y!”  Let’s just say it was vodka with a side of pineapple. Remember in cartoons when bells, whistles and firecrackers fly out of the characters ears? This drink packed a severe punch! Soon thereafter,  Chef  Matt  brought out Smoked Swordfish Tacos consisting of a crispy wonton shell, mango salsa and pico de gallo and I believed in Santa Claus all over again.

We then moved to the main dining room of Raya where Orange County native, Chef  Marissa Gerlach, delivered to our table a selection of Pan-Latin Coastal Cuisine appetizers and first courses made up of sustainable seafood, local produce and organic meats. Santa Barbara Mussels, shrimp tempura lettuce wraps and the most amazing Chilled White Gazpacho I have ever tasted. I swear the flavors were doing the Cha-cha in my mouth.

PHOTOS: 2012 Event || Raya :: The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel

Each Trendsetter ordered something different and you can bet your bottom dollar that no plate within my reach was safe from my fork as it trespassed, snatched and held no prisoners by tasting everyone’s entree! Oh yes…I went there. I was *that* person. Some of the plates that stand out in my mind:

:: Grilled Ponzu Pacific Swordfish ::

sweet plantain rice / black bean purée / mole verde / frisée salad

:: Pan Seared Sea Scallops ::

roast corn / sushi rice / nopalito / char siu pork belly / snap peas / white soy mojo

:: Dry-Aged Natural NY ::

dungeness crab potato purée / grilled pickled onions / chipotle hollandaise / truffle chimichurri

:: Chimichurri Jidori Chicken Breast  ::

pipian sauce / truffled farmers market carrots / turnips / red onions / truffle creamy wild rice / mango-pine nut-lime salsa

:: Seafood Risotto ::

maine lobster / prawns / santa barbara mussels / calamari / spanish chorizo / saffron rice

:: Grilled Thai Prawns ::

adobo marinade / fufu / tomato-olive-caper sauce / pickled poblano / tostones

The Dessert Sampler was beyond my wildest dreams and exceeded my expectations unlike anything I could imagine. Milk Chocolate Coconut CakeCinnamon Spice ChurroKahlua PuddingDulce de LecheAlmond Tres Leches…and Praline ice cream. NOM. Oh, and the Panko Crusted Banana Fritter Split? To die for. It had pina colada & banana ice creams with caramel rum & chocolate sauces and candied peanuts. Le sigh.

The whole evening was truly amazing!

On behalf of the Trendsetters here at The Trend Tribe, I would like to extend a very extra-special THANK YOU for The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel for hosting such a wonderful night.

– Nicole

Raya at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel
One Ritz-Carlton Drive
Dana Point, California 92629
(949) 240-2000 or view online at


A NJ transplant living in SoCal, Nicole Standley, digs pop culture, fancy-dancy hotels, cool shindigs, live shows, highfalutin restaurants, and all-things: music, fashion and events. Twitter: @nicoledstandley

Disclosure: On occasion, contributors of The Trend Tribe receive products and services gratis or at discounted rates. This practice does not influence the contributor’s point of view or the outcome of the review. All descriptions are factual and accurately reflect the reviewers experience. The opinions are their own. Photos courtesy of The Trend Tribe.


nicole (106 Posts)

Founder + Editor-In-Chief, Nicole is a NJ transplant living in SoCal, who digs pop culture, fancy-dancy hotels, cool shindigs, live shows, highfalutin restaurants, and all-things: music, fashion and events. Twitter: @nicoledstandley


  1. I LOVE swordfish and this one looks fantastic! I wish more restaurants would get on board with the mini desserts/dessert samplers like this one–ladies love dessert but we dont want a HUGE monster to tackle! Can’t wait to visit here!

    • I can’t wait to visit WITH YOU!!!! So much fun.

  2. Oh wow, that sounds like such a wonderful way to have a girl’s night out! Sign me up!

    • It was such a wonderful night! The perfect Girls Night Out is so important!

  3. This dinner was so memorable!!
    I want to go back…like, now. Nothing beats great noms with great conversation, right?

    • The conversation was amazing, but the food was outstanding!!!

  4. Wow. The food looks beautiful and amazing! Love the idea of a dessert sampler! YUM! Sounds like a very memorable girls night out with delicious food in a beautiful setting with incredible women. Hope I can join in on the fun in the future.

    • You were so missed! Next time we’ll Skype you in. xx

  5. Will def have to check this out over the summer…but would be way more fun with all of you!

    • I can’t wait to go with you! When will you be out here? Soon I hope.

  6. Looks and sounds like you guys had an amazing time! The Ritz is gorgeous and the location also can’t be beat (we love Salt Creek Beach!).

    I’ll have to try Raya!

    • Yes! And let me know what you thought. I know you are going to love it, but I can’t wait to hear which plates you tried.

  7. Okay – I put on 12 pounds just looking at those pics. What a great time – good food and better company.

    • I’m still exercising the lbs. off!!! I want shed pounds to make room for the next time I go :O

  8. The pics were so amazing! I am starving now!!! (making Homer Simpson sounds)

    • AhhhHaaaaa! I was definitely slumped over the arm of the chair rubbing my belly towards the end.

  9. This looks absolutely beautiful! Looks like you had a wonderful time.

    • We did! The whole evening was perfect! The Ritz-Carlton really spoiled us.

  10. Looks amazing!! I have not eaten here since my wedding – time to go back!

    • Yes, it is time! You’ll be so happy you did.

  11. I just adore that hotel…I can’t remember if we’ve eaten there or not but the food looks amazing!

    • It was beyond amazing. In fact, everything about this property is above and beyond. Thank you for stopping by!

  12. Sounds like a delightful night! I remember all the instagraming that was happening throughout the meal and was very jealous. Looks like you gals had a great time and a fantastic meal!

    • That’s exactly what it was…delightful! The view, the food, the friends – all meals should be like this!

  13. Ah the Ritz. I LOVE that place. The food was divine, the staff superb and the company crazy. 🙂 What more can you ask for in a dining experience??

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