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Few restaurants in California are lucky enough to be situated smack dab on the beach like Chimayo in Huntington Beach.  It must be a coastal zoning ordinance or something.

You can’t miss the Chimayo location, or maybe you can. It is just below Duke’s Bar, and just below the Huntington Beach pier gangway, reached by steps or an elevator next to Duke’s entrance.

The pleasing establishment was created by OC restauranteur and classic pianist, David Wilhelm, and it is a Southwestern or even a beach Mexicano themed restaurante in his crown jewels of southern California dining successes.  He certainly is paving the way for new culinary adventures after his first restaurant, Pave, was sold, and now that his new company is monikered Culinary Adventures. www.culinaryadventures.com

Most of Wilhelm’s restaurants are French themed, and in fact, his French 75 restaurants are burgeoning outside soCal to other venues across the nation.  His Chat Noir bar and lounge and restaurant is gaining widespread fame outside of Costa Mesa, too.

Get Your Surf Gear HereEverything Wilhelm’s touches in the kitchen, galley, or probably even at the backyard barbecue is going to be superb, and he does it with a creativity and flair found in few other OC establishments, and that also goes for the mixologies. Yes, that is a real Chimayo sunset and not the inside of your blood shot eyes.

Sure you can trust the agaves in the specialized drinks at Chimayo, such as the Margarita Chimayo or the Palomino or the Silver Bullet, but try also the more tropical Margaritas: the Maui Margarita, or the Mango and Strawberry Margarita.  You will have to use the elevator to get back to street level after one of these. Sure Chimayo’s has traditional Mojitos made from the best Bacardi so that the Carib isn’t left out, and they have the traditional Gulf Hurricane, a rum drink reminiscent of Nawlings, but not served in a paper cup. No one else has the Johnny T’s Tropical Paradise: a shot or two of Bacardi Spiced Rum and a flavorful burst of Passion Fruit, Orange and Pineapple juices. 

I never even heard of the Lava Float until I showed up on the al fresco patio at Chimayo; it is made of Bacardi Light Rum, Cream of Coconut, fresh strawberries and pineapple juice. They go all the way with the beach theme, drawing you in for a Brazilian Daiquiri because some of the waitresses grew up in Brazil; I have tried unusual beach cocktails all over the world, but never heard of the Chimaital, made from Crown Mango Rum, Passion Fruit and pineapple with orange juice. They even serve Tahitian tea with a kick, a concoction of Crush Coconut and Pineapple Rum, Stoli, vanilla, Blue Curacao, exotic fruit juices, and a float of dark rum. After one of these you will sail again, but three sheets to the wind.

With a name like Chimayo you would expect Mexican imported cervesas, such as Pacifico and Corona, and they have them in bottles, along with Red Strip and draft beers, including the hard to find Widmer Hofewetsen (on draft!), from one of the world’s oldest beer brewers.

Chimayo also has Anejo Sipping Tequilas starting at $8.50 for the Herradura Anejo and then moving up in quality and price to the $22 Don Julio 1942, and then hitting the top ranks: Herradura Suprema, at $40, and  Don Julia Real, at $60.  Chimayo also has aged sipping rums with a great Cruzan Single Barrel from the Virgin Islands for $9 a glass, but for two bucks more get the Zaya 12 Year.

You can start your beach dining "Culinary Adventure" with chilled seafood cocktails, such as Pacific oysters on the half shell.

The Chimayo Tiki Platter caught my eye, consisting of fried Calamari steak skewers, Chicken Taquitos, Ahi rolls, and coconut shrimp with dipping sauce ($11.95 per person).

Worldwide Beach ResortsChimayo Appetizers and Shared Platters  are a meal unto themselves: Retro Shrimp Scampi with Drawn Butter ($14.95); Black Mussels, steamed with cream, garlic, and chardonnay, served with French fries ($14.95); Cornmeal Crusted Fried Calamari with Smoke Chile Aioli ($10.95); Ahi Carpaccio with Cucumber Salad and hot sesame, garlic, and ginger drizzle ($13.95); Spicy Voodoo Shrimp Martini with Papaya and Green Chile ($13.95); Grilled Filet Mignon skewers with Spicy Peanut Sauce and hot mustard sauce ($14.95); Crispy Coconut Shrimp with Mango, Chili and Cilantro Sauce ($13.95); Crispy Chicken Tequitos with Avocado Corn Relish and Chipotle Salsa ($10.95);  Spinach Artichoke, Parmesan, and Chili Dip with Tortilla Chips ($12.95); Island Lettuce Wraps with water chestnuts, mushrooms, spicy chili and Hoisin Sauce (Chicken - $10.95, Shrimp - $12.95).

It was approaching summer, and I usually avoid hot soups at the beach during the summer, but Chimayo has a fire Roasted Tomato Soup with chicken, cheddar cheese and corn tortillas for $7.95, or Clam and Corn Chowder for $8.95.  One soup I really like in the Caribbean that would really fit into Chimayo’s is cold or almost warm pumpkin soup.  It is the most refreshing soup adding energy to a languid day.

Sports and Beach Sandals, Tevas, Berks, Reef
My friends, Marisa and Shannon, were not at Chimayo to drink so much as to enjoy the special sunset spectacular dinners. Shannon is a vegan and Chimayo knocked out a special salad just for her. They can do that for any special diets. Usually a call in advance is advised.  During the lunch hour you can order the usual sandwiches and tacos that are also offered on the evening menu, but these are specialty sandwiches and tacos, and not the 59 cent tacos that Wilhelm’s restaurant partner used to push as the CEO of Taco Bell, but little dining works of art, such as Grilled Angus or Mahi Mahi, or Chimayo’s famous Baja Style Lobster Tacos.  The full entrée lunch plates are priced around $17.95 at Chimayo, including lots of seafood dishes, such as Linguine and Clams, Beer Battered Seabass, or Blackened Red Snapper, or Seafood Brochette.

You don’t find Red Snapper often in restaurants, so of course that was the choice for me because I didn’t see any Yellowfin Tuna on the menu, but there was Ahi Tuna, which Marisa hooked off the menu board.  The charred Ahi comes with French fries and peppercorn sauce. There is also blackened Swordfish on the menu, served with papaya, which is known for its healthy digestive enzymes, and Bermuda Onions.  My blackened Red Snapper was superb, served with mashed potatoes and shrimp Creole sauce.  The chefs can turn out a great BBQ Spiced Salmon, too. Any fish can be grilled on request, but they also have a wok and a word burning oven; Wilhelm is forever tinkering with new food items, so it advised to stop back often!

Hours:

Lunch:
Monday -Sat., 11:30am - 4pm
Sunday, 11am - 4pm

Dinner:
Sunday - Thurs., 4pm - 10pm
Friday - Sat., 4pm - 11pm
Brunch: Sunday, 11am - 2 pm

Happy Hour:
Mon. – Thurs., 2:00 – 5:00 pm

Menu:
Appetizers - $5 - $12
Entrées - $9 - $28

Location:
315 Pacific Coast Hwy
Huntington Beach , CA 92648
714/374-7273

We munched under the palm trees into the twilight with the open pit fire nearby as the sun slowly slid West. The music from the Say When Duo wafted out from the restaurant, a beachy mix of rock, R&B, jazz, and what ever crossed their repertoire list; they play from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. It added a fine touch to the perfect evening.

Chimayo also has a great Surf and Turf specialty menu that includes a six ounce Filet Mignon served with a six ounce Lobster Tail and four Coconut Shrimp or King Crab Legs, priced at $42.95. Another specialty option is the Twin Lobster Tails basted with Chile Lime Butter and served with cheddar potatoes, grilled corn, and papaya slaw. Price is based on the market.

Culinary Adventures has a full-service "Private Events" team which can design the ultimate event at any of their restaurants; log on at www.culinaryadventures.com. From weddings to brunches, cocktail parties to business meetings, they can assist you in every detail of planning. Most of the restaurants’ regular menu items may be purchased and packaged “to go.” Contact the individual location to inquire. Each restaurant in the Culinary Adventures family offers a fresh, creative approach to a children’s menu.

Visit Jetsetters Blog
Culinary Adventures' President, David Wilhelm, works closely with Hatch Design Group of Costa Mesa to create the unique look and feel of each restaurant.

Chimayo is a hidden corner that should be discovered by your own Culinary Adventure in Orange County .

By Kriss Hammond, Editor, Jetsetters Magazine.



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