Set to open this Friday, September 17, Sueños is a Latin American-inspired restaurant and bar in the heart of downtown Laguna Beach. Located just steps from the sand, the restaurant will debut dishes that blend and borrow the ingredients and influences from across Latin American culture, from the coastline of Mexico, to the mountainous regions of Peru.
Sueños represents a years-long dream for husband-and-wife restaurateurs Jose Gutierrez and Kay Ayazi. The duo has opened several eateries in Orange County together, including Costa, a contemporary Peruvian kitchen in Costa Mesa. As first-generation Americans who come from families of entrepreneurs, they aim to show their children just how possible and powerful the opportunities are for those who pursue their dreams. To carry out their vision for Sueños, Gutierrez and Ayazi have tapped a dream team of culinary professionals to lead the kitchen and bar programs.
“When our team came together, there was this palpable collective confidence that together we would not only achieve our goals but that our synergy would elevate the individual dreams each of us has, ” comments Gutierrez. “Sueños is Spanish for dreams, and that’s how we came up with the name.”
Executive Chef Alan Sanz and Culinary Director Yen Wu, bring a global experience to the kitchen at Sueños. Wu, born and raised in Lima, Peru, is responsible for leading culinary operations for both Sueños and Costa. Sanz received his degree in culinary and pastry arts in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and has cooked in kitchens around the globe, Boragó in Chile, Parcela in Mexico, Epicure in France, and Mugaritz in Spain. He’s worked with renown chefs including Rodolfo Guzman, Edgar Nuñez, Éric Fréchon, and Francis Mallman. Before joining the team at Sueños, Sanz served as Executive Chef for Gracias Madre Restaurants and Wu as Executive Chef for Puesto in Irvine. Both restaurants earned nods from Michelin Guide with Sanz and Wu at the helm of their respective kitchens. Their cumulative culinary acumen and passion for bold and bright Latin American flavors bolster the menu at Sueños with a balance of refined composition and complexity.
Traditional Latin American ingredients are masterfully woven into and highlighted throughout the menu at Sueños. Starters include Ceviche de Mango y Jicama with Mahi Mahi cured in Leche de Tigre – a traditional Peruvian citrus-based marinade. The Arepa de Birria exemplifies the kitchen’s fusion of Latin American cuisines combining Colombian cornmeal arepas with the rich meat stew of Jalisco’s birria. Organic Oaxacan masa pressed in-house daily is featured in various dishes, including Duck Carnitas Tacos and Ribeye Tetela. Several dishes feature huitlacoche, the black, fungus-affected kernels of organic corn considered a delicacy in Mexican cuisine. Huitlacoche unique earthy and smoky flavor lends itself to dishes like Black Risotto with lamb chops and Polenta & Short Rib. Hearty entrees include Tagliatelle Verde with filet mignon, epazote pesto, pecorino cheese, and smoked chili oil; and Infladita de Conejo, a slow-cooked rabbit pibil brought to life with vibrant flavors of hibiscus pickled onions, orange gel, and habanero ash salsa. Elegant and artistic desserts showcase the kitchen’s mastery of pastry arts while incorporating savory elements like avocado and tomatillo.
A dreamy lineup of libations developed by beverage director Ava Navarrete shines the spotlight on agave-based spirits and artisanal rums. Picture-perfect cocktails and tiki-style drinks prove there’s more than meets the eye as the beverage program mirrors the ethos and craftsmanship of the kitchen. In addition to handcrafted cocktails, the wine list will focus on international bottles and domestic beers from local craft breweries.
Renovation to design and decor blends dreamy hues of light pink, purple, and blue with a palette of neutral undertones and natural elements. The restaurant’s focal point is a progressive mural above the open kitchen painted by local artist Carlos Rodas. The large surreal dreamscape depicts the procession of a dream, an ethereal journey of a woman as she embarks on an out-of-body experience where she flows into a state of expression, discovery, and connection with her higher self. At 5,000 square feet, Sueños offers 85 seats inside the dining room, 30 seats on the patio, and 12 at the bar.
“Laguna is loved for its enchanting, ethereal beauty. Long-heralded as an elusive hideaway, Laguna sets itself apart on the California coastline as the Santorini of Orange County,” adds Ayazi. “It’s always been a dream of ours to open a beachfront restaurant, and with Sueños, we get to share that dream with the community by celebrating the Laguna that locals love and visitors dream of.”
Sueños is located in the heart of downtown Laguna Beach (222 Ocean Ave) and will be open for dinner daily beginning at 4 p.m. The kitchen will be open Monday – Thursday until 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday until 11 p.m., and Sunday until 8 p.m. Weekend lunch will be available from noon – 3 p.m. For more information, please visit www.suenoslagunabeach.com or connect with @suenoslagunabeach on Instagram and Facebook.