The Bungalow has been a popular Corona del Mar restaurant for more than 10 years, which is why Chris & I were surprised that proprietor Jim Walker felt it was time for a facelift. Curious to experience the newly renovated restaurant, we sat down for dinner with Walker to get the full Bungalow story and discover the impetus behind the major renovation, the menu revamp, and the desire to balance the old with the new.
We arrived at the rustic, craftsman-style restaurant and were led through the packed bar to a cozy booth in the inviting dining room, full of patrons.
“You have quite an extensive menu. Can you recommend a few of your signature dishes?” Chris asked.
“I like the Filet Mignon, but my personal preference is the New York Strip. The New York, as well as our Pork Chop, are natural, not processed or injected. They’re really good. If you like fish, the Chilean Sea Bass is a stand out,” offered Walker.
“Sea Bass? New York Strip? Sea Bass? New York Strip,” I mused.
Distracted from my entrée dilemma by the arrival of our server, I had to make another quick choice—what to drink.
“You go ahead, Chris.” I hedged for time.
“I’ll take the Candor Zin—it’s from Paso,” he said, ever faithful to his favorite wine region. “And shall we order a fish and a steak entrée so we can share? The Sea Bass sounds great.”
“Are you saying that just to appease me?” I admonished. “Seriously, what would you like? I’m never going to tell you what I want again–you always agree with me. It’s like pulling teeth to get you to admit what you like.”
“You forget, I like everything,” Chris laughed.
“True. Anyway, the New York Strip and the Roasted Beet Carpaccio for me.”
“I’ll get the Shrimp en Cassoulet and the Sea Bass,” Chris stated.
“Now for the tough choice. “ I pondered the wine list. “How’s the Dumol Russian River Syrah?”
“I was going to recommend that – excellent choice,” Walker smiled. “I’ll order the Blackened Salmon, too. It’s one of our specialties you should try.”
“So, tell us about the concept of the Bungalow and its history, especially since undergoing the renovation,” I asked.
“When I bought the Bungalow in 1999, it was two years old and still had that cozy feel, and a strong patronage,” said Walker. “A year ago we were hit hard by the economy and I saw a change in demographics. I realized we had to keep up with the change. We needed to make the interior more contemporary without losing its charm and keep a balance between our regulars and new people to the area. When my designer brought these hand-made light fixtures to me, I knew instantly they would become my guide for the remodel.”
“Sometimes all you need is a through-line,” I said.
“People really like the change,” Walker confessed happily. “These booths used to be red velvet. When we changed the color of the fabric, suddenly customers saw the wall mural that had been there for years. I don’t know how they’d missed that.”
“The gold is an outstanding choice,” I commented, taking in the décor. “Now your eyes focus on the stunning wood paneling and beautiful accents”
Suddenly our eyes shifted to the appetizers placed before us.
“Wow, look at your Beet Carpaccio, with arugula and shaved Parmesan on top,” Chris noticed, as he dug into his cassoulet.
“You’ve got to try this sauce,” he ordered between mouthfuls. “Take some bread and dunk it
“Delish.” I hummed.
Our server came by to see about wine refills.
“Hmmm…once again, I can’t decide. Surprise me,” I said coquettishly.
“Me too,” said Chris.
“What?” I exclaimed. “Surprise you? Now where’d that come from?” I shot him a knowing look. “Wine is the only thing you’re always decisive about.”
“Just trying to appease you,” he said teasingly.
Luckily, Chris was spared my retort by the arrival of the entrées. We all dug in and shared each dish.
“The Blackened Salmon is spiced to perfection,” commented Chris.
“Mmm-hmm. And the ginger-lemon beurre blanc over the Sea Bass is incredible.” I stated. “But I love my New York, Thanks for recommending it, Jim. I’m really impressed with everything – the flavors, the sauces, the accompaniments. I’m full, but I’m still eating!”
We debated over dessert, until our server mentioned Ice Wine.
“Perfect – I’ll drink my dessert,” Chris said.
“Oh, now you’re decisive,” I threw at him.
“I’ve ordered a couple of desserts for you to try,” interjected Walker, as Bread Pudding with Crème Anglaise and raspberries, plus the Chocolate Soufflé were placed before us.
“Oh my god – you use croissants, don’t you?” I whimpered, after the first bite of bread pudding.
“You guessed it.” Walker beamed.
“The Ice Wine and Soufflé are sublime, too.” Chris added.
“The Bread Pudding’s a winner,” I said.
“I think the entire evening is a winner,” Chris said.
“Okay! Uncle!” I conceded. “This is one time I don’t mind you agreeing with me.”