Our latest issue out now!Summer 2017
Occupying a spot in one of downtown San Juan Capistrano’s historic buildings, Sundried Tomato offers a pleasant space to enjoy delicious food. With an outdoor patio area, a generous bar space, as well as a dining room, seating options abound. We chose the dining room, as it was still a bit warm outside. The bar area features a large galvanized tin bar, as well as table seating in that area for a slightly more casual feel. The dining area feels just a bit more formal with dark wood accents and cloth tablecloths that give Sundried Tomato an understated elegance that avoids being stuffy. The restaurant does have a full bar and a few beers on tap, as well as a very respectable wine selection.
We perused the menu and started off with some appetizers that piqued our interest. Crispy stuffed artichoke hearts, crispy blackened chicken spring rolls, ahi poke, and a cup of tomato soup all made their way to the table efficiently and none of the starters disappointed. The tomato soup is a flagship offering, and it proved to be a worthy representative of the overall approach – fresh ingredients and freshly-made dishes to be enjoyed in a casual environment. The restaurant name was inspired by a sundried tomato marinade that they originally developed and now use as a base for this signature soup, and the creamy soup that it helps create was a positive indicator for the food to follow.
The next course involved a salad sampler, which was a perfect way to try a few of the salads included on the menu. The sampler consisted of the chopped salad, the sundried tomato Caesar salad, and the chicken and apple salad with gorgonzola. Each item tasted fresh and delicious and sundried tomatoes once again played a strong supporting role in the Caesar as a component of the tasty dressing. They even managed to slip some kale into the Caesar and I hardly even noticed the extra-healthy addition. This salad trio represents a few of the salads on Sundried Tomato’s evolving and seasonal menu, and I look forward to exploring some of the other options in the future.
As we moved on to the main course, we couldn’t narrow down the choices to just two, so chicken bowtie pasta, grilled airline chicken breast, and a prime flat iron steak were selected to provide a broader test of the skills in the kitchen. I was leery of anything with the word “airline” in the description, but I was told it describes a chicken breast dish presented with the wing still attached. The airline chicken was seasoned with a delicious chimichurri sauce with a good kick of garlic that made this dish take off (horrible pun intended!). The blackened chicken bowtie pasta was also well-executed and not overly spicy, as some blackened items can be. However, our favorite was the prime flat iron steak, which was cooked perfectly and disappeared quickly! The flat iron can be a challenge to prepare well, but this place nailed it.
At this point, full from trying so many items, we naturally ordered dessert. My goal was to simply try a couple of bites for the sake of writing this review, but one bite of the toffee cake and I knew it wasn’t going to work out as planned. In the interest of research, the chocolate decadence also needed to be tested and that, too, came through with flying colors. Wishing only for a warm rock to crawl upon for a few hours to digest, we instead settled up and made our way out slowly with our take-home containers, which were too few for what we had just ordered over the previous two hours.
While I have had several people recommend Sundried Tomato to me in the past, my first visit has earned the restaurant a spot in my rotation of places that I would spend my money, as well as encourage others to experience a delicious dining experience in San Juan Capistrano’s quaint downtown. By creating a seasonal menu in combination with year-around signature dishes, there is a great balance of go-to items while the rotating choices take advantage of fresh ingredients available in that season. This produces enough variety, while allowing repeat customers to find some of their favorite items on every visit – like the flat iron steak I’m planning to have again, though the root beer marinated ribs also sound interesting….
As a bonus, give yourself some time before or after your meal and explore San Juan Capistrano and discover the history and ever-growing number of interesting businesses scattered throughout this quaint downtown. You might see me there – I’ll be the one laying on the warm, flat rock.
Note: Sundried Tomato has two locations – the one in San Juan Capistrano, as well as another in San Clemente. They also provide catering and have an event space in San Juan Capistrano for corporate events, weddings, and other special events.
31781 Camino Capistrano
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
More information at www.sundriedtomatobistro.com