If there ever was a perfect fit of a chef’s style and a location, it’s what’s happening in Leucadia at The Lanai.
Chef-owner Doug Moric and his wife Cortlyn Jade Moric have taken over the former Haggo’s Organic Taco location and his island fusion cuisine is right at home in this funky cool spot.
I say island fusion because chef Moric has a combination of Hawaiian plate lunch, poke, and other cuisines like Vietnamese that all work together.
Lanai translates into “patio” and that’s what we have here, an outdoor oasis surrounded by bamboo and connected to The Plant Lady, my go-to source for plants and fun accessories.
Before we get into the food, it’s worth knowing Doug’s back-story and why this is such a great fit for him. He is a first generation American as his family emigrated from Croatia in the 1970s.
They were restaurateurs in Arizona and owned a family restaurant called the Adriatic where Doug got his first experience in the culinary world.
His first move when he left home was to Encinitas then to Kona, Hawaii. He fell in love with the amazing cuisines, culture and beauty of the Island and immersed himself in the restaurant scene there and was inspired by the likes of Chef Alan Wong and Roy Yamaguchi.
Through this inspiration, he knew he wanted to be a chef and devote his life to the profession.
After that stint, Doug moved back to Encinitas after the resort he was working at, the Hualalai, began a long-term remodel. He became Executive Chef of Le Papagayo for six years on and off and was able to bring his love of island fusion cuisine to the restaurant and really enjoyed it.
As the restaurant world goes, he was offered a job as executive chef of a new project on Princeville, Kauai at Hanalei Bay Resort but the restaurant caught fire in 2011 and still has never opened. While in Kauai for that gig, he ended up working for a luxury vacation company, called Pure Kauai, as a private chef for the rich and famous and has some great stories from that job.
Shortly after that, Doug was offered a personal chef position on a yacht for a retired scientist and traveled the South Pacific. He was given the amazing opportunity to travel the Tua Motus, Tahiti and Fiji. In Fiji, his dream cruise came to and end when he acquired severe cellulitis in his left leg.
Lucky for us though, he moved back to Leucadia and went back to work at Le Papagayo. That’s when he met his wife, Cortlyn and has been here ever since.
As with a lot of chefs, he felt the itch to do something on his own, something to put his stamp on. With the support of family, friends and his wife, The Lanai was born after months of hard work and determination.
Doug’s friend Jerome Comparato helped him with the construction and remodel. The Lanai opened on Nov. 1 and like I said, it has Doug’s touch all over it and is a perfect fit for the location and the community.
The menu is broken up into sandwiches (Sandos) with six fabulous options, nine preparations of poke, plate lunch with pork, chicken or fish, a rice bowl of the day and a bunch of sides.
We sampled the fish sandwich which is always based on a fresh catch and topped with pickled ginger slaw, pineapple lomi tomato, avocado and garlic aioli. It’s on a Sadie Rose bun and it’s really good.
The loco-moco is one of their heartier dishes with a sizeable beef patty, two fried eggs, onion gravy and steamed rice. This could be the best hangover dish ever — not that we’re hung over!
The plate lunch is solid as well with your choice of Kalua pork, chicken, chicken katsu, teriyaki chicken, or fish. They come with white rice, mac salad, bok choy kimchee and are available with brown or fried rice.
And while this entire menu is solid, the poke is the star of the show here. As I said, there are nine ways to do it, all served with rice and veggie chips.
Trust me on this one; it’s good stuff and a sizeable portion. I’ll be back to try each and every one of them.
The Lanai is located at 1114 N. Coast Highway 101, in Leucadia. Call (760) 613-4564 or visit thelanaileucadia.com.
David Boylan is the founder of Artichoke Creative an Encinitas based integrated marketing firm. He also hosts Lick the Plate Radio that airs Monday through Friday at 7 p.m. on FM94/9, Easy 98.1, and KSON. Reach him at [email protected] or (858) 395-6905.