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WANNA DANCE?

Leave Your Briefcase at Home; the Mood Here Is Romantic

July 21, 1994|ROSE APODACA JONES | Rose Apodaca Jones is a free-lance writer who contributes regularly to The Times Orange County Edition. and

Indulging in champagne and jazzy vibes at some swanky supper club often seems the stuff of another era--and Carmen Miranda or Elvis movies. But these places do still exist and are as reachable as the Club Grill at the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel (which is actually in Dana Point, by the way).

What the Club Grill lacks in the way of wild pizazz and grand orchestras commonly found in the old supper clubs, it more than makes up for in ambience. The mood here is intimate and very romantic, complete with low lighting, a single red rose on every table and a dressy but relaxed atmosphere. Couples of all ages will find this the ideal place for a special evening.

The equestrian-themed prints, paintings and sculptures throughout the supper club, as well as the semi-regal English decor, inspire some guests to tux up, but a jacket and tie are not required. Even though the dress code specifies evening attire, a woman was spotted recently in a long white gauze dress and clean, white Keds.

Couples can dance the night away (and they probably would if the club stayed open that long) to a charming quartet performing spirited new and old favorites, usually ones about love. Gayle & Company take the stage nightly, with a repertoire including hits by Dionne Warwick, Astruid Gilberto and Whitney Houston, as well a few from Broadway and the movies. ("As Time Goes By," used in "Casablanca," fits the Grill perfectly.) True, it's a night of KBIG covers live, but nothing sets the lovey-dovey scene better.

Bands are scheduled for a three-month run; Gayle & Company will finish up in September.

A small parquet dance floor fits about eight couples comfortably and sees at least that much action, even on a Sunday. To the ballroom-shy: no need to worry. In contrast to other places that attract Freds and Gingers intent on putting everyone to shame, technique is less of a concern here.

Although guests come mostly for the food (the menu includes duck, venison and lobster entrees, from $21 to $40), it would be a loss to consider this just a restaurant with great grilled meats, seafood and a to-die-for Caesar salad prepared table side for two ($15).

Just drinks and appetizers, with a little dancing thrown in, can make for a memorable night. Snack on escargots and wild mushrooms in a phyllo pastry with warm goat cheese and roasted peppers for $13, or salmon with herbed vegetables for $12.

The bar selection boggles the mind. Just about everything is available, including 25-year-old Glengrant single malt Scotch at $18 a glass. And keep your excitement under control if you're a wine lover: More than 600 varieties of wine from around the world are available. Word is that the decade-old hotel is hoping to land the grand award from the Wine Spectator this year. Wines by the bottle range from a $22 house brand to a $1,700 port--1931 Quinta Do Noval. A glass of wine is $5 to $15. A $12 glass of Piper Heidsieck champagne is recommended by the bar.

Beer lovers will have to do without draft, but the selection of world-class beers makes up for that: Sapporo, Guinness Pilsner, Bass Ale, Anchor Steam, Red Tail Ale, Amstel Light, Becks Dark and more at $5.50 a bottle. Domestic bottles from the Coors and Bud families are $4.75.

Wells are $6.75; liqueurs and cordials, $6.75 to $8.50; sodas and tonic water, $3.25, and tasty nonalcoholic, fruity drinks, $5.75. Or finish the day with a cappuccino or other coffee drinks, $2 to $3.50.

Afterward, cruise the hotel grounds. The cliff overlooking the Pacific is particularly inspiring.

All cars are valet parked at the Ritz-Carlton for $5.

* CLUB GRILL

* At the Ritz-Carlton, 33533 Ritz Carlton Drive, Dana Point.

* (714) 240-2000.

* Open 7 p.m. to midnight Sunday, Monday and Thursday; 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday.

* No cover.

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