By Raymond Bill

The River in Rancho Mirage is ever evolving, offering many cuisines from which to choose.  One of its recent additions, Acqua California Bistro, offers a modern California cuisine, as the name suggests.  I recently discovered that Acqua serves the same menu that has garnered tremendous success as Lulu California Bistro in Palm Springs.  Though I had never been to Lulu, I finally had the chance to experience their culinary delights with my recent visit to Acqua in Rancho Mirage.

The restaurant has been remodeled and playfully decorated to catch your eye with every detail.  The bold bright colors offer a whimsical, yet sophisticated ambiance that I could not ignore.  The staff was quick to greet us as we arrived for our reservation and we were promptly seated in a very cozy booth.  The menu boasts many fine dining selections at prices that are far below other comparable restaurants in the area and we quickly selected their four course menu priced at $39.99.  We were not disappointed.

We began with soup for our first course, my selection being the Wild Mushroom Soup with a touch of truffle oil.  It was smooth and full of earthy mushroom flavor, one of their many gluten free options.  Our server, Jacob, was very efficient and attentive, allowing time between each course while ensuring we were dining at our desired pace. 

For my second course, a favorite of mine, Escargot.  Many are turned off by the thought of eating snails but once you take the image of a garden snail out of your mind and realize this delicacy is just another seafood option, you will appreciate this savory, buttery dish and want it again and again!  With fresh, warm bread to dip in the herbed butter, I was in heaven.

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For my main course, Chilean Sea Bass.  My date would order the Lobster Ravioli and while I did enjoy a taste of her dish, my fresh flaky Sea Bass was the star of the show.  Served on a bed of rice pilaf aside steamed carrots and asparagus, the fresh Sea Bass was lightly coated with herbs and bread crumbs, finished with a delicate beurre blanc. For the value, this meal was a home run!  The fish was perfectly seasoned and cooked, rivaling any fine dining restaurant in the area. 

This meal would not be complete without a sweet treat.  With dessert included but space limited, we shared some sorbet.  To go with our sorbet medley of Lemon, Raspberry, and Coconut flavors, we also finished with Jacob’s fantastic suggestion of Espresso Martinis.  It was the perfect finish to a perfect evening.  I will most certainly return.

With three and four course meals priced at $19.99 to $39.99, and Happy Hour deals on food and drinks every day from 11AM, Acqua California Bistro is the place to be for any occasion.  Offering arguably the best Happy Hour in town, one can order delicious snacks like their sweet potato fries or (our favorite) housemade crispy potato chips and other dishes like burgers, paninis, pizzas and much more, not to mention the many drink specials available.

Come see for yourself why people from all across the valley are talking about Acqua and Lulu California Bistros.  Located at The River in Rancho Mirage at 71800 CA-111 and open daily from 8AM or visit online at www.acquaranchomirage.com.