Jim Shumate can see the replica Stanley Cup trophy gleaming in its case inside a 1930s building along South Coast Highway in Laguna Beach.
Workers are giving the former French 75 restaurant a makeover in preparation for new occupant Selanne's Steak Tavern, named for Anaheim Ducks legend Teemu Selanne, who owns the business with Kevin Pratt.
Shumate, the restaurant's general manager, walked around the space at 1464 S. Coast Hwy., amid whirring drills and the occasional thuds from hammers last Friday, eyeing the spot where the replica of the trophy marking the Ducks' 2006-07 championship season will reside. Selanne's Olympic medals will also be displayed.
Soon the whirrs and thuds will be replaced by the sound of steaks sizzling inside a 2,500-degree Montague broiler — Shumate calls it the Ferrari of broilers — and customers talking over a lamb burger or lobster risotto.
The restaurant, which Shumate estimates will open in mid-September, will be split into two sections.
The downstairs area, or tavern, will have hardwood floors and be the more casual space where customers don't need to make reservations, Shumate said.
Tavern menu items include a Knuckle Sandwich, made with lobster and shrimp and a sriracha aioli, and beet ravioli accompanied by hazelnuts and grapefruit. The root vegetable replaces the pasta to encase herbed goat cheese, according to executive chef Josh Severson.
The upstairs will also have hardwood floors and house upscale dining along with a temperature-controlled wine cabinet, Shumate said.
Steakhouse fare includes a 32-ounce bone-in rib eye called the Sir Stanley Cut, Shumate said, and fish and poultry, including a whole branzino baked in a salt crust, according to a sample menu from Severson.
Owners held an extensive search for the head chef, with each candidate cooking dishes as part of the interview process, Shumate said.
Severson, former chef de cuisine at the St. Regis Monarch Beach resort in Dana Point, emerged as the choice.
"When we asked Josh to write the menu ... we were more impressed with that," Shumate said of the former intern at Thomas Keller's Bouchon.
The restaurant's upstairs includes a cozy outdoor deck that the owners may open for seating.
"If you're 6-foot-2, you can see the ocean," Shumate joked about peering over the Surf & Sand Resort — which sits across the street — to see the Pacific.
Owners expect to hire 50 to 60 employees for the opening, according to Shumate.
The restaurant will open with 158 available seats, but that number could increase.
The 158 seats are based on 17 valet parking spots available under the restaurant's existing conditional use permit, Shumate said. But the owners will seek city approval to boost the restaurant's allowable capacity, perhaps by 55 to 60 additional valet spots, Shumate said.
"We have to apply for a new conditional use permit for the parking, but we want to do that once we've opened," he said.
The restaurant is a fusion of East and West Coast cultures, with expectations of success on par with Selanne's athletic career, Shumate said.
"It's traditional, yet hip, like New York and Los Angeles meets Laguna Beach," Shumate said. "We've got to do it as good as [Teemu] is because it's his name on it."
[For the record, 9 a.m. Aug. 28: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Jim Shumate is co-owner of Selanne’s Steak Tavern. Shumate is general manager while Kevin Pratt and Teemu Selanne are co-owners.]Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun