Upscale or Trendy near Dana Point/Laguna
I am visiting Dana Point (staying at the St. Regis, Sun-Thurs) for four days. Would love to hear recs for upscale fine dining or trendy, fun spots with good food. (Can be expensive or not). We have been told to try Studio at Montage or the restaurant in the St. Regis but I wasn't convinced because I usually shy away form hotel fare. Any help you can offer for both kinds of choices is greatly appreciated!
Well, those two reccos were better than you imagined-- if you are serious about upscale and/or trendy. Stonehill Tavern at the St. Regis is a new, hot, hot dining spot. We regarded by critics and even customers. Very modern. Cool bar. Huge prices. By celeb chef Michael Mina. Motif, the other food venue at the Regis is not nearly so cool or tasty.
Studio is more established and one of OC's top stops for upmarket dining with a Pacific view. Top notch service. Very ambitious cuisine by chef James Boyce. Resort is awesome to see. Incredible location. Breath-sucking prices.
Also look into:
Mastro's Ocean Club at th newish Crystal Cove Promenade. THE scene-of-the-summer in OC for rich men and the young (or wanna be younger) blond hotties who love them. And, the food is scrumptious, as is the dazzling setting.
In the same complex, Sage on the Coast for relaxed, inventive California fare with a pretty crowd and setting (xlnt patio). No view.
In Newport Harbor: Kantina. The newest club/lounge/restaurant by our local scenemeister Doug McAllister (of Sutra Lounge in Costa Mesa). Beautiful views of the harbor, striking, sleek decor and daring cocktails. Nuevo Latin menu.
For retro hip, try La Cave in Costa Mesa. Old school surf-and-turf in one-of-a-kind dark joint that has been reinvigorated by the cool kids who dig on Sinatra and martinis. Very local vibe. Very un-Newport. Food is good, but not a bargain.
My go-to fave is Oysters in Corona del Mar. Great bar scene and drinks, awesome Asian-accented fusion food plus live jazz = good energy. But then I'm not trendy. Only picky.
Thank goodness, the days of reliably boring hotel dining have definitely waned in OC. Even in other U.S. cities-- it's where some of the BEST dining can be found these days.
OCBITES gave you a great list - I would add Mozambique in S Laguna - especially their upstairs more casual dining off the bar on a charming patio. Bungalow in CdM is great, don't miss drinks (you can miss dinner) at both Splashes in the Surf n Sand Hotel and the upstairs bar at Savoury's - definitely at sunset!!
Mosun in Laguna is fun for Japanese. Not as hip anymore, but great food & cutting edge decor is Bayside in Newport - definitely a locals fav. Don't discard Studio because it's in a hotel - it's the best restaurant in OC by far - I wasn't as impressed by Stonehill, but their bar 'nook' seating is really fun!