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Ultimate OC Restaurants 2006

Thanks to Mr. Grub for starting the LA version of the annual Ultimate poll.

The concept is simple: everyone is asked to list, in rank order, your top 5 restaurants in Orange County that you would recommend to houndly out-of-town visitors or to chowfriends for a special occasion. Since we worship at the altar of deliciousness, your ranking should be based 75% on food and 25% on everything else.

To join the fun, reply with a list of ONLY your top 5 choices. Responses with more than 5 choices will not be included. Replies with fewer than five choices will be tabulated. Your entries will be weighted arithmetically, 5 points for your #1 choice; 4 for #2, & so forth. A simple list will suffice, but any & all explanation is welcome.

29 OC hounds responded last year. The more replies we receive, the more useful are the poll’s findings, so please do reply. We’ll keep the polls open until December 22 & publish the results shortly after the new year.

For openers, here’s kingkong5’s top 5:
1. The Loft - The Montage Hotel, Laguna Beach
2. Newport Seafood - The best house special lobster
3. Thai Nakorn - New location in Garden Grove, same great food
4. Brodard Chateau - Good location and atmosphere
5. Mastro's Steakhouse - great steaks

Last year's results:

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  1. Yaay! I was afraid that if I didn't do it for OC this year, no one was going to. And you came in! Phew! Thanks for picking up the slack.

    Here's my five for this year:

    1. Mastro's Steakhouse
    2. Bluefin
    3. Thai Nakorn
    4. Sushi Shibucho
    5. Cafe Hiro


    4 Replies
    1. re: elmomonster


      i know that you are a frequent of this board A LOT and share a lot of good knowledge of food that is respected by many(including myself, because i do enjoy your blog), however, i have to disagree with Mastro's. I was just there this last weekend, service was great and all, but the steaks (ordered bone in rib eye and date had filet) were on the bland side. it was cooked to order, nice and juicy, but for some reason, it just lacked any kind of flavor to it. im not saying it was a bad steak, it just wasnt what it was hyped up to be. however, sides were delicious. for that price, i guess i was hoping for something that would knock my socks off...oh yeah, i also mentioned it was my GFs birthday, couldnt they have given her some kinda desert on the house??? does anyone else share my view regarding Mastros?

      1. re: khuezee

        I can't speak for elmomonster and I have not been to some of the great steakhouses in New York or Chicago, but as far as steakhouses in Orange County, Mastro's can't be beat.

        I have been regularly going to to Ruth's Chris, Flemings, Morton's, Turner's New Zealand & Landmark (blech!) up until Mastro's came to town. I have never had as good as consistancy as Mastro's. I usally go about twice a month to Ocean Club and have had only stellar steak and incredible service everytime.

        The only thing negative I can say about Mastro's is how expensive it can be.

        1. re: khuezee

          I guess your mileage will vary. I've been there twice, and so far, so good. But, I am curious: what is your gold standard for steak? Mine was Ruth Chris, until Mastro's came along.

          But you're right about the birthday comp. It would have been nice. But then, you figure, Mastro's is a special occasion type of place already.

          Imagine all the birthdays celebrated there at any one time. If they started comping for b-days, they could be continuously giving out a free dessert for every other table.


          1. re: khuezee

            Coincidentally, the service at my last visit wasn't as polished as my first. It seems the larger the table, the less attention you get.


        2. 1. Honda Ya
          2. Brodard Chateau
          3. Thai Nakorn
          4. Taco Adobe
          5. Uoko

          1. 1. Stubrick's (Fullerton) & Sid's (Mission viejo) - Steak
            2. Sagami (Irvine) - Japanese
            3. El Giro Gallo (Santa Ana) - Mexican
            4. The Catch (Anaheim) - American/Continental
            5. Opah (Irvine, Aliso Viejo) - Euro/Asian

            1. 1. Zov's - consistently outstanding
              2. Taleo (Irvine) - Mexican
              3. Habana (Santa Ana) - Cuban
              4. Opah (Irvine)
              5. French 75

              1. 1. Shin Sen Gumi
                2. Seafood Paradise (dim sum)
                3. El Adobe de Capistrano (seafood specials, especially lobster fajitas)
                4. Inka Mama's
                5. Honda Ya

                1. 1.Quan Hy
                  2.Thai Nakorn
                  4.Taco Mesa
                  5.Bangkok Taste

                  1. 1. Pinot Provence, Costa Mesa-- for consistently inspired French.
                    2. Napa Rose, Amaheim-- where what's in the bottle is muse to everyone from the kitchen to the lounge.
                    3. S Vietnamese Fine Dining, Westminister -- Little Saigon goes uptown with delicious results.
                    4. El Farolito, Placentia-- old school border fare, what better for those Jan. 1 hangovers?
                    5. Beachcomber Cafe, Crystal Cove -- better-than-needed food from a newbie joint that's right on the sand at the best piece of the Pacific Coast in OC.

                    1. 1. Bluefin
                      2. Honda Ya
                      3. Lucca Cafe - Irvine
                      4. Taco Rosa
                      5. Spark Woodfire Grill - Huntington Beach

                      1. 1. Bluefin
                        2. Mastro's Ocean Club
                        3. Onotria
                        4. Studio
                        5. Gabbi's Mexican Kitchen

                        1. 1. Gemmell's
                          2. Ruth Chris
                          3. Harbor Grill
                          4. Ramos House
                          5. Studio


                          1. 1. Bluefin (Newport Coast)
                            2. Sage (Newport Beach)
                            3. Mastro's Steakhouse
                            4. Leatherby's Cafe Rouge (Costa Mesa)
                            5. Infusion (Ladera Ranch)

                            1. 1. Napa Rose, Anaheim
                              2. La Vie en Rose, Brea
                              3. El Farolito, Placentia
                              4. Zov's Bistro, Tustin
                              5. Kimmie's Coffee Cup, Fullerton

                              1. NAPA ROSE
                                STUDIO at MONTAGE
                                THE RITZ (Fashion Island)
                                SUSHI WASABI

                                BLUE FIN

                                1. Basilic
                                  The Ritz
                                  Pinot Provence
                                  Napa Rose
                                  Santoka Ramen

                                  1. The Ritz
                                    The Bungalow
                                    Walt's Wharf

                                    1. Thai Nakorn
                                      Oki Doki
                                      Blue Coral

                                      1. Bayside (Newport Beach)
                                        Picante Martin's (Balboa Island)
                                        Bamboo Bistro (Corona del Mar)
                                        Seoul House (Santa Ana)
                                        R&D Cafe (Fashion Island, N.B.)

                                        1. 1. Stonehill Tavern
                                          2. Blue Coral
                                          3. French 75
                                          4. Bayside (brunch)
                                          5. AIRe

                                          I am surprised that more people haven't mentioned Stonehill Tavern. I too was a bit underwhelmed by Mastros, especially given the prices. I prefer Flemings to be honest.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: swicks

                                            I haven't seem much on Stonehill Tavern. Can you give me some insight into the food. Thanks

                                            1. re: socal boy

                                              Its a Michael Minna restaurant. Upscale American food, great setting, great wine list. Similar to many of Minna's other ventures and concepts.

                                              1. re: socal boy

                                                We were VERY dissappointed by the food - the chicken was the best, but...

                                            2. 1. Bluefin
                                              2. Vine
                                              3. Pascal
                                              4. Tabu Grill
                                              5. Sage

                                              1. 1) Mastro's - Costa Mesa
                                                2) Kaya - Irvine
                                                3) Honda-ya - Tustin
                                                4) Troquet - Costa Mesa
                                                5) Las Cotijas - Tustin

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: yumyuminmytumtum

                                                  I believe Troquet is no longer in business. Too bad, I never got to try it.


                                                  1. re: elmomonster

                                                    *gasp* I checked their website, and you're right. Shame too -- y'know how every wine lover remembers that first bottle of wine where they had their epiphany, like wow, THIS is what wine can be. I think foodies have that too, but with food. My first meal at Troquet back in 1998 at the tender age of 19 was my food epiphany.

                                                    Amended list:
                                                    1) Mastro's
                                                    2) Kaya
                                                    3) Honda-ya
                                                    4) Las Cotijas
                                                    5) Pinot Provence

                                                    1. re: elmomonster

                                                      Elmo, you didn't miss anything. Troquet deteriorated severely after 2001 which led to it's ultimate demise. When it opened it was very good(one of our favorites) and received a 28 from Zagat.

                                                  2. 1. The Hobbit
                                                    2. Napa Rose
                                                    3. Honda Ya
                                                    4. Brodard Chateau
                                                    5. Shibucho

                                                    1. 1. Zov's Tustin
                                                      2. Johnny Reb's (for catfish)Orange
                                                      3. Honda Ya Tustin
                                                      4. Marco Polo Newport Beach
                                                      5. Bayside Newport Beach

                                                      1. 1. The Bungalow
                                                        2. Javier's
                                                        3. The Melting Pot
                                                        4. Chat Noir
                                                        5. Felix's Cafe (Cuban)

                                                        1. I am going to limit myself to places where I have actually eaten in the last year, which will exclude other great restaurants that otherwise would be on my list. I also limited my list to one restaurant per type of cuisine. So, in no particular order:

                                                          SUSHI WASABI
                                                          DOSA PLACE
                                                          DARYA (the one on north Tustin in Orange... it is the best)
                                                          BANGKOK TASTE (I give this one the nod because it deserves to be better known, even though Thai Nakorn is easily as good)
                                                          GABBI'S MEXICAN CAFE

                                                          2 Replies
                                                            1. re: russkar

                                                              mmmmm bangkok taste has the best larb. yum!

                                                          1. Blue Coral, Newport Beach - lovely setting, cocktails, service, and fare

                                                            Mastros Ocean Club, Crystal Cove - surreal.... and that butter cake!

                                                            Stonehill Tavern @ St. Regis, Monarch Beach - the most impressive dessert menu to date. can't forget the truffle fries either.

                                                            Studio @ Montage resort, Dana Point

                                                            Rendezvous - San Juan Capistrano

                                                            1. Just a reminder that this is a fun activity driven by one of our members and is not an officially sanctioned Chowhound survey. Nobody is expected or obligated to participate.

                                                              1. Why are there no vietnamese restaurants in what is the nation's capital for vietnamese food? I'd like to read some recommendations.

                                                                1. As per original post...."in rank order, your top 5 restaurants in Orange County that you would recommend to houndly out-of-town visitors or to chowfriends for a special occasion"

                                                                  He did list Brodard. It is one of the two more "upscale" Vietnamese restaurants with S Fine Dining being the other.

                                                                  There are some great, cheap Vietnamese restaurants, but I am not sure they would be defined as special occasion places.

                                                                  1. OK, here's mine from the hip:
                                                                    1. Zov's
                                                                    2. El Farolito
                                                                    3. Ramos House
                                                                    4. Park Avenue
                                                                    5. Taco Mesa

                                                                    1. Studio at Montage
                                                                      Napa Rose
                                                                      Park Avenue
                                                                      Mastro's Ocean Club
                                                                      Sushi Wasabi

                                                                      1. Thanks for the great number of responses so far! The OC Chowhounds really rock. Just a reminder that the polls will close on Friday Dec 22nd, so be sure to get your votes in if you wish to participate.

                                                                        Again, a gentle reminder that this is not a Chowhound sponsored poll, and is just for fun. No members are required or expected to participate.

                                                                        I'll have the results up just as quick as possible after the polls close, but the data looks great so far.

                                                                        1. Mastro's Ocean Club--Superb meal/service/ambiance every time!
                                                                          Sage Newport Beach

                                                                          1. Hey OC Chowhounds! Thank you so much for participating. The polls will close today, so if there are any last minute entries please have post your choices by the end of the day today.

                                                                            This weekend I'll summarize the data and post it up next week, per the original post.

                                                                            Happy Holidays everyone!


                                                                            1. Bluefin
                                                                              Sage in Eastbluff
                                                                              Cafe Zoolu
                                                                              230 Forest

                                                                              1. 1. Zov's (bonus are the outstanding desserts)
                                                                                2. Sage at Eastbluff
                                                                                3. Mastro's in Crystal Cove
                                                                                4. Wasa Sushi
                                                                                5. China Garden (dim sum anyone?)

                                                                                1. 1. Tradition by pascal
                                                                                  2. Bungalow
                                                                                  3. Gulfstream
                                                                                  4. Restaurant Abe
                                                                                  5. Bayside

                                                                                  1. 1. Ti Amo
                                                                                    2. Blue Coral (Fashion Island)
                                                                                    3. Aire
                                                                                    4. Honda-Ya
                                                                                    5. La Vien Rose

                                                                                    1. 1. Soot Bul Jip, Buena Park - Korean BBQ
                                                                                      2. Favori, Santa Ana - Vietnamese/French
                                                                                      3. Rice & Spice, Rancho Santa Margarita - Thai
                                                                                      4. Boiling Crab, Westminster - Seafood
                                                                                      5. Casa de Gamino, Paramount - Mexican

                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: Shaunizzle

                                                                                        For you and Searching4Dunny above - 2006 voting in closed. Undoubtedly towards the end of 2007 there will be another poll at which time you are both welcome to vote.

                                                                                        1. re: tony michaels

                                                                                          I missed this one when it came around the first time so I'm glad they brought it back to our attention, as I was looking for some OC spots anyway.

                                                                                      2. Kong:

                                                                                        Did anyone ever post the compiled results of this survey?

                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                        1. re: fireplug77

                                                                                          Yes indeed, the results were posted but then somehow they were removed from the system. It would have been on or around December 27th, 2006 I think.

                                                                                        2. Here are my favorites. Value is most important to me. I'm the kind of person who believes that a meal should never cost more than $30 per person and should still be delicious. These are all restaurants I've enjoyed during my stay at UC Irvine.

                                                                                          1. Lucille's BBQ (lake forest location)- bring at least 5 people and order the "backyard picnic"
                                                                                          2. Kaya korean tofu house- tofu, bbq and the best side dishes!
                                                                                          3. Sushi Zen
                                                                                          4. Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen
                                                                                          5. Nice Time Deli

                                                                                          1. Wow, this is the BEST blog topic ever! Can't wait to try some of these places starting with Blue Fin tonight!