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I'm bored with OC Restaurants

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Help! My friends are taking me to dinner this Saturday for my 40th birthday (..that's a whole separate issue there), and I can't for the life of me come up with a restaurant that I'd be excited to go to. Here's my criteria: great atmosphere - warm and inviting, makes you want to sit and talk all night; great food - not the creative neveau food that has miniature portions piled high; and a great...no, killer wine list. Am I asking too much?
They suggested French 75 (I'm in Irvine, btw), I love the atmosphere but the food is so-so; Zov's Bistro in Tustin - love the food, but the atmosphere is a lil' cafe-ish.

Help a bored poor girl out who's not turning 40, but holding at 39.95, and help me re-passionate (?) myself with the OC dining scene. Any suggestions?

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  1. stonehill tavern at the st regis?

    1. Studio at the Montage- expensive, but great

      Pinot Provence at the Westin South Coast Plaza- same as above, but you're worth it!

      If you don't mind driving, The Cat & The Custard Cup in La Habra would be perfect. It's made to look like an Inn. There is a nice fireplace, a piano player, great wine list and varied menu. The pork tenderloin is too die for. So is the scallop appetizer.

      The Ritz at Fashion Island. Very old school, but nice.

      hmmmmm.... I'll keep thinking.

      1. OC has amazing ethnic dining. Some of the best in the country. Mexican, Vietnamese, Middle Eastern etc. There are many good choices. While some are "hole in the wall" type places, there are many that have nice ambiance.

        Habana near South Coast Plaza has good food, great drinks and a really nice patio. The service there is really nice and is often the place for family gatherings in OC.

        1. Stonehill is very spotty and inconsistent to say the least.
          Studio at Montage is very expensive and the food is NOT worth it... again inconsistent at best. Studio DOES have great views and a location.
          Both Stonehill and Studio can rest on their laurels a bit due to the consistent hotel based business and the lack of really high end options in south county.

          Cat in the Custard Cup is actually quite good. Have had good meals there. Not really high end fine dining, but pretty good... a little on the casual side.

          I'm a big fan of Napa Rose. Very consistent, very good and great wine list. My wife and I both hit the big 40 this year too... I feel you.

          I'd go with Napa Rose.

          1 Reply
          1. re: woojink

            ditto on Napa Rose. Great food, service & ambiance.

          2. Maybe it's not fancy enough, but I love Walt's Wharf in Seal Beach. Fantastic, FRESH fish, prepared simply, great wine list, cozy atmosphere.

            1. Ok then...These two restaurant have impressed me lately and should fit your criteria.

              My first choice would be Onotria in Costa Mesa. The whole menu is based around great wine.

              Second choice would be Bayside in Newport Beach.

              3 Replies
              1. re: cdmedici

                We were disappointed at Onotria with some of the dishes and the wine list which features several wines but high prices and "off" vintages. $25- corkage doesn't help either when you want to bring superior wines from your own cellar?

                1. re: cdmedici

                  I concur with Bayside. I have entertained there for a long time and have never been disappointed. Bistango is also a great. If you love art, you will really appreciate the decor.

                  Studio is also very good. Since this is a very special occasion, it might be worth the money.

                  1. re: Jeet Yet

                    I also agree on Bistango. It's located in Irvine, so it won't be so far. The service is always prompt, yet relaxed and they have quite an extensive menu of drinks. If you can get there during the happy hour, they also have great appetizer specials in the bar, and there is an outdoor bar area with couches and overstuffed patio chairs that make it real comfortable.

                2. Here are my suggestions:
                  (mostly French influenced but I think they are good options)

                  Chat Noir
                  655 Anton Blvd. (Park Center Dr.)
                  Costa Mesa, CA 92626
                  I'd recommend Chat Noir in Costa Mesa over French 75. Personally I like the food and the decor better at Chat Noir. In fact, I had my birthday here and the service was great. They've been wonderful every time I've dined there.

                  Golden Truffle Eclectic
                  1767 Newport Blvd.
                  Costa Mesa, CA 92627
                  Good eclectic foods but ambience might not be what you are looking for.

                  Montage Resort & Spa
                  30801 S. Coast Hwy. (Montage Resort Dr.)
                  Laguna Beach, CA 92651
                  Beautiful Laguna Beach ocean view with quality food. The menu features fresh ingredients, mostly from California. (French-Californian-Mediterranean cuisine)

                  Napa Rose
                  Disney's Grand Californian Hotel
                  1600 S. Disneyland Dr. (Harbor Blvd.)
                  Anaheim, CA 92802
                  Specialty dishes and seasonal creations on a menu that embraces the bounty of California's seacoast, farmlands, vineyards and ranches.

                  Darya Fine Persian Cuisine
                  1611 W Sunflower Ave # E59 Costa Mesa, CA 92626
                  A friend recommended this restaurant to me.

                  1. I'd also agree with The Ritz. Antonello's is also a nice spot with good wine selections. Regarding Onotria, I too had a not so great experience; food not consistently good throughout the meal.

                    1. Bungalow in CdM would be perfect - ask for a booth.

                      1. Ocean Club - Newport Coast (Steak and Seafood, Super nice)
                        Oysters - Corona Del Mar (Seafood, not a chain, my favorite place in OC)
                        Scotts Seafood - Costa Mesa/Southcoast (Seafood and steak)
                        Loft - Montage Laguna Beach (Studio is way over priced and super pretentious)
                        Savourys - Laguna Beach at the Hotel Casa Camino (Only if the roof top is open)

                        1. La Cave in Costa Mesa. A little noisy and crowded, but great food and a great wine list.

                          1. We just had my 30th! bday at Black Sheep Bistro in old Orange. It was really nice, quite, you could talk all night and the baby whole rack of lamb was so divine I am still dreaming about it. It was so tender and delicious and no aftertaste. They do specialize in lamb though, so you probably need to love lamb. Happy Birthday!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Alice

                              Black Sheep Bistro is in Old Town Tustin, not Orange

                            2. For a killer wine list... definitely Napa Rose.

                              1. Egads!...with all these great recommendations, I'm gonna have to extend the celebration a bit! You guys rock!

                                There were quite a few restaurants I haven't thought about listed...Bistango - I love that place and haven't been to the sister restaurant Bayside yet. Could be a front runner! I agree with Habanas - If you haven't been there, please go - night time is the best and sit on the patio and try their mojitos and smoked halibut - truly amazing, and eclectic.

                                I was impressed with the wine list at Napa Rose (first time there last month) and service was impeccable. The food was great, but I feld they didn't offer enough of a selection. And, sadly, I have to admit, I kinda agree with the atmosphere being too much theme park. The building itself was beautiful, but lighting (too bright to be cozy) and decor felt odd. --- ok, now I sound too picky.

                                I am now contemplating between Bayside (or Bistango for that matter) and Zov's. I know I discredited Zov's atmosphere in my original post - but I keep tasting their amazing pomegranate martinis in my mind! Oh, what's a girl to do?

                                Thanks for the input - I'm keeping a list of places "I need to eat before I die" and with your help it's getting longer! I'll post back to let you know where I ended up and if I made the right choice.


                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Kwsty

                                  Out of those 3 Zov's is by far the best, get the Lamb.

                                  1. re: Kwsty


                                    This is number 39.95!!! Don't waste it on Zov's!!!

                                  2. Go to The Ritz in Newport Beach. Very classy. Great service, too.
                                    A little more casual would be Wild Fish also in NB. Am going there tonight!

                                    1. Try Sage in Newport Beach.. actually, there are 2 of them: one in Eastbluff (been several times and always enjoy) and the other in Crystal Cove (never tried this one). The food is really great, especially for the OC. Decent atmosphere.

                                      1. Realize the date has passed - but after reading all this I was surprised no one suggested
                                        The Quiet Woman in Corona del Mar. Incredible wine list at reasonable prices and really good food. It can be a bit noisy but great energy...