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Ultimate OC Restaurants, 2008

We begin 2008's poll by cutting & pasting from kingkong5's thread of last year and adding maxzook's twist:
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/467390 -- Ultimate OC Restaurants, 2007 Edition and
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/575758 -- PLEASE POST YOUR VOTES HERE: Ultimate Los Angeles Restaurants 2008, respectively.

The concept is simple: everyone is asked to list, in rank order, your top 10 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 your top 10 choices; specifically, five restaurants in the OVER $25/person for food and another five restaurants for UNDER $25/person. Responses with more than five choices in a category will not be included; however, replies with fewer than five choices will be tabulated. Your entries will be weighted arithmetically: 5 points for your #1 choice; 4 for #2, and so forth. A simple list will suffice, but any & all explanation is welcome.

Over 20 OC hounds responded last year. The more replies we receive, the more useful are
the poll’s findings, so please reply. We’ll keep the polls open until December 31 & publish the results shortly after the new year.

The poll for 2006: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/350718.
And the 2006 results: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/356299
Unfortunately, 2007 results are lost in cyberspace.

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  1. Thanks so much for starting this OCAnn. I don't know if it was the economic downturn this year, but I wasn't as wow'ed by my dining choices so much this year as I have been in years past. Perhaps fewer "special occasion" places opened up in OC this year, at least fewer keepers. Of course, sometimes my special occasion celebration is "because it's Tuesday" so your mileage may vary.

    1. Tsuruhashi - given the price/value ratio, we really enjoy ourselves here.
    2. Sushi Wasabi - still one of the better omakases in the area. I could live on those blue crab handrolls alone.
    3. Newport Seafood - yes it is run down and dirty looking, but our family celebrates special occasions here for the great food - delicious house special lobster and other chinese/vietnamese dishes.
    4. Siam Taste of Asia - what wonderful Thai food in this small, hidden hole-in-the-wall restaurant. The owner is super friendly and talkative, but the restaurant is usually empty. Great food though, esp. the beef salad and the fried seabass with tamarind sauce.
    5. tbd

    6 Replies
    1. re: kingkong5

      Where is Siam Tatse of Asia?
      I am looking for a good Thai restaurant in South County. I have tried tons and can't find anyone that does good Drunken Noodles

      1. re: oc.mamma

        Siam, Taste of Asia, 3520 W First St., Santa Ana. This restaurant is CASH ONLY. Next door to Favori restaurant, it's on First Street between Fairview and Harbor. They do a very good drunken noodle, btw. We ordered some for catering to a potluck party, I think it was a half tray. It was gone so fast, everyone loved it.

      2. re: kingkong5

        kk5: The OP was re-written so that there are two categories: <$25 and >$25. Care to resubmit your list?

        1. re: OCAnn

          absolutely! Thanks OCAnn, I'll put it in before the deadline.

        2. re: kingkong5

          OK always one to wait until the last minute, here are my revisions:

          Over $25/pp
          1. Tsuruhashi
          2. Sushi Wasabi
          3. Marche Moderne
          4. Houston's
          5. Napa Rose

          1. Newport Seafood
          2. Siam Taste of Asia
          3. Park Ave
          4. Pho Thanh Lich
          5. Bo 7 Mon Hong An

        3. Limiting my responses to places I've been to in 2008:

          1) Napa Rose - Tasting menu w/ wine pairings easily the best meal of the year for me
          2) Marche Moderne - food is always great; the cramped indoor tables not so enjoyable
          3) Tsuruhashi - miso marinated cow tongue + grill = happiness
          4) Old Vine Cafe - there's a special place in my heart for their Creamy Cheese Grits
          5) Shin Sen Gumi - its recently replaced Kappo Honda as my go to izakaya

          2 Replies
          1. re: I got nothin

            Edited for over & under $25/person

            Over $25/person:
            1) Napa Rose
            2) Marche Moderne
            3) Tsuruhashi
            4) Old Vine Cafe
            5) The Cannery

            Under $25/person:
            1) Shin Sen Gumi
            2) Taco Rosa (Although the Sunday brunch is over $25/person)
            3) Francoli's
            4) Tulsa Rib Co.
            5) Banh Mi Cho Cu

            1. re: I got nothin

              Napa rose is really really good. A little pricey but well worth it. and their wine selection is great!

          2. Glad to see you started this up again! The 2007 poll is here:


            And go here if you want to vote for LA County restaurants:


            1 Reply
            1. re: maxzook

              Thank you. I have the 2007 poll, but not the 2007 results. I searched & searched and came up empty handed. Maybe you can do a better job of getting your hands on it....

            2. This is difficult. How about if we adopt the LA County over and under $25 format?

              3 Replies
              1. re: JAB

                Thank you. A revision of the OP is in the works w/the help of the CH mods.

                1. re: OCAnn

                  Over $25:

                  1. Marche Moderne. Far better than its wonderful reputation, and still getting better.
                  2. Onotria. Underrated but wonderful.
                  3. Old Vine Cafe. Just went recently, but this was love at first bite.
                  4. Koi. So good I don't care about other sushi rests.
                  5. none -- we've been going to Marche Moderne "too" much.

                  Under 25

                  1. Taco Rosa (Irvine location only).
                  2. Garduno's. [family italian in costa mesa)
                  3. Kamal Palace [Indian in Marina Pacifica; technically not OC, but its just one minute into LA].
                  4. Taco Mesa (Costa Mesa location)
                  5. Roma D'Italia (family Italian in Tustin)

                  1. re: lawdog262

                    We revisited Old Vine after my original post. I'd know put Old Vine in second place and Onotria in third.

              2. Over:
                1) Shin Sen Gumi
                2) Tsuruhashi
                3) Old Vine Cafe
                4) Marche Moderne
                5) Brussel's Bistro

                1) Sabatino's
                2) Habana
                3) El Adobe de Capistrano - based on the lobster fajitas alone
                4) Inka Mama's
                5) Seafood Paradise - for Dim Sum

                1. Where are our OC hounds at? This will hardly convince the powers that be to give us our own board. Or, LA hounds who also eat in OC?

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: JAB

                    Under 25$
                    1. Avanti Cafe on 17th- coconut tapioca on thursdays to die for-
                    2. Peking Chinese Restaurant (near little Saigon)
                    3. Regina's Argentinian- on Euclid
                    4. Plums
                    5. Molcajete on Bushard in Huntington Beach

                    I'm not sure why the text got all big, maybe it's just me that sees it big.

                  2. Over $25:
                    1. Marche Moderne - even better than the first year it opened.
                    2. Old Vine Cafe - the biggest little restaurant in OC
                    3. Anaheim White House - a personal fave; also authentic, real Italian
                    4. Tradition by Pascal - still a go-to place after all these years
                    5. Zipangu - underrated anti-mall Japanese gem

                    Under $25
                    1. Taco Mesa - a successful marriage of informal fast food and gourmet Mexican
                    2. Stonefire Grill - the BBQ sauce is addictive; they serve excellent sides with the ribs
                    3. Persian food counter @ Wholesome Choice - well worth the punishingly bad service
                    4. Brussels Bistro - moulles frites w/ beer is the best comfort food (under $25 w/o beer)
                    5. Veggie Grill - (Irvine) - reinventing the taste of healthy food

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: OCKevin

                      Thanks for the intro to Old Vine. We went back two weeks ago, and it was even better than on our first trip there. Its going to make our rotation.

                    2. Over $25/pp (sorry, still need to hit up more of these)
                      - Tsruhashi
                      - Taps
                      - Houston's

                      Under $25/pp
                      - Fukada
                      - Veggie Grill
                      - Thien Anh (7 courses of beef)
                      - Santouka
                      - El Farolito

                      1. Hi OCAnn,

                        Thanks for taking the time to put this together.

                        Over $25 -

                        1. Shin Sen Gumi Robata Yakitori (*not* Ramen)
                        2. Marche Moderne
                        3. Maki Zushi
                        4. Old Vine Cafe
                        5. Shibucho

                        Under $25 -

                        1. Thai Nakorn
                        2. Darya (Lunch)
                        3. Kappo Hana
                        4. Tony's Little Italy
                        5. Vien Dong - Ultimate Egg Rolls (thanks Das! :)

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: exilekiss

                          You're welcome, prego, denada or doitashimashite.

                        2. Over $25:
                          Summit House
                          Shik Do Rak
                          Sorry, I haven't been to enough fine dining in OC

                          Under $25:
                          Angelo & Vinci in Fullerton
                          Thai BBQ off of Orangethorpe
                          Zankou Chicken
                          Honda Ya

                          1. Over:

                            1. Sapphire
                            2. Cafe Zoolu
                            3. Tabu Grill
                            4. Marche Moderne
                            5. Ikko


                            1. Taco Rosa
                            2. Taco Mesa
                            3. La Fogata
                            4. The Counter
                            5. Pizza Port

                            1. Over 25
                              Marche Moderne
                              Stonehill Tavern
                              Charlie Palmer's
                              A Restaurant
                              Napa Rose

                              Under 25:
                              Crow Bar
                              Old Vine Cafe
                              El Farolito
                              Izakaya Wasa

                              1. Under $25
                                - Veggie Grill
                                - Santouka
                                - La Sirena Grill
                                - Taleo
                                - Basilicos

                                (on the borderline)
                                - Honda-Ya
                                - Shin-Sen-Gumi

                                Over $25
                                - Marche Moderne
                                - Maki Zushi

                                1. under 25

                                  over 25
                                  marche moderne
                                  maki zushi
                                  charlie palmer

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: jacknhedy

                                    Please tell me what you liked about CP! We went once over the summer and found it bland.

                                    1. re: lawdog262

                                      on second thought...let's make it bayside. i was sleepy.

                                      cp was not bad, but we're not in a hurry to go back.

                                      let;s put it this way - cp sd they could do some kind of a tasting for us, but we have requested florent at marche to do a special 7 or 8 course tasting menu for us tonight based on his Christmas and new year's eve menus since we're out of town. looking forward to it!

                                  2. Under 25
                                    1. La Sirena Grill
                                    2. Original Thai BBQ (Fullerton)
                                    3. Chinatown (UCI)
                                    4. Thanh Restaurant (Vietnamese on Culver)
                                    5. Sundried Tomato Cafe

                                    Over $25
                                    1. Gulfstream
                                    2. Banderas
                                    We've tried some other places, but can't recommend them

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: oc.mamma

                                      Forgot Cafe Zulu (in Laguna Beach) for over $25

                                      1. re: oc.mamma

                                        Chinatown is no longer in business. It turned into some kind of drugstore a while back.

                                      2. BTW, OCAnn, don't forget your own vote. (^_~)

                                        1. Okay, here are mine:

                                          > $25
                                          1. Napa Rose
                                          2. Stonehill Tavern
                                          3. Marche Moderne
                                          4. Taps
                                          5. Sushi Momo

                                          < $25
                                          1. Cafe Hiro
                                          2. El Farolito
                                          3. Cantina Lounge
                                          4. Rutabegorz
                                          5. In-N-Out

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: OCAnn

                                            Marche Moderne
                                            Stonehill Tavern
                                            French 75 - Laguna
                                            Nirvana Grill

                                            Taco Loco
                                            In n Out
                                            Bon Jour Cafe
                                            Bad 2 the Bone BBQ

                                            1. re: 1000steps

                                              Marche Moderne
                                              Le Pescadou
                                              Black Sheep Bistro

                                              In n Out
                                              The Counter
                                              Tulsa Rib Company

                                          2. Just a couple days left folks....

                                            1. OVER $25:
                                              1. Maki Zushi, Tustin
                                              2. Mastro's, Costa Mesa
                                              3. Marche Moderne, Costa Mesa
                                              4. Napa Rose, Anaheim
                                              5. Tradition by Pascal, Newport Beach

                                              UNDER $25:
                                              1. Vien Dong, Garden Grove
                                              2. Xanh, Fountain Valley
                                              3. Mariscos Puerto Esperanza, Orange
                                              4. Thai Nakorn, Stanton (and soon in Garden Grove!)
                                              5. El Taco Nazo, La Habra

                                              1. Over $25:
                                                Maki Zushi, Tustin (Omakase)
                                                Black Sheep Bistro

                                                Under $25:
                                                Gabbi's, Orange
                                                Ajisen Ramen, Irvine (in Diamond Jamboree, I'm addicted to the pork ribs ramen)
                                                Sushi 5, Tustin (I know it's on a conveyer belt, but I like it!)
                                                Da Bianca Trattoria, Orange (in the hills, at the corner of Newport and Chapman)

                                                1. I currently eat a strict vegetarian diet, so I've been hanging out with the veggie crowd. Just in case you were wondering about the vegan heavy list. Also, I have no money these days, so haven't done anything over $25 this year, at least not in OC.

                                                  Under $25

                                                  1. Veggie Grill: badass vegan restaurant that actually serves something that tastes like food. Kudos.

                                                  2. Thuyen Vien: cheap vegetarian Vietnamese (mostly vegan but some of the mock meats have animal derivatives) The hands down best vegan pho I've had, and I've been going to every single place I hear about. Very like the real thing. A lot of other things are great too. Truly good brown rice, not that teeth-cracking junk that the hippies force down your throat.

                                                  3. Shikdorak, the new Irvine location: This is the best Shikdorak I've been to by far. I was just there with family. The banchan is decent, the food keeps coming, and they give you a little cone of frozen yogurt at the end of the meal. Nice! Was under $25 a person for us.

                                                  That's all for 2008.

                                                  1. My list, based on 2008 experiences:


                                                    1) Sushi Wasabi
                                                    2) Marche Moderne
                                                    3) Tradition by Pascal
                                                    4) Sapphire
                                                    5) Old VIne Cafe


                                                    1) Tulsa Rib Factory
                                                    2) Bangkok Taste
                                                    3) Cafe Hiro
                                                    4) Honda-Ya
                                                    5) The Counter

                                                    1. I really can't think of a top 5 for either...end of year brain overload! So a top three and a top four. I haven't been to many of the restaurants listed by others (time to make a list!)

                                                      Nirvana Grille
                                                      Marche Moderne

                                                      Zankou Chicken
                                                      La Rana
                                                      Shin Sen Gumi

                                                      Interesting Tabu Grill received a 29 from Zagat (highest in So Cal) but only one person here mentioned it here being their favorite... I personally can't believe they'd receive a 29. Way too high...imo!

                                                      1. It may be too late...but here are my favs, not in order:

                                                        Over $25
                                                        1. Marche Moderne (consistently wonderful, lunch or dinner)
                                                        2. Studio at the Montage (wonderful tasting menu for special occasion)
                                                        3. Mastro's Ocean Club (I think that is the name...Crystal Cove, not the other location--great Char)
                                                        4. Stonehill Tavern
                                                        5. Napa Rose (fun, consistent, good wine list)

                                                        Less formal, not necessarily under $25 but reasonable:
                                                        1. Javier's (mmmmm Mango Margaritas and camarones, Crystal Cove location)
                                                        2. Zov's Bistro (lunch, Tustin location)
                                                        3. Ramos House (but, sadly, not open for dinner)
                                                        4. Gabbi's (Orange Circle)
                                                        5. Felix (great Cuban food, Orange Circle)

                                                        1. Sorry foilks, I'm down w/a serious cold...I'll have the results up in a couple days....

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: OCAnn

                                                            Take your time and feel better soon, Ann. We're not going anywhere :)

                                                          2. Over $25:
                                                            1. Bayside
                                                            2. Old Vine
                                                            3. Sapphire
                                                            4. Restaurante Rumari
                                                            5. Pina's Bistro

                                                            I hope that I am not too late to give my two cents.

                                                            Under $25:
                                                            1. Veggie Grill
                                                            2. Thai del Mar
                                                            3. Alessa Italian (Newport)
                                                            4. El Chinaco
                                                            5. Cafe Panini (the one on PCH)

                                                            1. Poll's now closed.

                                                              There were two submissions posted after the deadline; I've included those in the count.

                                                              Here are the results: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/585999