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Toronto Chow in Anaheim area and Laguna - did research, can you confirm?

Hello fellow chows!

I'm tagging along on a business trip with my husband, we'll head to Laguna Beach (specifically the Ritz Carlton for 3 nights, then will be in Anaheim/Garden Grove at the Hyatt for 4 nights. We will have a car, we won't have any kids with us.

So far in Laguna I think we will spend one night at the Ritz Carlton bar/restaurant taking advantage of the wine & cheese flights and the view. Then we have El Callejon which has been well reviewed on this board. Any thoughts?

The challenge is more the Anaheim/Garden Grove area. We are spoiled for choice with Asian food of all types in Toronto so we're not so keen on Asian down there, but do want to take advantage of the Mexican food down there since we have so little here and apparently it's terrible compared with the US.

I have gathered a number of places off the board that we will likely hit - Senor Baja, El Taco Nazo, Los Cotijas, El Farolito & Arriba! Baja Grill. Are there any of these that you would steer clear from? We are very comfortable with holes in the wall types of places.

For our 'nice' dinner we will likely go do Park Ave in Stanton - decent reviews on here and not too far away.

Being landlocked in Toronto we would really really really love to have some good seafood down there, but I can't seem to find any good recs - Boiling Crab has a ton of mixed reviews and it appears they serve frozen food. Price is no option, does anyone have a seafood recommendation? Thanks so much.

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  1. Since you are coming all this distance, you might consider Renu Nakorn for Thai in nearby Norwalk. Renu Nakorn was the progenitor of some of the highest rated Thai cuisine in the U.S.,it was originally started by the husband/wife team that runs Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas.

    Southern California is really spread out, and a car is a must, so since you will have a car you might consider going a little farther afield than Orange County. Water Grill in downtown Los Angeles is about as high end as you can get with seafood. The original chef has moved on, but you might want to search the board for discussion of Water Grill.

    Any seafood on the water is going to be for La Turistas.

    1. Well, first and foremost, as a resident of Anaheim, I'm here to tell you to ignore -- yes, IGNORE -- Harbor Blvd. between Chapman Ave. and Ball Rd. for the most part. If you need a quick bite, though, you could do worse than a HALF order of a carne asada nachos at Alerto's on Harbor Blvd. and Katella Ave. (A full order is the same size and twice the price.) Totally enough calories for four people, though.

      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/590773 (which, given your list of places, you may have read already) will help you a lot with Mexican specialities in the area. One of the choices, Mariscos Puerto Esperanza, will scratch both your Mexican itch and your seafood itch.

      I do urge you to reconsider your position on Asian -- while it's been several years since I was in Toronto (which, let me add, is a fantastic city if you like to dine in ethnic holes-in-the-wall as I do), TO has nothing like the size of Little Saigon, mostly because Little Saigon is the largest concentration of Vietnamese businesses in North America. There is a LOT, and it is just a stone's throw -- literally 5 minutes' drive -- from your Hyatt. It ranges from nice sit-down bistros (Xanh, S Fine Dining) all the way down to $1.75 banh mi sandwiches (Banh Mi Che Cali, Banh Mi Cho Cu).

      There is a large Korean population in Orange County, but you have Bloor St. (If you were going to LA, I'd tell you to eat Korean there, because LA's Koreatown blows Toronto's Bloor St. West right out of the water just for sheer SIZE).

      Take a drive over to Taps in Brea, which is maybe 20 minutes' drive from your Garden Grove hotel, for seafood; or hit up California Fish Grill, which is good fish done cheaply. While it's not #1 for food for me -- not exactly imaginative but decent seafood, not badly made but not high-end -- you might want to consider Duke's on the Huntington Beach pier, mostly because honestly, the view is pretty much everything you've seen on TV. (Las Brisas in Laguna Beach has a killer view too, but the food is just...meh.

      )

      And of course, the sushi here is just... wow. I know you have good sushi in Toronto but it's different. Bluefish, Shibucho, Maki-Zushi, Hamamori, Wasa -- these are all excellent (but expensive) places.

      While I like Park Ave. and the Googie-style bar is awesome, I guess I would make the trip to La Huasteca, or else eat some really Californian cuisine -- maybe go to Old Vine Cafe, since you don't have kids, or honestly, go try Napa Rose in Disney's Grand Californian Hotel. I know it sounds counterintuitive, but it really is excellent food.

      In any case, please report back and tell us where you ended up eating and what you thought!

      3 Replies
      1. re: Das Ubergeek

        One place in Anaheim that I think is pretty decent in a classic, old-fashioned, clubby way is Mr. Stox. The room is pleasant enough, the service usually very competant, the drinks are strong, the wine list quite good, and the food generally pretty good, but certainly not especially inventive. I usually have a good time there.

        Went to Taps for the first time last week, and really enjoyed it. Definitely would second your recommendation.

        And among your sushi recommendations, I think you mean Bluefin (rather than Bluefish) in Crystal Cove, Newport Beach. This is certainly a terrific, albeit expensive place for sushi. If Abe is behind the counter, Fuzzychow might try to sit in front of him, and let him "do his thing".

        1. re: josephnl

          Sorry, you're right of course -- I have been cooking tilapia and had fish on the brain. :)

          1. re: josephnl

            3rd Taps and would really, really recommend their Sunday seafood brunch of $34...I've eaten more than my share of oysters on the 1/2 shell. Make reservations if you go.

        2. This is all great info, thank you ChinoWayne & Das Ubergeek! I will end up exploring the Asian side of things (I actually live in Little Korea here, Das Ubergeek) as I will have plenty of time on my own for lunch and am a pho fanatic, so I'll be looking for some good soups and will explore Thai as well. Is there a particular sushi place that would be more suitable for lunch?

          I had only chosen Park Ave because it looked good, it had received favourable reviews and it seemed close - I am unsure of the geography there, everything seems so spread out and I am used to walking or biking to restaurants because Toronto is a small city. I had read about Old Vine Cafe so perhaps we'll head over there instead, the menu looks lovely. I had written off Napa Rose simply because it was Disney so it was just a tourist trap - it's not?

          Water Grill looks wonderful but my husband is working all day at a conference so I don't want to force him to drive into LA for dinner.

          I will definitely report back after dining, I appreciate the feedback of others I see so much.

          4 Replies
          1. re: fussychow

            If you like banh mi, you might search for some discussion of that on the board, I recall Professor Salt and possibly other 'hounds have posted their banh mi crawls. Too bad L.A. is too far, otherwise, I would have suggested even a little further to Beverly Hills and Urasawa, for what has been touted by many as a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

            Maybe you and your husband will like what you experience on this trip, and then make another trip back in the future, the dining experience is wide open in the greater L.A. area.

            And definitely pay attention to DU's rec's, he is a long time local in the L.A. area who knows his stuff.

            1. re: fussychow

              Park Avenue isn't bad -- don't let me dissuade you, because it's not bad and the bar really is nice -- but I'm sure you have places like it in TO. The menu is available at http://www.parkavedining.com if you like.

              More or less anywhere in the 714 area code is no more than 20-25 minutes in normal traffic from the Garden Grove Hyatt, for a point of reference.

              Napa Rose really is excellent. Expect to drop $50-$75 a head outside of wine.

              For pho, the best are probably Pho 79 and Pho Thanh Lich. If you go to Pho Thanh Lich, make sure to get pho tai and have them put the meat on the side so you can cook it in the hot broth. I urge you to try Vien Dong on Brookhurst St. (the restaurant, not the grocery store) and have bun cha Ha Noi, or cha ca Thanh Long. Also, Xanh is excellent Vietnamese home-style cooking in a nicer atmosphere.

              1. re: fussychow

                2nd the Rec for Napa Rose, the food is just great. I know it sounds weird with it being right there next to Disneyland, but NR does a really nice California Wine Country meal. Here's a post from my trip to Napa Rose: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/563590

                As for sushi lunch spots, I'd recommend Bluefin's $35/person lunch Omakase (a fusion style sushi), or Sushi Shibucho in Costa Mesa for about a $55/person lunch Omakase (traditional sushi).

                1. re: I got nothin

                  Napa Rose is great, with one caveat. Twice recently we have been there when there have been large parties near us with young children who were noisy, and crawling all over the place. This unfortunately did interfere with our enjoyment of the restaurant...but, of course, we realized that this was Disneyland, and certainly kids are welcome everywhere here as they should be. Just something to keep in mind when dining at Napa Rose.

              2. Unfortunately the food at the Ritz is aweful. Even compared to other hotels let alone other Ritz Carltons, some of which have amazing food.

                3 Replies
                1. re: jkao1817

                  Is it really that bad?? I hadn't seen too much on the board about it. Would you recommend the St Regis restaurants instead?

                  1. re: fussychow

                    Definitely would recommend the Stonehill Tavern at the St. Regis as a very good special occasion restaurant. Unless you must have the ocean view (which is fairly distant from the St. Regis), I would recommend requesting one of the booths in the bar area. They are glassed in individual booths which are quiet and really nice.

                    If your budget can handle it, you will be about 45 minutes away from an extraordinary special occasion resstaurant in northern San Diego county. It is called Addison, and it is at the Del Mar Grand Hotel. It may well be the best restaurant in all of southern CA. It is very special and very highly recommended...but it is very expensive. All inclusive, you will likely spend $200 pp there! See: http://www.thegranddelmar.com/dining/...

                    1. re: fussychow

                      I would definitely recommend Stonehill and the St. Regis. Unfortunately the Ritz only has the one restaurant. The breakfast is the best thing we had. Even their Sunday brunch which was the best before is not very good.

                  2. Thank you to everyone - you have completed all my meal planning and I will definitely report back! So looking forward to this...