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Laguna Niguel - restaurant recs?

One of my best friends and I are going to the Ritz in LN for a girls' weekend. Any recs for lunch, dinner, snacks or dessert in the area - all types and price points - would be great! Thanks!

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  1. I would highly recommend the Ritz's Sunday Champagne Brunch. It's about $75 per person, but is excellent! They have three types of great caviar, each of the food stations are stocked with quality ingredients and run by great members of their staff, and there's even a bloody mary bar. Desserts are lovely, and service is spectacular...they come pick up your plates, top of your glass, and are very attentive.

    1 Reply
    1. re: attran99

      I have to disagree totally about restaurant 162. The food is horrible, but the service and view are good. BUT the food is aweful.

    2. For sure head up the coast a few miles to the Montage in Laguna Beach. Have a casual lunch on the deck outside of their spa. The setting is magnificent, and lunch is extremely pleasant. It's definitely worth seeing the Montage.

      If you are a fan of sushi, a few miles further north in Crystal Cove is one of the very best upscale sushi restaurants in the area...Bluefin. The owner Abe worked with Nobu and is creative, and a master. It is expensive!

      8 Replies
      1. re: josephnl

        I have stayed at the Montage twice in the last couple of months and the food in the outdoor bar, the casual restaurant, and room service is universally awful and overpriced. We have had warm briny oysters, fishy smelling (you could smell it before it arrived) fish tacos, sloppy soft watery pasta, and stale hard cookies, for a start. BTW, two orders of tacos and two beers were $85.

        1. re: cls

          Well then...perhaps Heyteacher should just have a drink or a glass of wine. I still think that a visit to the Montage is a must...even if just for the view. (I had lunch on the spa deck a month ago, had a salad and a glass of wine, and it was not spectacular...but still very good) cls...I am not a huge fan of the food at the Montage, but saying the the "food is universally awful" is, I think, not a fair appraisal of this place.

          1. re: josephnl

            Granted, the location is world class.
            I have had 10-12 meals there and in my experience it was universally awful. This opinion is not based on a solitary experience. Perhaps others will differ.
            This does not include the Studio restaurant, as I have never been.

            1. re: cls

              "BTW, two orders of tacos and two beers were $85."

              Did you, by any chance, avoid eating at the Studio restaurant because the check from your home refinancing hadn't been credited to your bank account yet? ;-D>

              1. re: cls

                I'll agree with you, cls.
                The food at the BH Montage, also, isn't what it initially claimed it would be either.

                1. re: cls

                  I've stayed at the Montage many times and have eaten there 20+ times, some of which were while staying there and others of which were isolated dining experiences, and my experiences could not have been more different from yours. The food at all of the dining venues has been generally great, and one of my meals at Studio was simply extraordinary. Service, both in the hotel generally and at each of the restaurants, has always been exemplary as well. That said, the food prices have also been extraordinary and almost (but not quite) impossible to justify. A typical room service breakfast consisting of juice, coffee and omelettes for 2 costs over $100 when all is said and done, and it only gets worse from there. The Montage is, without question, the most expensive hotel I've ever stayed at or been to in terms of food prices, and, judged on food and service alone, I whole heartedly agree that it's not worth it and that you can get equal or better food elsewhere for far less. On the other hand, my personal opinion is that you are paying for the overall Montage experience, which includes, but isn't limited to, the food. When I consider the setting, the facilities, the service both in and out of the restaurants, etc., I find that the price premium is, just ever so barely, worth it. . . . on occasion. On other occasions, you're more likely to find me at Brussell's Bistro or Taco Loco.

                  1. re: krick

                    Oh, right, that reminds me. I also meant to suggest Brussels Bistro. Not my number one choice in the area, but pretty high on my list...especially for a fun, tasty, mid-priced evening.

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                    Brussels Bistro
                    222 Forest Ave, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

                    1. re: krick

                      I recently had a really wonderful dining experience at Studio and I think I can agree with krick's comments. Expensive - very - but for a special night out (which we don't do all that often), it was ideal. The view is incredible, service top notch and welcoming. We did the prix fixe menu and particularly loved the fresh hamachi, a fois gras dish, and beautifully prepared halibut. Chef Strong stopped by to greet us and inquire on how we like our dinner. All in all a very special, albeit expensive, evening.

            2. Five Crowns In Corona Del Mar is an old favorite of our family. Nothing new or inventive, but good, solid food and served nicely. I like the roast beef hash at Sunday Brunch.

              1. Ok, well it seems like we have a lot of difference of opinion here....Ramos House looks great as well as Bluefin. I will definitely look into the Ritz's brunch and Five Crowns is a chain associated with Lawry's so that's definitely out for me.

                Any other recs would be great - snacks too - ice cream, etc. Thanks!! :-)

                2 Replies
                1. re: Heyteacher

                  I was pleasantly surprised at Bluefin. Although most of the patrons were ordering crunchy, spicy, California stuff, they make respectable nigiri as well.
                  Mastro's Ocean Club is next door, and Pacific Whey is a good (although it used to be better IMO) breakfast.
                  Check out the beach bar and restaurant at Crystal Cove if you have a chance.

                  1. re: Heyteacher

                    Agree with you re Five Crowns...definitely not special.

                    As you say, the Ramos House and Bluefin are top-drawer...and although I've not been, the Ritz's brunch sounds great. If you go, please report back. And...do yourself a favor and check out the Montage, if for nothing more than a look...the setting is magnificent. Also, agree with cls that the Beachcomber Cafe in Crystal Cove (Newport Beach) is worth a look/see. It's a somewhat funky restaurant, but is literally right on the beach, and it serves a pretty decent breakfast or lunch.

                  2. Cafe Zulu is casual and has the best sea food in the area.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: BSW6490

                      You took the sWORDfiSh right out of my mouth. Love this place! Although, between you, me and the board, their sea bass is even better. And that calamari! How do they do it?

                      N.B. It's Zoolu

                      1. re: BSW6490

                        Cafe Zoolu is great. The Leech's have been in OC for many years (30+) and have always served great food, earlier at the The Quiet Woman in CDM, and now in Laguna. One caveat however...Zoolu is expensive, and although very good, because of its funky decor and service, some may think it is not worth the price. As an aside, the Quiet Woman in Newport is still going strong and remains every bit as good as when Toni & Michael Leech ran it.

                        1. re: josephnl

                          DON'T EAT AT CAFE ZOOLU!!!!!

                          (that way we'll have a table available when we want to go). ;-)

                      2. In Laguna Beach, Taco Loco for lunch and The Aegean for dinner.

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                        Taco Loco
                        640 S Coast Hwy Ste 1, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

                        Aegean Cafe
                        540 S Coast Hwy Ste 200, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

                        1. Some places I like in the area:

                          Brussell's Bistro (on Forest) for fantastic moules frites (the fries are double fried)
                          Lumberyard (Forest)
                          Watermarc (new)
                          Javier's (Crystal Cove) - fantastic dungeness crab enchiladas. It's a beautiful restaurant and a great place for drinks as well, but it can also be a real scene, which is good or bad depending on what you're in the mood for.
                          Mastro's Ocean Club (Crystal Cove)
                          Sage on the Coast (Crystal Cove)
                          Harbor House (Dana Point) for breakfast
                          Beachcomber for sunset drinks and dinner on the beach
                          Tabu (S Laguna)
                          Taco Loco
                          Bluefin Sushi (Crystal Cove)
                          Five Feet (Laguna)

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: krick

                            Beachcomber is also great for brunch before or after a hike on the beach and/or the cliffs above. Again, it's less about the food, which is generally pretty decent, but more the setting and overall experience, which is really one-of-a-kind -- especially for out of towners.

                            P.S. I like to end my hike up at the Shake Shack above.

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                            Beachcomber Cafe
                            15 Crystal Cove, Newport Coast, CA 92657

                            1. re: krick

                              Update:

                              Revisited Watermarc, Lumberyard, Mastro's Ocean Club and Beachcomber recently.

                              Watermarc was hit and miss, and the overall experience was just ok.

                              Lumberyard was better than previous visits (which were already good).

                              Mastro's steak (bone-in ribeye) was as good as ever (right up there with Wolfgang's for me, but a notch or two below CUT) but my wife had the Maine lobster and it was terrible. I don't mean bad for the price (which was insane - $130 I think), but terrible at any price. Horribly overcooked. On the other hand, I merely mentioned to our waiter that it was tough and seemed overcooked, and next thing you know the manager was there asking us if we wanted anything else instead. My wife declined and, not being a complainer, said it wasn't that bad and that she did eat most of it so she was content. Nevertheless, without a word, they took it off our bill and gave us dessert on the house.

                              Beachcomber was surprisingly good, which is how I've found it each of the last 3-4 times, so maybe it's time to stop being surprised. I say surprisingly, however, not so much because it's great food (it's not - but it is solid tasty food), but because given its setting and monopoly position on the beach, it doesn't need to be as good as it is. It could turn out mediocre food at the same price and would still be packed, so my hats off to the team there for doing more than they need to.

                              I also hit the Shake Shack again for my favorite shake anywhere - peanut butter banana - which was just as good and gut busting as I remembered.

                              Lastly, I also went back to the Montage Loft for lunch, which I neglected to put on my list but did praise by association in an earlier reply about the Montage, and it was terrific. In particular, the basket of fried heirloom vegetables and lemons (yes - fried lemons, which were awesome), was outstanding, as were all the other dishes of our table except for my wife's burger. With respect to the burger, many people probably would have loved it - every component of it was of the highest quality and perfectly prepared and cooked. The problem was the patty itself, the taste of which was completely masked by the various toppings and accoutrements. As a sandwich, I guess it was very good, but as a burger it completely failed for me in that it didn't taste like a burger (or at least what a burger should taste like in my mind).

                              1. re: krick

                                My sentiments exactly in regard to Beachcomber.

                            2. For super casual but really fresh/tasty mexican, try La Sirena in Laguna Beach. They do really good grilled fish tacos and salads. The original? location downtown is a tiny converted old house, order at the counter and sit outside (not many tables though). Really good and seems popular with the local folks!

                              1. Turn left instead of right, go up to Michael Mina's Stonehill Tavern, and order the tasting menu -- creative, fresh, well-executed dishes served in an odd-shaped room by an interesting and professional staff. Even the postprandial espresso can be mighty toothsome. No ocean view.