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Special Occasion Restaurant in the OC?

I am looking to buy a colleague a $200 gift certificate to a special occasion restaurant in Orange County. He lives in Irvine. I bought another colleague a similiar gift for Geoffrey's in Malibu, and am looking for something along that level.

I've only been to the OC a couple of times so wouldn't even know where to begin. Thank you.

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  1. I would suggest two restaurants as possible choices

    Marche Moderne
    http://www.marchemoderne.net/

    Great french food in south coast plaza (the restaurant feels a world away once inside

    )

    have had many fine meals there and think the restaurant gets better and better each time

    also look at Sapphire
    http://www.sapphirellc.com/

    good food and nice setting especially with the weather right now

    1. how about Pinot Provence at the Westin or Scott's Seafood? Both in Costa Mesa across the street from South Coast Plaza. Another option is Ritz Carlton (Laguna Niguel's) Friday night seafood buffet.

      1. Marche Moderne. Studio at the Montage. Tradition by Pascal. Old Vine Cafe. Onotria.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Das Ubergeek

          I second all of Das Ubergeek's choices, but if I were the recipient, I would personally prefer either Marche Moderne or Tradition by Pascal. $200 might not cover the full cost of dinner at the Studio...and I have personally experienced some inconsistency at this restaurant. Although I do like both Old Vine Cafe and Onotria, I do not think they are quite as "special occasion" restaurants as are Marche Moderne or Tradition.

          1. re: josephnl

            I'd rather have MM or TbP as well, but I'd rather eat at Old Vine or Onotria than at Geoffrey's :)

          2. re: Das Ubergeek

            Great list. Old Vine is my favorite restaurant, but it is very casual (this is part of its charm) and not what I would really consider a "special occasion" restaurant (which to me conjures up Melisse, Gary Danko. etc.). Might add Stonehill to your list, but have only been there once (for a special occasion).

            1. re: lawdog262

              Stonehill is very nice, especially if you can be seated in one of the glass-enclosed booths in the bar area. Like Studio at the Montage, I think it would be very hard to get out of here for $100pp with wine, tax and tip, and I also don't think it's as consistent as it should be for the price. Still think that Marche Moderne and Traditions by Pascal are your best bets.

          3. I ate at Mozambique, in Laguna, with my wife and son and we had one of the most surprisingly fine meals. The surroundings were wonderfully nice; my wife's Durban curry was superb; my son's African sausage were very fine; and my strip steak was one of the best I ever had. Prices were reasonable, but not cheap. Laguna is not that far from Irvine and their bar, upstairs, has a great view of the Pacific before dinner. I think it's an underappreciated restaurant. Service, parking, decor all were just grand. Another place to consider is Napa Rose of course for that extra special feeling and the incredible lobby in the Art&Crafts style. They match wine to food and offer the freshest produce available. Two places worth checking out.

            1. Eat dinner at Marche Moderne and Watermarc (in Laguna) this week. Both are worthy contenders

              4 Replies
              1. re: melangeinc

                Have never heard of Watermarc. Is it new? Where is it? Tell us a bit about it, please?

                1. re: josephnl

                  It's part of the Opah family. I so disliked my Opah Aliso Viejo experience that I have never even tried 230 Forest.

                  1. re: JAB

                    It's too bad that Opah has slipped over the years. We used to very much enjoy 230 Forest in Laguna, and both the Opah in Aliso Viejo and the one in Irvine. Unfortunately, on our last few visits to Opah in Irvine the overall food quality (and even portion size) has gone down so much that I don't think we will return. Rather than opening new places, they should concentrate on returning the existing restaurants to the level at which they once stood.

                    1. re: JAB

                      Wow, I'm glad that I didn't know about the Opah connection, or I might have been pre-disposed to not like Watermarc so much.

                      Went there the other night (group of 4 of us), and we all had a tremendous time, it was hitting on all cylinders. Food, service, wine and drinks list, were all excellent. The small plates menu is the way to go, we were able to try a lot of different items and enjoyed everything.

                2. There's also Michael Mina's Stonehill Tavern.

                  -----
                  Stonehill Tavern
                  St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort, Dana Point, CA 92629

                  1. I haven't been, but heard good things about Maestro's Steakhouse, I would be happy with a gift certificate there!

                    8 Replies
                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                        Thanks Das, I always confuse the spelling with the Japanese pasta place inside the Mitsuwa food court. Anyway, I need to go to Mastro's NOW! I know the butter cake is awesome, any other must haves there?

                        1. re: groover808

                          The first time we were there, we had the crab (or lobster) gnocchis. We went back a few days later specifically for those & the butter cake. Those are toe-curling delicious!!!!

                          1. re: groover808

                            Mastro's Steakhouse is really terrific. If you enjoy cocktails and wine...be sure to have a designated driver! I am a martini fan, and they serve the biggest martinis in the world...even bigger than those at Chez Josephnl's (my home)! Their steaks and sides are also terrific. Only thing...it can be terribly noisy there. Whenever we go, we make a big deal with the reservationist about being seated somewhere where it is not too noisy....and it seems to work.

                            1. re: josephnl

                              Well, if it's TOO loud, you can always do Mastro's take out....

                            2. re: groover808

                              If you go with a large enough group, get lobster mashed potatoes (seriously, it's a small Alp of potatoes, so don't think you and one other person are going to eat the whole thing -- you'd have to have a cardiologist on standby).

                              I personally was underwhelmed by their bone-in filet (you will get the BIG push for this one, it's the house speciality), which I thought was gristly near the bone. Flavourful, yes, but I'd rather have a porterhouse.

                              Both times I've been have been for celebrations -- one birthday, one anniversary -- and the butter cake came complimentary.

                          2. re: groover808

                            Mastro's in Costa Mesa is excellent, and would be a good choice for a steak-lover. The sides are also great, as is the service and the ambiance (kind of dark and glitzy).

                            My wife and I both also love Napa Rose, and have been there many times for special occasions. We've never had a bad experience there.