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Working in Irvine for the week, in a sea of office parks. But I hear that Irvine is an interesting place for food: Chinese, Persian, etc.

Can anyone give me some decent recommendations on some good ethnic restaurants nearby...I think I'm near some mall called the Spectrum?...great food, good-value deliciousness. Hole-in-the-walls welcome.

Come on Chowhounders, don't let me down.

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  1. Try S.W. Seafood for Chinese @ Walnut & Jeffrey.

    1. Fukada for Japanese udon/soba noodles
      Lucca Cafe (although most don't consider Italian to be "ethnic")

      Fukada Restaurant
      8683 Irvine Center Dr, Irvine, CA 92618

      1. Up the 405 in Costa Mesa, there's a ramen place called Santouka (in the Mitsuwa Market); also in Costa Mesa, Old Vine continues to participate in OC Restaurant Week (extended thru 09/26) with a $20 3-course prix fixe (http://orangecountyrestaurantweek.com... ); OC CH favourite (but not mine so much) Marche Moderne @ South Coast Plaza also offers a $20 3-course lunch; Royal Khyber @ SCP has a $10 two-course lunch menu; and Veggie Grill in Irvine near UCI is quite a tasty vegan restaurant too.

        Santouka Ramen
        665 Paularino Ave, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

        Royal Khyber Fine Indian
        1621 W Sunflower Ave, Santa Ana, CA 92704

        Veggie Grill
        4213 Campus Dr, Irvine, CA 92612

        Marche Moderne
        3333 Bristol St 3001, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

        Old Vine Cafe
        2937 Bristol St # A102, Costa Mesa, CA

        1. Not as much great food in the Spectrum area, mostly chains and corporate food. Yard House ain't horrible for pub food, but it' ain't cheap. Here's some picks within a couple of freeway exits of you.

          5 @ Lake Forest:
          The Hat: pastrami, chili fries, burgers, that sort of thing
          Pho Bo Vang: my favorite pho in South County. Not as great as the Little Saigon places, but better than the others in Lake Forest / Irvine.

          5 @ El Toro exit
          Lee's Sandwiches: The McDonald's of banh mi, but it's consistently acceptable and cheap.

          405 @ Irvine Center Drive exit
          Tommy Pastrami. Fatty, NY style pastrami. On par with The Hat, another L.A. area chain.

          405 @ Shady Canyon exit
          Lucca Italo-med menu, solid food.
          Crystal Jade (next door to Lucca), Cantonese, white tablecloth type place. Dim sum from a menu, all around good choice, but not as cheap as other choices in Irvine's Chinatown.

          405 @ Culver:
          Wholesome Choice supermarket. A Persian supermarket with a large food court. Many ethnic specialties in the food court, but I head to the Persian section because the kebabs are cooked to order and fresher than the other sections where stuff sits in steam tables.

          5 @ Jeffrey
          If you want hole in the wall, this is where you want to forage. Korean / Japanese / Chinese predominate the two strip malls on the corner of Jeffrey and Walnut.

          China Garden - a venerable Irvine Cantonese place. Dim sum carts every day, as well as a full menu from the kitchen
          Thai Cafe - my neighborhood Thai joint. Nice looking room, moderate prices, solid food.
          Taiko - known for large portions of fish. They have a pretty decent selection of fish, some authentic Japanese ingredients like ume, natto and shiso if you ask for it, as opposed to some full gringo sushi places owned by non-Japanese.
          Chef Chen's - good menu, I prefer the supposedly "Sichuan" specialty items like dry cooked beef.
          Chong Qing - next door to Chef Chen, this is an actual Sichuan place. They go a little too easy on the Sichun peppercorn for my taste, tho.
          Tri Village (other side of the freeway) - Northern Chinese food. Haven't been in a long time, but I have enjoyed my food here.

          5 @ Culver
          Caspian - Persian. Big room blinged out with faux Roman columns like a lounge at Caesar's.
          Wheel of Life: 100% vegan Thai - Chinese
          Royal Kitchen - Teochew style Chinese, which is to say Cantonese with some Vietnamesey items. Dim sum is available.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Professor Salt

            re Yardhouse, they have a great happy hour (15:00-18:00) w/half priced apps.

          2. Great timing, Orange County is having Restaurant Week extended through 9/26. Fantastic prices for lunch and dinners at upscale eateries, including many restaurants in Irvine.

            Here is the link. http://www.orangecountyrestaurantweek...

            I can highly recommend Bistango, Daily Grill, Sage in Newport Beach, Mozambique - Laguna Beach. The other Irvine restaurants I have never been to so I cannot comment on them.


            1. Not ethnic but in the immediate vicinity... The Counter for fantastic custom burgers. Go early as they get REALLY busy.

              On the 405 at Jeffrey is Chong Qing Mei Wei, good Sichuan food (and I don't agree with Prof. Salt's assessment of their flower-pepper use, but then I prefer "la" to "ma" -- spicy to numbing).

              Definitely visit the Persian food counter at Wholesome Choice, off the 405 at Culver (and Michelson).

              Nory's Peruvian in Lake Forest is quite good.

              There are some excellent bakeries in the Diamond Jamboree plaza on Jamboree between the 405 and the 5, and a decent Korean food court in the H-Mart in the same plaza. Parking can be a real @$#%& though.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                Re: parking at Diamond Jamboree, there is a 4- or 5-story parking structure behind the buildings. I didn't notice it until my 3rd or 4th visit there. I like the Original Buffalo Wings place and love their freshly made potato chips.

                1. Break of Dawn Cafe for truly unique breakfast and lunch fare. French/Vietnamese. Just south of the Mission Viejo Mall in the center with Marshalls and Roadrunner Sports. Probably easier to get to than the 405/Culver spots. Open 'til 2:00 p.m.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: 2intune

                    I think you meant Laguna Hills Mall off of El Toro for Break of Dawn

                    There's also Pho Bac. One is on Barranca between Jeffrey & Culver and the other is in the shopping center on Jeffrey & Michelson.

                    Philly's Best in same center as Pho Bac on Barranca

                  2. Memphis Cafe , on Bristol at 405, opposite side from South Coast Plaza, funky & fun, with good food.