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Oct 2, 2009 12:46 PM

Newport/Laguna Area recommendations?

My husband and I will be celebrating our 20th anniversary staying at Pelican Hill in a couple of weeks. Any restaurant recommendations? We live in NYC so are looking as much for atmosphere as for good food. Price is not necessarily an issue but we have not found that it necessarily correlates with quality! Thanks!

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  1. The fine dining restaurant at Pelican Hill has beautiful ambiance, but the food has been disappointing. Worth going for a snack or a drink. The ambiance at the Montage in Laguna Beach is also smashing, but I prefer it for a light lunch at the outdoor spa restaurant....great view. For terrific food, I think the best in the area is Marche Moderne at South Coast Plaza for contemporary French cuisine, Mastro's for steak or seafood (I prefer the South Coast Plaza location over the Crystal Cove location, Bluefin for sushi in Crystal Cove, and Tradition by Pascal for traditional French cuisine. Marche Moderne is probably the best overall. Also, for a kick, have breakfast or lunch at the Beachcomber in Crystal's right on the beach!

    1 Reply
    1. re: josephnl

      Ditto on everything that josephnl said.

    2. 20th anniversary; price not an issue; atmosphere important as food. There are lots of very good restaurants in that area, and if you look at the other laguna post on the subject ( you'll see lots of recs, but given those criteria I personally think there's really only one choice - Studio at the Montage. If you're from NYC, the price won't be quite as shocking (think Le Bernadin, Daniel, etc., and quite a bit less expensive than Per Se), the food is outstanding, the service is easily the best in the OC and the setting and atmosphere epitomize beach side fine dining.

      Edit: Oops - just realized that you're not just looking for a rec for your 20th anniv dinner but in general. So, my rec above still holds, but I would add to it all the other places mentioned in the other thread.

      6 Replies
      1. re: krick

        Although I can't argue that Studio at Montage is beautiful, I have had very inconsistent meals there. Admittedly I have not dined there since the chef was replaced several months ago, but prior to that I have had both excellent and awful meals there. For that reason, I recommended enjoying the ambiance from the outdoor restaurant by the spa for lunch, and having a wonderful dining experience at other restaurants which are consistently very good. If others have recently had consistently great food at the Montage, I'd love to hear about it.

        I still would go to my recommendations above.

        1. re: josephnl

          Thank you for these great recommendations. Any suggestions (besides Beachcombers) for views?

          1. re: karen.bigman

            A wonderful spot for a somewhat dressy, fancy lunch with a terrific harbor view In Newport is the First Cabin Restaurant at the Balboa Bay Club. The setting and service are top notch, as are the prices, but for a nice salad, chowder, glass of wine on a pretty day, this is a great spot. As long as you don't expect innovative gourmet cuisine, and don't worry too much about cost, you will certainly enjoy the setting and have a very pleasant lunch here.

            1. re: josephnl

              Take a look at this article written by the S. Irene Virbila the Frank Bruni of LA times.
              She gave a very favorable review of the Studio at Montage.


              1. re: Tony

                SIV is the Frank Bruni of the LA Times? Yeah, sure, I'm agreeing with you. They have about the same amount of ability.

                Anyone in the Newport/Laguna vicinity willing to drift a bit south should try Michael Mina's sophisticated American cuisine at Stonehill Tavern, which I have reviewed elsewhere on this board. The tasting menu is delicious, especially if you insist -- sometimes you have to insist -- on finishing with their signature warm chocolate-chip cookies and "root-beer float."

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

                1. re: Tony

                  Thanks for the update. It sounds like the new chef at the Montage is doing a great job. Will have to give it another go.