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Nice place in Orange County for Pre valentines Dinner

Hey Folks --

We're going to be visiting Orange County on Saturday the 13th for a cirque du soleil show in Irvine. We already have plans to go to the Bayside restaurant in Newport Beach for brunch on Sunday, but I'm looking for a special restaurant for Saturday night. I don't know the area at all, so your help is appreciated! Budget is ~$200 for 2 people, but a high price alone isn't going to impress us. We're looking for the tastiest food that Orange County has to offer.


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    1. Charlie Palmer- Costa mesa- Elegant sophisticated food. I believe you can do a Chef's tasting menu here for around 80pp
      Marche Moderne - South Coast Plaza - Has a beautiful outdoor seating area that would be quiet romantic- Excellent food. Have had plenty of great meals here.
      Tradition by Pascal - Newport Beach/Costa Mesa - Small, cozy, intimate. Probably the best French Food in Orange County.

      1. I'm going to buck the "fancy continental" and suggest that you go for upscale Vietnamese. While my favourite is Xanh Bistro (see elmomonster's review this week in the OC Weekly, but know that he failed to mention the banana blossom salad of wonderfulness), S Vietnamese Fine Dining will do you a great meal in an upscale environment, despite the location outside the mall. (If you go to S Vietnamese, make sure to ask for the separate vegetarian menu, which is even better than the meat eater's menu.)

        It's something that LA really doesn't have much of... and both will get you out under $200 even with wine. (You'd have a hard time spending half that at Xanh, incidentally.)

        Xanh Bistro
        16161 Brookhurst St, Fountain Valley, CA 92708

        S Vietnamese Fine Dining
        545 Westminster Mall, Westminster, CA 92683

        1. I just tried Marche Moderne at SCP today, and I was quite impressed. I bet this will be a great place for your romantic dinner. If you want something different (and want to stay in Irvine), try Taleo for an elegant Mexican dinner. Or if you're ready to trek down PCH a bit for a lovely seaside dinner, try Ti Amo (Italian) or C'est la Vie (French) in Laguna Beach for quite the romantic dinner that shouldn't break your bank. :-)

          1. You've got a lot of good recommendations here; did you have any particular cuisine in mind?

            I'll throw in another restaurant to confuse you more: Old Vine Cafe in Costa Mesa.

            7 Replies
            1. re: OCAnn

              Yep, Old Vine is another great choice. For me it's more of a great escape for breakfast, but they certainly shouldn't disappoint for dinner.

              1. re: atdleft

                Love the Old Vine, even more for its very casual atmosphere. Never been to a restaurant where so many people seem to be having such a good time...

                1. re: lawdog262

                  Oh yes, that's the truth... But there's something quite magical about going to Old Vine in the morning when the sun is starting to break through the marine layer and most of the "noise" is being made by the giant wind chime outside.

                  But anyway, Old Vine is also a solid pick for dinner. I guess I just don't make it here often after 5:00 PM because by then there are so many other solid picks in the SCP area.

                2. re: atdleft

                  If you can tear yourself away for b'fast from here, you might try Break of Dawn:
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/674426 | Break of Dawn - Laguna Hills

                  1. re: OCAnn

                    Thanks for the suggestion, Ann. Next time I can make it to South County, I'll have to stop by and visit. The menu looks appetizing.

                    1. re: OCAnn

                      Break of dawn is breakfast/lunch only, though they do have a special menu for dinner on Valentines's day itself.

                      1. re: ocshooter

                        Yes, I recommended the place for b'fast, not dinner. =)

                3. Based upon your criteria, two alternatives readily stand above the crowd:

                  Marche Moderne
                  3333 Bristol Street, #3001
                  Costa Mesa, CA 92626
                  (714) 434-7900

                  Upstairs on the back side of South Coast Plaza by Macy’s. Chef Florent Marchand and his amiable wife Amelia do a herculean job in bringing top-notch French cuisine to SoCal. Look for sweetbreads (veal thymus glands), pork belly and foie gras on the menu for lunch and dinner. The $25, 3-Course Lunch Spontanee is a super deal, saving you about 50% if ordered separately. Florent is hands-on in the open kitchen daily and his presence is felt in every bite. Amelia is a certified pastry chef in the French tradition and her creations are marvelous. Voted by an overwhelming margin by Chowhounds as Orange County’s ultimate restaurant for 2009, indeed a laudable accomplishment.

                  Tradition by Pascal
                  1000 N Bristol St
                  Newport Beach, CA 92660
                  (949) 263-9400

                  Pascal Olhats is one of Orange County’s most respected and celebrated chefs. Lunch or dinner at his flagship restaurant, Tradition, is virtually an assurance of enjoying one of the finest meals anywhere. Tradition recently underwent a facelift in both décor and expanded menu offerings. My long time favorites remain – escargot, foie gras, sweetbreads, bouillabaisse and the best sea bass I’ve ever eaten. An excellent wine list and superb desserts round out your fine dining experience. Never a disappointment in over 15 years.

                  Bon Appetit!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: degustateur

                    At this point, it would be easier to get a reservation @ Tradition/Pascal than @ Marche Moderne.

                  2. Where are you staying? Tabu in Laguna Beach is fantastic, and Watermarc has been getting good notices. I can't give an opinion on that one until after I eat there tomorrow night though. The show is at the Great Park on the edge of nowhere in Irvine, and I have heard that the traffic in and out is terrible (I do drive by it and can see the long line of cars). You are pretty close to Laguna Canyon, so heading to Watermarc, 230 Forrest, Sorrento Grill or some other place in Laguna might actually be quicker than South Coast for March Moderne or Charlie Plamer or the other end of Irvine for Pascal.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: ocshooter

                      Well, I've now had dinner at Watermarc and it is not on my list of recommended spots. I would not try to talk anyone out of it, I just didn't think it was all that great.

                    2. Wow! So many great responses! I didn't get any emails saying I had responses, so I assumed no one responded! I'm overwhelmed. I'm going to go through them right now, and I will be SURE to post back our results :)

                      Thanks so much.

                      Edit: At the moment, after looking at the menu's, Here is how I"m leaning:

                      Tradition by Pascal, Old Vine, and then Marche Moderne.

                      And maybe the Xahn Bistro for lunch :)

                      Thanks folks, agian I'll make sure to update with wherever we eat :)