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Some place memorable in Orange County for a celebration dinner - moved from San Diego board

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Will spend my 50th BD in OC. Looking for a place to have a dinner that will knock my socks off for great food, service, and atmosphere. Would like to stay between Laguna and north of San Diego....flexible as far as money and menu goes.....where would YOU go?

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  1. Addison in the Grand Del Mar or Charlie Palmer in South Coast Plaza. Both great food, service, Addison has a better atmosphere.

    1. I have not been to Marche Moderne in South Coast, but it is generally considered the best in OC and is classic French, if that is your thing. I have been to Stonehill Tavern, and the food was fantastic. My favorite Sushi bar is San Shi Go on the Balboa Peninsula (not the one on PCH in Newport). Sit at the bar and let the chef go wild with an omakase menu. Tabu in Laguna is my favorite recent high end spot. The food was fantastic, but it is very small and noisy. Studio at the Montage is also supposed to be excellent, and I am pretty sure it has a view, but I have not been there either.

      For me, I would pick Tabu and then San Shi Go, both around $100pp. For more money, I would go to either Stonehill or try Studio. I have heard too many mixed reviews about Aqui and Charlie Palmer, and can't see spending tons on steak at the big chains or OC's own spots. The Hobbit is another possibility, but it get very mixed reviews, and seems to be more about the experience, with a menu stuck back a few decades. I drive past it frequently, and from the outside, you would never picture it as one of the old guard for fine dining in OC.

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      Hobbit
      2932 E. Chapman Avenue, Orange, CA 92869

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

      Studio
      30801 Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA

      Tabu Grill
      2892 S Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

      San Shi Go Sushi and Asian Cuisine
      205 Main St, Newport Beach, CA 92661

      Marche Moderne
      3333 Bristol Street, Suite 3001, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

      1. Based on your criteria location-wise, I'd recommend Studio at The Montage, for a very special birthday celebration.

        This all depends on the type of experience you're after of course. But as far as a top-drawer experience v.v. food, attention to service, accomodations and view, Studio would be pretty hard to beat in the southern OC.

        I haven't been to Stonehill Tavern, and haven't heard much about any changes (if any) since the new ownership of the St. Regis Monarch Beach. Have been to Studio, once for a special occasion, and all four in our party loved it.

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

        1. Hands down, I'd drive a touch up north to Disneyland's Grand Californian and take the Chef's Counter at Napa Rose. It's a food-lover's E-ticket. While I've been to Stonehill Tavern, I enjoyed Napa Rose more--esp w/the executive chef describing each course.

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          Napa Rose Restaurant
          1600 S Disneyland Dr, Anaheim, CA 92802

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

          10 Replies
          1. re: OCAnn

            Ann- I went to Napa Rose partially based on your rec and was really disappointed. I can see how the food could be good (ours that night was not); diver scallop was overcooked, salad a big nothing, and probably the only tough filet I've ever had for $45. Wine service was REALLY poor. Please don't serve me room-temp champagne, over-pour (I hate that and would have said something, however I was not hosting) and then when we order another bottle, waiter says it will be 20 minutes to chill? Part of good service is anticipating what the customer wants-take a chance and put another bottle on ice, especially when you can tell we are running low. Waiter did make a "turtle" out of the cap and cage, if that appeals to anyone.
            To be honest, if I want to spend $300 for dinner and have to drive 45 minutes, I rather just keep on driving up to LA. As for the atmosphere, be forewarned that it is freakishly bright and there are lots of kids/families.

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            Napa Rose Restaurant
            1600 S Disneyland Dr, Anaheim, CA 92802

            1. re: BubblyOne

              OMG...I'm so sorry you had such bad service! =( Did you sit at the counter?

              I've been to restaurants based on the strength of a review from here, only to be disappointed, and b/c it's CH, it makes it *that* much more disappointing. I feel your pain...and I wonder what led to such a disaster....

              1. re: OCAnn

                Not at the counter, dining room. Believe me, I really wanted to like the place. That being said, I would certainly go back for dinner if I was going to Disneyland/CA...just not a destination restaurant for me. And I would phone ahead to have them chill the champagne:)

                1. re: BubblyOne

                  I hope you try your next experience @ the counter; with the chef's eye on the area, my guess is that your experience will greatly improve. And note that if you want a quiet meal, the counter might not be for you, since you're facing the hustle & bustle of the kitchen (which was fun for us).

                  1. re: OCAnn

                    I just don't see the appeal of Napa Rose. I do love the building. It is as close to Yosemite's Ahwahnee in an urban environment, but the association with Disney ruins it for me. Maybe the chef's counter would be cool; I do like a cooking show with dinner and worked my way through college in restaurants and recently was helping a friend with his now defunct restaurant as an expediter. But I don't see how a please that big, that caters to that diverse a clientele, with that many uninterested kids in tow, could be great. Relative to Rainforest Cafe, it is French Laundry. But at those prices, Rainforest Cafe shouldn't be the benchmark.

                    Tabu has a counter facing the kitchen as well, and the folks sitting there seemed to be talking with the chefs. You might try that for a similar experience in a more intimate environment.

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                    Napa Rose Restaurant
                    1600 S Disneyland Dr, Anaheim, CA 92802

                    1. re: ocshooter

                      Tabu Grill is one of my favorites and fortunately very close. It's a great place to take beach visitors; so cozy and outstanding food.

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                      Tabu Grill
                      2892 S Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

                      1. re: ocshooter

                        If you enjoy an interactive tasting menu with the chef--the meals they create based on your likes/dislikes--is very fun. It's not for everyone; esp if you don't enjoy the energy of the kitchen and you're looking for a quiet meal (we saw one dish not make the pass). Mr OCAnn and I had a different 8-course tasting menu (16 different dishes) and we loved every moment and every bite. They made us feel special and service was impeccable. I read another review by someone who sat in the non-dining section and they weren't happy with their service (like BubblyOne). So perhaps the place to dine, if you go to Napa Rose, is the Chef's Counter.

                        The fact that it "caters to that diverse a clientele, with that many uninterested kids" is not a reflection of the restaurant, but its location. For adults who are exhausted after taking the kids thru D'land all day, I think this restaurant is a nice reward.

                        EDIT: BTW, thank you for the 411 on Tabu; we'll have to give it a try when we're in that part of town. =)

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                        Napa Rose Restaurant
                        1600 S Disneyland Dr, Anaheim, CA 92802

                        1. re: OCAnn

                          Oh, I agree completely that it is the location that drives the clientele. The one and only time I was there was in the dining room and everywhere we looked there were medium to large parties taking a break from the mouse house. Parents in shorts and T-shirts. Kids with their noses buried in PSPs or DVD players. To be fair, I also saw my vet there with his wife out for a nice dinner on the town that did not involve Disney.

                          Funny thing is that I will often steer people to Catal, and I expect that the same clientele would be there, but it does not bother me as much. I guess cost is the big issue. For that much money, I want an adult environment. That does not mean adults only, but I don't want to feel like I am in an upscale Denny's. Maybe I will have to try out the chef's counter and just block out the rest of the dining room.

                          1. re: ocshooter

                            What you said, minus the Denny's part.

                2. re: BubblyOne

                  Wow, I too am sorry to hear about your experience, I just have to say that my wife and I have been coming here for quite a few years now for special occasions, and have never been disappointed by the service, food or atmosphere. Maybe we've just been lucky, but it's been a long and strong record, for us. We love that there is a place of this caliber in OC, when in the past we felt we'd have to drive to LA for a top-tier experience.

                  I still love the LA restaurants and feel that generally it's going to be a more exciting eclectic community of fellow diners etc., but for an all-around great experience that's relatively close to home we're going with Napa Rose.

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                  Napa Rose Restaurant
                  1600 S Disneyland Dr, Anaheim, CA 92802