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Still searching for a good OC restaurant

I was spoiled living in LA with so many dining options. I haven't found a restaurant in the OC that have "wowed" me like the ones in LA. Can you help me out?

I've had: Pascals, pinot provence, black sheep, the hobbit, all the steakhouses, and of course the chains like Roys.

(If this helps, I liked the following LA restaurants: Lucques, AOC, Spago, Church & State.)

Thanks so much!

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AOC
8022 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048

Spago
176 North Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Lucques
8474 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90069

Church & State
1850 Industrial Street, Los Angeles, CA 90021

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  1. There have been many strong recommendations on this board for Marche Moderne and the Studio Restaurant at the Montage is also someplace you should check out.

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

    Studio
    30801 Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA

    1. I personally think that Marche Moderne can hold its own against any French restaurant in L.A. If your initial experience there didn't "wow" you, I suggest you give it another chance...perhaps having a tasting menu (which may require pre-ordering)...it will be amazing. Bluefin in Crystal Cove is quite excellent for sushi. Mastro's Steakhouse near South Coast Plaza is a terrific steakhouse (far better than L.A.'s CUT imho). If you like Vietnamese food, there are many superb choices in Little Saigon. Do a bit of searching on this site for specific recommendations (look for postings by Das Ubergeek...he really knows the OC Asian food scene). Also, you might check out some of the reviews on the Monster Munching blog http://elmomonster.blogspot.com/

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

      Mastro's Steakhouse
      633 Anton Blvd., Costa Mesa, CA 92626

      Bluefin Restaurant
      7952 E. Pacific Coastal Highway, Newport Beach, CA 92657

      1 Reply
      1. re: josephnl

        Bluefin is very good, but I still prefer the traditional offerings at on San Shi Go on Balboa. For non sushi, I love everything about Tabu, great food, fun vibe, good staff... For really high end there is Stonehill Tavern in addition to the aforementioned Studio.

        It is too bad you missed Aubergine by about a decade, that might have done the trick for you. To be honest, you are not going to find the same dining options here as you do in LA.

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

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

        Bluefin Restaurant
        7952 E. Pacific Coastal Highway, Newport Beach, CA 92657

      2. I third the Marche Moderne rec...

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

        1. I concur with the Marché Moderne recommendation and would add Raya at the Ritz in Dana Point.

          Which Pascal? The brasserie or Tradition?

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          Marché Moderne
          3333 Bristol Street, #3001, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

          1. My favorite LA restaurants are also Spago, AOC...

            Mesa is my favorite OC restaurant along those veins.

            9 Replies
            1. re: jaykayen

              A few other places you might want to try - Old Vine Cafe (very near Mesa, but it is so unpretenious that it does not strike me as very LA), Basilic, and Onotria. Marche Moderne, mentioned above, is absolutely tremendous, extremely consistent and still getting better (IMHO, it would thrive in any city). We also like Bamboo Bistro in Corona del Mar quite a lot. I can't really speak to your L.A. comparisons because we opted out of doing LA rests. a couple years back after spotty results on special occasions at some of the real big guns like Providence.

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

              Onotria Restaurant
              2831 Bristol St Ste A, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

              Basilic Restaurant
              217 Marine Ave, Newport Beach, CA 92662

              Bamboo Bistro
              2600 E Coast Hwy Ste 160, Corona Del Mar, CA 92625

              Old Vine Cafe
              2937 Bristol St, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

              1. re: lawdog262

                Not a huge fan of either OVC or MM. Maybe because I had OVC for breakfast and MM at lunch? They were just ok, food that I would make at home kind of thing.

                1. re: jaykayen

                  Do give MM another try at dinner. If you want something really over-the-top, pre order a tasting menu...you will be blown away by chef Florent's talent!

                  1. re: jaykayen

                    I'd recommend dinner or lunch @ OVC; very tasty. Looking @ their menu, I wouldn't venture there for b'fast.

                    As for OC's best b'fast, you'd have to go to Break of Dawn in Laguna Hills. Every time I go, I can't wait to return.

                    I like MM, but am not a huge fan. They have great cheese plates and charcuterie, but I'd pass on their escargot & mussels. They do some things better than others; you just have to know what to order.

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                    Break of Dawn
                    24351 Avenida De La Carlota Ste N6, Laguna Hills, CA 92653

                    1. re: OCAnn

                      I guess our tastes are different! I've had 3 or 4 breakfasts at Break of Dawn, and honestly am not terribly impressed. On the other hand, I've had some wonderful meals at Marche Moderne. About 6 weeks ago, we celebrated a special occasion there with another couple and ordered a tasting menu in advance. It was truly one of the very best meals any of us had eaten...from Siberian caviar, to fresh Tuscan truffles, to amazing fois gras, it was over the top...and all four of us have eaten at Michelin three star restaurants in Paris, Le Bernardin, Daniel and Jean-George's in New York, etc. I can understand not being impressed with MM perhaps at lunch, but dinner is a different story, especially if you pre-order a tasting menu.

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                      Break of Dawn
                      24351 Avenida De La Carlota Ste N6, Laguna Hills, CA 92653

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

                      1. re: josephnl

                        My experiences with Marche Moderne are more in line with OC Ann's. I've been about 5-6 times all during dinner and have not experienced the level of cuisine you have. It's good solid bistro fare with some dishes bordering on creative. Maybe it does take the the pre-ordered tasting menu to get something special.

                        I for one am hesitent to spend that much money on a tasting menu when they haven't really shined on the regular dinner service on multiple occasions. Having been to the same places you've listed, I disagree that they hang with LA's best much less than nation's best or Paris' best.

                        Back to the OP though, I agree, this is probably the best high end restaurant in the OC at this moment but I would probably pick AOC, Lucques, Spago, or Church and State 9 times out of 10 over Marche.

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

                        1. re: Porthos

                          I truly can't imagine that you would pick Church & State over MM, but I do respect your opinion. Nevertheless, the four of us who had the special tasting menu at MM recently all agreed that it was more creative and better executed than one we had a few years back at Le Bernardin in NY.

                          I do agree with OCAnn that you shouldn't have to pre-order a tasting menu to have a spectacular meal. I suspect that at least in OC, it is economically not feasible for a rather small restaurant to regularly carry fine caviar and/or freshly imported truffles. Although I personally think the food at MM is almost always very good, it only truly reaches its potential with tasting menus.

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                          Church & State
                          1850 Industrial Street, Los Angeles, CA 90021

                          1. re: josephnl

                            " I truly can't imagine that you would pick Church & State over MM, "

                            Well, I'm comparing dishes that both places do that are similar. The tarte flambee at both were equivalent from what I can remember. My negative Marche experiences have been with the very heavy and overly salted coq a vin and braised short ribs. This was not the case at Church and State. Some of the more creative and unusual dishes at Marche are superior in skill and prep to Church and State, I'll give you that but Church and State also has a lower price point.

                            So if I want simple bistro food, I will go for the more casual and just as good bistro fare at Church and State. If I want a little bit fancier, I'd rather go to some place like Bastide. MM tries to do both and in OC it works because there are no better options for either.

                            I guess my main problem with MM is the price point. It's good but with many entrees in the $30-$40pp range it doesn't make my list of places to go. Consider that $75 pp will get you 5 courses at Silverton's Mangiare in Famiglia at Mozza2go where I enjoyed every single dish and where the depth of flavor was far superior to any dish I've had at Marche (special Alsace dinner aside). $100 for 2ppl including 3 glasses of wine at Commonwealth in SF was much more creative and tasty than what can be found at Marche.

                            Marche is good and even great for OC, but the latter part of the statement is key.

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                            Bastide Restaurant
                            8475 Melrose Place, West Hollywood, CA 90069

                            Church & State
                            1850 Industrial Street, Los Angeles, CA 90021

                        2. re: josephnl

                          It was this thread that got me to go to & be a believer of BoD:
                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/674426

                          As for MM, they have service issues; they are hit or miss, not just for me, but for others here as well. As for food, their pig head-to-toe was really delicious; but again, it's their inconsistency that's problematic.

                          I too can say that I've eaten at the best places in Asia and Europe and up & down both coasts of the USA...but taste is subjective, restaurants can have an off day, and some places have die-hard fans. Which is why I've given MM half a dozen tries and can only recall twice that I thought the meals were truly great. It would be awesome if I had meals as great as that whole piggy last October; but it's been 1 for 3. It's just my opinion, but you shouldn't have to pre-order an unpublished tasting menu to get a fabulous meal from a restaurant. I know you and a few others absolutely love them, and one of these days, I will go back. =)