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LAGUNA BEACH - place for special dinner

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I'm looking for a restaurant using fresh high quality local ingredients with some creativity. The quality of the food is more important than a trendy scene as we're coming from New York to take my mother out for her birthday.

A view would be nice plus but doesn't necessarily have to. California cuisine would be great but could be other regional American, French or Italian. Last year, we went to Stonehill Tavern and prior year, we chose Montage.

From the posts I've read, I am considering the following however, I've read mixed opinions about all of them:

Watermarc
230 Forest Avenue
Nirvanna Grille
Tabu Grille

Open to other ideas.....

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230 Forest Avenue Restaurant
230 Forest Ave, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

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

Watermarc
448 S Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

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  1. I think Sapphire on PCH is a good option as well. I prefer 230 Forest Ave to Watermarc.

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    Watermarc
    448 S Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

    3 Replies
    1. re: Searching4Dunny

      None of your options will have the elegant ambiance of the Montage or Stonehill. However, Tabu Grill does have excellent food, and would likely be your best bet for a special dinner...unless you want to drive to Costa Mesa where Marche Moderne can be truly outstanding, especially if you talk with them in advance to do a special tasting menu.

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

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

      1. re: josephnl

        +1 for Tabu Grill, maybe not as elegant, but very Laguna in the best way. I've been to all the spots you've mentioned in the last year except Nirvanna and I think Tabu has the best food. Take a hotel break. You could have a cocktail at Dizz's As Is (converted 20's roadhouse) beforehand and walk the block over to Tabu as well.

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

      2. re: Searching4Dunny

        Do you prefer 230 Forest Ave or Sapphire???

      3. I don't want to assume something that may not prove to be true. You say you ate at the Montage. Did you eat at their Studio restaurant or did you eat at the Loft by some chance? If you didn't eat at Studio then that would be the first place I would recommend.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Servorg

          Yes, we loved Studio....and Stonehill Tavern....just want to try something different since we're coming from New York.

        2. We ate at Nirvana about a year ago, with relatives that live in Laguna, it's one of their usual places. We were very happy with the food and service.

          1. Not directly in Laguna Beach but not far either—have you considered Sol del Sur? Creativity and high quality local ingredients...

            (Thanks, Chowhound. The one time I actually DO want you to tag a place, you fail.)

            Location: 31115 Rancho Viejo Rd. (in the Marbella shopping centre), San Juan Capistrano.

            6 Replies
            1. re: Das Ubergeek

              If you didn't add it Das then either someone else did after you griped, or it was there all along (because it popped right up when I looked for it)?

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              Sol Del Sur Bistro
              31115 Rancho Viejo Rd, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675

              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                Have not been there, but it sounds really good. Is is ver noisy? Do the have a full bar?

                1. re: josephnl

                  It is not noisy at all, and it's beer and wine only.

                2. re: Das Ubergeek

                  OK I only need ONE Which one is best???
                  Sol del Sur
                  Sapphire
                  230 Forrest Avenue

                  1. re: nyperr

                    My vote goes to Sapphire. Slight ocean view when you sit on the patio. Great cocktails and better food (IMO) than 230 Forrest Ave. Never been to Sol del Sur so I can't comment on it.

                    1. re: Searching4Dunny

                      I haven't been to Sapphire. I'd put Sol del Sur over 230 Forest (one R), but honestly either will do you fine. Look at menus and determine which appeals to you more.

                3. I prefer 230 Forest to Watermarc as well. I found Watermarc to be more expensive without a jump in quality. But neither of them were particularly special. I have not been to the Nirvana in Laguna, but the one in Mission Viejo was just OK. Tabu, however, is fantastic. Not cheap, but far less expensive than Stonehill or Studio, but also a lot less formal. Tabu to me feels more like it belongs in San Francisco. Tight tables, a small open kitchen with counter seating, and a small menu where the options all look excellent. No view though.

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                  Watermarc
                  448 S Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

                  1. Just read about Alessa - new in Laguna but has other locations in OC...any reviews?

                    Which one is best?

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: nyperr

                      I haven't been to the new one in Laguna, but I prefer the one in Huntington Beach to the one in Newport Beach. Larger, warmer service, nicer atmosphere.