I will plug my favorite sushi bar, San Shi Go, on the Balboa Peninsula.
San Shi Go Sushi and Asian Cuisine
205 Main St, Newport Beach, CA 92661
il dolce at harbor and 19th in costa mesa (for incredible pizza and salads... i can do without the rest of the stuff)
25 degrees in huntington beach
get a burger and frozen custard at the macy's signature kitchen at south coast plaza (in the macy's home store)
teriyaki jet on the balboa peninsula (verrrry casual... like think lunchtime. former line cook at marche moderne i believe)
crab cooker on balboa peninsula (or maybebear flag fish company). cc is kind of an institution.
for a great chicken kabob (and other things) panini cafe in corona del mar
pacific whey bakery (crystal cove or newport/san miguel area)
sushi shibucho in costa mesa
sushi wasabi in tustin (more $$$ but not fancy)
epicerie pascal for lunch
there are a bunch of corporate places that can be very tasty, but not imho very special: i like gulfstream, bandera, true food kitchen well enough.
feel free to ping me if you're willing to travel a little bit
Try 3 Thirty 3! http://www.yelp.com/biz/3-thirty-3-newport-beach
Also if you wish to venture a little out of Newport Beach, try Fashion Island. Gulfstream there is delicious! I forgot to mention Habana ( http://www.yelp.com/biz/habana-costa-... ) restaurant in Costa Mesa.
3 Thirty 3
333 Bayside Dr, Newport Beach, CA 92660
850 Avocado Ave, Newport Beach, CA 92660
Although I love the Beachcomber for its wonderful location (it's right on the beach), it's food is ok, perhaps even pretty good, but certainly not "great" as the op has requested.
The best restaurant in the area is, IMO, Marche Moderne at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa. They serve terrific French food, and really exceptional tasting menus.
If you like sushi, Bluefin in Crystal Cove, Newport Beach is an excellent choice.
Far more casual, but usually very good are the Side Door gastropub in Corona del Mar, and Sage in the Eastbluff center.
If you're willing to drive about 20-30 minutes and want something somewhat more upscale, Raya at the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel has an amazing setting, and delicious nueva Latina cuisine.
7952 E Pacific Coast Hwy, Newport Beach, CA 92660
3333 Bristol St 3001, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Two others I would consider are Rothschild's on PCH in Corona del Mar...sort of old fashioned ( it's been around forever), but very pleasant sort of romantic atmosphere, and very nice Italian food. Also, if you want a great steal (and don't mind noise too much), Mastro's is great...especially the Costa Mesa location.
2087 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks, CA 91362
Thanks for your help. We did go to Marche moderne and it was delicious. We also dined at first cabin because we were staying one night at Balboa bay club and that was pleasant because we were outside. The food was good but imo not spectacular. We also had a great italian at fashion island...cant remember the name!