Gemmels in Dana Point
If we knew why they didn't like Studio, we could help you more. Was it the food, the cost, too big or what? I second the rec for Stonehill Tavern, but again it's sophisticated hotel dining, and the wine list is excellent.
I obviously need to try Gemmell's for dinner when Bryan is cooking, because I have to say our lunch there when someone else was in the kitchen was not memorable, same for the wine list, and the decor. I'd skip it for lunch.
My favorite food in an intimate dining room is Vine in San Clemente, and their wine list is very nice, but it's a little further south, only a few tables and books up quickly. In south Laguna, Mozambique is good, not too trendy or weird foodwise, but very well-prepared and excellent wine list and service, both upstairs (small plate casual) and down.
Admittedly, the first time we went to Studio, we thought the food was fantastic all around. However, the second trip was a let down - everyone agreed that the food was not very good.
I'm more than willing to concede that it was simply an off-night, but the dad argues that if he's going to spend that kind of money, he'd rather try some place new. Me, I'm just glad to get a free meal.
They also ate at Stonehill and thought it was just OK. Wow my parents sound snobby.
I think 162 or Gemmel's might have to be it. Price isn't an issue, although the lack of wine selection at Gemmel's may present a problem. In any case, I'll report on whatever restaurant we ultimately end up at and on how the food was.
Vastly different. Gemmells is a small comfy location in the middle of the harbor, no view, just very good food. If they are looking for event dining like Studio they may want to consider Stonehill Tavern in the St. Regis or 162 in the Ritz Carlton.
That being said I reccomend Gemmell's to anybody, especially for their Sea Bass. As far as their wine list goes it is good but not overwhelming. Did have a fantastic Star Hill Pinot there.
Anything on the menu, but if they're offering medallions of lamb or venison, go for it! And if Gemmell himself is cooking, you're really in luck. I can't figure out why more hounds don't frequent this place. Gemmell has been a premier chef in OC for years, but his previous choices of location haven't been so hot. This one seems to be the right pick.