Special Occasion Dinner OC
4th Anniversary coming up, where to? Budget is maybe around $100 before tax and tip so somewhere like Studio at the Montage is out. Maybe somewhere new? Some places we've already been:
Pizzeria Mozza (Ortica and Ecco too)
At a loss for more options besides The Ranch and Napa Rose?
I highly recommend Marche Moderne. My husband and I had a celebration dinner there last fall and it was exceptional. The food was top notch and the service was attentive and friendly, but not overbearing.
Two of the highlights were the Charcuterie and the Coq au Vin. We rounded out the evening with a couple of cheeses that were stellar.
I know some people are troubled that it is in the South Coast Plaza Mall, but we parked on the same level as the restaurant, walked in, and were in another world. On the way out, it was an interesting feel walking past the closed shops and literally having the whole mall to yourself to window shop.
Tabu in Laguna Beach. At $100 pp you are going to be right there, unless you like a lot of wine.
There is no way I would recommend Napa Rose for a special occasion. I have read recommendations for the tasting counter, bu the place is huge and filled with large groups of tourists with kids in tow fresh out of the House of Mouse. Not my idea for a special occasion dinner.
Other options you might consider are Golden Truffle and K'ya in Laguna (have cocktails at the rooftop bar before dinner). If you don't mind the din, you can also try Watermark in Laguna. For me, I thought it was overpriced and nothing special, but I have seen severl favorable mentions, so I thought I would toss that out.
Stonehill Tavern at St. Regis may be above budget but their fried chicken meal for two would fit (but this may not be anniversary type food).
Also, Charlie Palmer at South Coast Plaza is nice place, though I haven't been impressed with the food the last few times I went.
Easily Marche. $15 corkage. Start with a glass of champagne each. Be sure to get an order of langoustine each. Too good to share. Seriously.
For something not on your list, Bluefin in Newport Coast. Sit at the bar. Order omakase with both cooked and sushi items. Very nice ambiance for a sushi restaurant.