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Visiting Costa Mesa and would appreciate your comments on my selection of restaurants

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Hello all

I'm from Toronto, Canada and will travel to Costa Mesa for two weeks on business. I'll stay at the Hilton Orange County/Costa Mesa and will have a car during my stay. My dinner budget is up to US$40 (tax and tip included), but I am willing to spend up to US$100 if the food is outstanding.

I like all sorts of cuisine, as long as the food is REALLY good. I particularly enjoy good traditional Japanese food. Recently I worked in San Diego for a couple of months, and my favorite restaurants there were Sushi Ota (I miss Ota-san's omakase), Market Restaurant and Bar, and George's California Modern.

Comments and suggestions on my list of restaurants is much appreciated.

Marche Moderne
Kasen
Nana San
San Shi Go
Basilic (Newport Beach)
Habana (?)

Thanks for your input!

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  1. I've been to Marche Moderne and really like it. Habana's is ok but I don't think it's great.

    I would add a Vietnamese restaurant to the list since you'll be close to some of the best Vietnamese restaurants in CA.

    If you want a nice restaurant, there's Anqi at South Coast Plaza. Not really authentic but cool and trendy atmosphere with good cocktails and tasty food.

    For more of an authentic Vietnamese restaurant, there's Chateau Brodard (nice interior and authentic food esp the papaya salad and spring rolls).

    I've heard good things about Ohshima in Orange too for traditional sushi.

    1 Reply
    1. re: annabananaoc

      Thanks for suggesting Ohshima, Anna. It seems like a great place. I'll add it to my list.

    2. Your Marche and Kasen choices are spot on.
      I would add Pizzeria Ortica and Pizzeria Mozza to the list.

      You're in luck regarding Japanese food. You can do a ramen tasting at Yamadaya vs Jinya. At Yamadaya it's worth trying all 3 soups: tonkotsu, shio, and shoyu (different visits of course). At Jinya, the chicken broth. Jinya is closed on Tuesdays even though the sign and yelp say otherwise. If you get any lunches off, you can also try Santouka in the Mitsuwa shopping center right next to your hotel for ramen. I haven't been back since Yamadaya and Jinya opened though.

      There is Japanese style BBQ at Tsuruhashi.

      Kappo Honda has okay izakaya but honestly I suck it up and make the drive to Torrance for Torihei.

      Fukada in Irvine is killer for soba and udon. Expect a 15-30 min wait all times.

      Don't forget to search the board for Vietnamese food in Westminster. There is Pho 86 and Pho Thanh Lich for pho, Trieu Chau on 1st and Newhope for their house special noodles. In the same plaza is Newport Seafood. Their house special lobster is a must. Messy but you'll dream about it after you leave. I'll leave the other Vietnamese recs to some of the experts.

      25 Replies
      1. re: Porthos

        I'll 2nd Tsuruhashi and recommend Shin Sen Gumi for Robata & Yakitori.

        1. re: JAB

          Thanks for suggesting Tsuruhashi, Porthos and JAB. Initially I was not looking into BBQ places, but seems like it is a great restaurant. Another addition to the list!

          1. re: JAB

            Definitely add Shin Sen Gumi for yakatori. They have a ramen place next door, but I have never been. Honda Ya in Tustin is the sister to Kappo Honda (or is it the other way around) and about the same distance.

            San Shi Go on the Peninsula is my favorite sushi place, but I expect to spend at least $100 there, but then I eat a lot, and almost all of it expensive.

            For Vietnamese, I would save the money and go to Brodard an not Brodard Chateau. The Chateau is good and it plays up the French influence in the cuisine, but I prefer the simpler (and much cheaper) food at the other restaurant. I also heartily recommend Trieu Chau.

            1. re: ocshooter

              "I also heartily recommend Trieu Chau."

              Only if you're willing to go there at 7am and stand in line with dozens of old vietnamese people.

              No point in going there later because they run out of chinese donuts by then.

              1. re: ns1

                I never get the Chinese donuts. The duck leg, chicken, pork over noodles in soup is enough to make me a fan. Add a side of pork bone soup if you need something else. IMO the donuts are hard and unimpressive anyways by Taiwanese donut standards.

                1. re: Porthos

                  They are pretty amazing by vietnamese chinese donut standards. I mean seriously if you can find better in little saigon I'm all ears.

                  1. re: ns1

                    You're saying the donuts are the star there and there's no point going if they don't have it. I cannot disagree more. That place is packed at lunchtime all the time with people waiting for their noodle dishes. The most popular of which is the house special noodles. The noodles, the broth, the bits of pork fat floating in your soup, the pork bones and the meat buffet in a bowl is what makes that place shine. Hundreds of people a day don't care if they have donuts or not. Count me as one of those hundreds.

                    Just look over the yelp photos:

                    http://www.yelp.com/biz/trieu-chau-sa...

                    1. re: Porthos

                      Meh, I like to eat chinese donuts with my noodles. I love them for the textural contrast.

                      I can't get chinese donuts unless I end up at TC before 9am. Therefore, based on my dining preferences, I won't go to TC unless I can go there before 9am.

                      YMMV

                      That better? ;)

                      (still waiting for that rec for better chinese donuts in little saigon)

                      1. re: ns1

                        Why does it have to be Little Saigon? You don't go to Little Saigon for fried chinese donuts. It's not LIttle Saigon's strong suit. Which is why it doesn't matter if they have it at Trieu Chau or not.

                        You're closer to SGV and Monterey Park anyways. Just go up there for Taiwanese donuts. Freshly fried. Not plucked out of a brown paper bag, and then recycled into said paper bag if not consumed.

                        The OP will still have a great bowl of noodles without those donuts.

                        1. re: Porthos

                          I live in NoHo now, but I lived in Santa Ana for 21 years and I still go there to visit my parents. I only go to TC when I'm in Santa Ana - it's actually only 15 minutes away from my parent's house. When you want chinese donuts you want chinese donuts (when making congee, for instance), and I'm not driving to 626 from 714 just for chinese donuts.

                          So got a good rec for Taiwanese donuts in SGV?

                          Sorry for hijacking your thread OP ;)

                          1. re: ns1

                            We had this discussion on Dec. 7, 2010.

                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/341312

                            Incidentally it's an awesome Best of Little Saigon thread for the OP.

                            1. re: Porthos

                              LOL you must pardon my memory. When you're a forum whore it's hard to remember where you've been.

                              Lots of Yung Ho downhill reports on Yelp. I'll probably check it out when I'm in the area anyway. I go to Kim Ky Noodle House in the SGV when I can, but as of late I've been eating boatloads of thai noodles and japanese noodles instead

                    2. re: ns1

                      I've had them, and they're good, but Kang Lac Bakery is almost as good and never as annoying.

                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                        Stopped going to Kang Lac years ago when their cafe sua da started getting way too sweet.

                  2. re: ns1

                    I have never had the donuts. I love the duck and noodles. I don't care if I never get the donuts as long as they keep serving the duck.

                    1. re: ocshooter

                      That's what I'm saying. Duck is outstanding.

                      Have you tried the house special noodles? You get duck, chicken 2 ways, slice of pork, pork meatballs (you can substitute for fish if you ask) and ground fatty pork bits. There is 1 slice of liver in there which I just remove. Add a healthy dose of the satay chile sauce. A squeeze of lime. Addictive.

                      1. re: Porthos

                        I'll concede the point ;)

                        1. re: ns1

                          No worries. No self congratulatory douchebaggery high fiving from me. ;)

                          I would just hate for the OP to miss out on such a delicious bowl of noodles because you love the donuts so much. After all, you're not knocking the noodles you're just enamored with the donuts! :)

                          1. re: Porthos

                            "After all, you're not knocking the noodles you're just enamored with the donuts! :)"

                            Guilty as charged

                        2. re: Porthos

                          I don't eat pork, so when I can get duck all alone, I am a very happy man. And if you are getting duck, why would you really want to have chicken share the same plate?

                          1. re: ocshooter

                            It's all so good...

                            1. re: Porthos

                              I usually only eat pho during winter time, but after such a long thread on Trieu Chau, I added it to the restaurant list. Now I just have to figure out how to get there before they close at 5 PM!! Why do they close for dinner?

                              1. re: tjunmin

                                They're a breakfast place... and when you see the neighbourhood you'll understand part of the reason.

                                1. re: tjunmin

                                  Trieu Chau does so much business during breakfast and lunch 7 days a week they don't have to be open for dinner. Plus, those guys have already put in a hectic 10 hour day by 5pm.

                        3. re: ns1

                          Btw, was there from 1030-11am today. They still had plenty of donuts when I left. Some guy did walk in and pick up an entire bag of them though. Maybe that was you? ;)

                  3. Santouka Ramen in the Mitsuwa shopping center. Closes at 7pm I think.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Jigsaw

                      the one in irvine closes at 8:30, but the place is small

                    2. Thanks all for your thoughtful replies.

                      My revised restaurant list is:

                      Basilic
                      Brodard
                      Kasen
                      Marche Moderne
                      Ohshima
                      San Shi Go
                      Tan Cang
                      Trieu Chau
                      Tsuruhashi

                      I'm looking forward to exploring your favorite places!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: tjunmin

                        Don't know anything about Basilic but the rest of your list is very solid.

                        Kasen can push your price limit. You can ask for omakase and give him a limit. You should be able to get a nice selection for $80.

                        The lobster at Tan Cang doesn't come smaller than 4-5 lbs @ around $15-16/lb so 1 lobster dish is pretty much all you'll need there. Sign says cash only but they have a credit card machine.

                        You are missing a ramen joint though. I would recommend Yamadaya. Get the tonkotsu soup base with the Yamadaya toppings on your first visit. Maybe combo it with their karaage and fried rice if you have a healthy appetite. If you like it, you should even consider going back to try their other flavors such as premium shio or premium shoyu.

                      2. Thanks again for everybody's replies. Here is an account of my food exploits in OC.

                        This is the list of restaurants I actually went to during my visit - I did not get to choose some of them:

                        1. Gen Korean BBQ (Tustin): quantity over quality; you get what you pay for
                        2. Marche Moderne: ordered the tasting menu; outstanding service; innovative cuisine with mixed (unsatisfactory) results
                        3. Kasen: the omakase was a huge disappointment; maybe they were having an off day; sashimi was good but the sushi was a let down
                        4. Ohshima: had omakase three times here at the sushi bar with Shige-san; wonderful sushi; highly recommend it
                        5. Getty Villa Cafe: considering it is a museum restaurant, it was a reasonable experience; I recall the restaurant at the Getty Center - when I visited last year - offered superior food
                        6. Gladstones (Malibu): I was expecting a lousy experience, considering how touristy it feels like, but the food was actually tasty
                        7. Tsuruhashi: Yukke was delicious; Kobe short rib was very (too) fatty; Kobe prime rib eye was tasty and had the right amount of fat
                        8. Brodard: nem nuong cuon and chao tom cuon were good but not enough to bring me back to this restaurant
                        9. Mastro's Ocean Club (Newport Beach): superb service, outstanding food quality and preparation, nice ambiance
                        10. The Cannery (Newport Beach): the food I ordered was forgetable, but others in my party enjoyed theirs; maybe I chose the wrong dishes
                        11. Fogo de Chao (Beverly Hills): friendly service, freshly baked cheese bread (pao de queijo) was heavenly, banana used in the caramelized bananas side dish was not ripe, good salad bar, tasty meats - although Fogo de Chao in Chicago offers better (more tender) beef ribs (beef ribs is not on the menu, you have to know about it and ask for it)

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: tjunmin

                          Thanks for reporting back!

                          Sorry you didn't like the sushi at Kasen? What didn't you like about it?

                          Interestingly, I just got a message less than 10 minutes ago from some who I recommended Kasen to. It read: Best. Toro. Ever.

                          Can't win them all. ;)