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Orange County - Costa Mesa - 4 Days - Highlights

Hello All,

I am a fellow Chowhounder from Dallas and I have a close friend that will be travelling to OC (particularly Costa Mesa) this next week for four days. I have done some preliminary research but I do have some stipulations to the request for Chow-worthy recommendations.

My friend cannot have pork of any kind, he is Muslim. I know OC is the largest area for Vietnamese (Westminster) and most of the dishes are pork based are there any places worth seeking out that offer chicken, beef or seafood? He is also really into craft beer and has his own store in the Dallas metroplex so anyplace that has an extensive rare bottle list or extensive tap selection would be ideal. He is already planning on hitting up High Time Wine Cellar, El Cerrito Market and Liquor, and The Bruery for his beer run.

Here is what I have narrowed down some options to already and I need some guidance and discussion over some of the options.

Mexican – We have good Mexican in Dallas but none that are really upscale or pushing the typical offerings
Taco Asylum
Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen

American – Solid beer selections at each
Haven Gastropub
Playground

Ramen – just need one, which is the best and most consistent. It is a toss up which is best from the boards.
Yamadaya
Jinya
Santouka

Vietnamese
Pho Bolsa for Pho Ga
Any other recs for any beef, chicken or seafood?

Sushi
Sushi Wasabi in Tustin – I like the no rolls policy
Any others? Good sushi is hard to come by in DFW for the most part. Looking for a place that focuses on the quality and freshness of the products/seasonality served rather than price or popularity.

Any good bakeries or donut shops in OC close to Costa Mesa for breakfast? Breakfast burrito options not heavy on the pork offerings?

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  1. Re beer, he should hit up Goat Hill Tavern.

    1. I like the sushi at Bluefin in Newport Beach a lot. The owner/chef is a Nobu alumnus and the food is expensive, but everything is first-rate. They do serve rolls, but of course you don't have to order them.

      Marché Moderne in Costa Mesa is a terrific upscale French bistro. It's certainly one of OC's best restaurants, if not the best!

      There are 2 excellent restaurants for pizza (and other Italian foods) nearby. Pizzeria Ortica is in Costa Mesa, and Pizzeria Mozza is in Newport Beach.

      1. No pork but, alcohol yes?

        1. Looks like you've done your research.

          Playyground has a great beer selection. Get the fried chicken and live scallops if you see them. I'm not a dessert kind of guy but the toffee fig bread pudding is absurd good.

          Ramen; Yamadaya. Get the all stars topping. Combo with fried rice and fried chicken.

          Pho: Pho Thanh Lich gets you both filet mignon pho and chicken pho.

          Sushi: Kasen. Highest quality. About $80-$100pp. More traditional and higher quality than Blue Fin which I frequent. Cost is same or less than Blue Fin.

          I second the Mozza and Ortica rec by josephnl.

          6 Replies
          1. re: Porthos

            Just got back from Kasen. Here is what at $69 omakase got me today:

            Tai with salt and lemon
            Hirame no konbu jime (halibut marinated in kelp)
            Kohada
            Shima-aji
            Blue fin tuna- lean cut
            Uni
            Mirugai
            Aji
            O-toro: pink with 50% marbling. As fine as I have seen including Urasawa.
            Anago
            O-toro roll
            Tamago
            Soup

            Of course my bill was much higher due to me getting 2 glasses of Kubota Manju @ $35 each and a couple bottles of Asahi Amber.

            Point being, if you stick with hot tea, and don't over do it on the amazing toro, Kasen actually comes out to be quite reasonable.

            1. re: Porthos

              I have both Mozza and Ortica on his list. In the essence of time and you could only hit one, which would it be?

              1. re: LewisvilleHounder

                I would personally go to Mozza. The pizza is wonderful, and there are some terrific starters...although I have difficulty getting past Nancy's Chopped Salad, which is wonderful. I should comment though, that I think there are some other CH's who prefer Ortica...and I do value their opinion. Both are very good.

                Do seriously consider Marche Moderne for one dinner. It would be a shame to miss this restaurant, that is, if you would enjoy an upscale French bistro type of meal.

                1. re: LewisvilleHounder

                  Mozza is crispy crust. If you're going on a Saturday, get the chicken, sausage, and peppers. Your friend can pick around the sausage I hope?

                  The pizza at Ortica is Neapolitan style which means chewy crust with a floppy wet center. Ortica also does some fine fresh pastas with lamb ragu and bolognese if you're into that sort of thing.

                  Depends what kind of pizza you like. They're different enough that you could do both if you have the time.

                  1. re: Porthos

                    Thanks Porthos for clarifying this. I knew you would.
                    Also, I have gone to Mozza with a friend who does not eat pork...and they have been very accommodating about making a pizza with sausage on only one half! Also they have split a Nancy's salad for us, with the salami on the side. Perhaps it depends on the server, or how busy they are, but they've been very nice about reasonable special requests.

                    Haven't been yet, but I hear that Playground is a bit "over to top" regarding any special requests (including leaving an unwanted garnish off a plate or refusing to serve a piece of lemon with a guest's hefweizen)!

                    1. re: josephnl

                      Playground is excellent. The fried chicken is outstanding and the food bests many of LA's darlings. I wouldn't let some heresy deter you. They had no problems accomodating our party of 15 and all the requests that come with a party that size. Big bonus is a beyond generous no corkage policy with no bottle limits. It may be a bit loud for you though ;)

              2. Second GoatHill tavern!! You'd love it!

                BIG NO to bluefin. Sushi Wasabi is much better but the top picks for sushi IMO are Kasen, Ohshima, Shibucho, Nana San and Ikko. Those five are all amazing in different ways, all traditional style like you want and all have great quality fish across the board.

                Breakfast burritos: I'm from San Diego (AKA the Land of Burritos) and the place that reminds me of home is Albatros in Lake Forest. I've yet to find better outside SD. I get mine with bacon, fries, beans, eggs and cheese. Fries are key!!

                I like Jinya best for ramen. I'll tell you straight up that the popular consensus is Yamadaya is the best, but I think if more people tried the new Tokyo Tonkotsu with Bonito broth Jinya just started offering, I think you'd see a LOT of converts.

                1 Reply
                1. re: BrewNChow

                  Re Jinya, the broth is fine. The noodles get soft after 2-3 minutes. That's a fatal flaw for me.