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Saturday Lunch and Dinner in the OC?

uhockey Jun 28, 2013 08:05 PM

Heading to Orange County/Anaheim for a job interview in mid-July and have a few days to roam. Obviously the Marche Moderne, Napa Rose, White House types of places are safe options, but anything particularly interesting in the area for a Saturday Lunch or Dinner?



  1. uhockey Jul 16, 2013 09:08 PM

    Brief feedback for now; eventually will expand my thoughts:

    Old Vine Café - Nice little spot, excellent friendly service. The lamb meatloaf is excellent, as is the French toast. Cinnamon roll a bit too sweet.

    Blackmarket Bakery - Excellent bakery. Standouts are the Black Widow and Date Almond Bread Pudding. Blackstrap Betty Cookie was also really great.

    Playground 2.0 - a truly outstanding experience. $220 all-in for 25 courses and 8 beverage pairings. Great space, great chef, great food, and just a whole helluva lot of fun - probably the most fun I've had dining out in a few years, if not ever. The Wood Grilled Squab (I made a pig of myself here - ate 2.5 birds,) Crab Hot Dog, *Secret Ingredient* dish, and Watermelon dessert were even better than the rest, but honestly only the PEI mussel dish was less than impressive in my eye.

    SideCar - Possibly the best artisan doughnuttery in the US right now; either them or Doughnut Vault in Chicago. All were good but Monte Cristo, Cornbread with Chive and Mt. Tam, and Peach and Chamomille Cream stood out.

    Cream Pan - Decent. Cheap. Liked the Cream Pan, less so the croissant (Strawberry and Almond.) Azuki Cream is excellent.

    Playground Brunch - 2.0 was so good that I went back for brunch. Ordered way too much but was really impressed by Tyler's Cornbread, Fried French Toast with Summer Berry Compote, and Ricotta. Most surprising and wowing, however, was the Mazumen Ramen with Wagyu Fat, Oxtail, Lime, Togarashi, Slow Egg, Beautiful Soy. So fatty and so awesome.

    Pizzeria Mozza - Mozzarella di bufala , DiNapoli tomato, Genovese basil & olive oil...done deal.

    Marche Moderne - terribly disappointing. Soft Shell was not fresh, the truffled cheese sandwich forgettable, and bouillabaisse overpriced ($50) though quite good. Duck was an exception - very well done.

    85 Degrees - liked this better than Cream Pan. Taro Bun, Salty Iced Coffee, Maple Toast, and Mochi Egg Custards (waited around for warm ones) plus the raisin milk bun all impressed.

    Plum’s - Dutch Baby was good, but the blueberry almond French toast Bread Pudding was better.

    Pizzeria Ortica - Pizza isn't Mozza quality, but the gnocchi was good, the "pork belly butter" was ridiculously decadent, and the baba au rhum is a must


    6 Replies
    1. re: uhockey
      Porthos Jul 16, 2013 09:18 PM

      Strong work! Glad you liked IO at Playground.

      PG is crushing it these days.

      1. re: Porthos
        yangster Jul 16, 2013 09:34 PM

        Glad you enjoyed it. I'm looking forward to the full review.

        I'm in complete agreement with Porthos about Playground...I'd go almost every day if I lived closer (and didn't have a laundry list of other restaurants I want to visit). If I actually drank, I'd do IO myself...I'll just have to settle for enjoying it vicariously through others.

        1. re: yangster
          uhockey Jul 17, 2013 05:35 AM

          yangster - you should go anyhow. I drank perhaps a sip of each beverage (aside from the Pimms and Pina Colada which I finished) and really enjoyed it all. it is still a GREAT deal sans booze.


          1. re: uhockey
            yangster Jul 17, 2013 07:06 AM

            I did that once...Ryan Carson had one of his pop-ups in the IO space. When I made the reservation, beverage paring wasn't specified as mandatory, but that changed a few days before so I ended up doing what you just suggested.

            The main issue has always been whether or not the meal is considered 'worth it' if I'm not going to be drinking all that much. But I'll definitely consider it in the future.

            1. re: yangster
              Porthos Jul 17, 2013 07:13 AM

              The mandatory beverage pairing is why I haven't gone yet. I would prefer they drop the price $50-60pp and allow BYO. As for "worth it" it's hard to beat $50-80pp next door at PG ordering everything you want with zero corkage.

              1. re: Porthos
                uhockey Jul 17, 2013 07:10 PM

                He explained why they don't allow BYO at the IO and I agree with him. Largely a field of equality.

                The food and fun definitely justify the cost, booze or no.


    2. m
      mrsjoujou Jun 29, 2013 04:29 PM

      I hope you get the job. Arizona is too hot and we need your input in OC/LA board. If you go to Marche Moderne skip the Prix FIxe lunch. We had it last week and it was not good at all. It used to be much better.

      4 Replies
      1. re: mrsjoujou
        uhockey Jun 29, 2013 05:23 PM

        Thank you. :-)

        As it stands, I'll likely be leaving Arizona either way, the decision becomes where I shall end up, though the job I'll be interviewing for is at the moment my most desired.

        fwiw, I've emailed Playground IO and even if I don't get in I'll likely have feedback on them since it looks to be my top choice for 7/13.


        1. re: uhockey
          Searching4Dunny Jun 29, 2013 07:55 PM

          For breakfast pastries I (and many on here) would recommend Cream Pan. Hours: Mon-Sun 6 am - 5:30 pm

          Japanese bakery known for their strawberry croissants among other items.

          1. re: uhockey
            yangster Jun 29, 2013 10:53 PM

            Hope you get the reservation...glad the dates fit your trip. I wasn't sure when you would be in town so I included all the dates in my email.

            Either way, I'm looking forward to seeing your thoughts on the places you visit.

            1. re: yangster
              uhockey Jul 6, 2013 06:03 PM

              I'll be there next Saturday - looks to be a good time.


        2. Porthos Jun 28, 2013 08:26 PM

          Playground is the most interesting these days. Gastro pub. Incredible beer list. Fried chicken buffalo wing style is superb and the bread pudding is insanely good.

          They do a multicourse omakase at IO next door. Right up your alley.

          Give Pizzeria Ortica a try if you like Neapolitan style pizza. The fresh pastas are also good. There is also a Pizzeria Mozza down here now.

          Casa Inka in Fountain Valley has good Peruvian food. Try the beef seco. It's delicious. Pescado a lo macho is also good if you prefer seafood.

          I know you don't like Japanese food as much so I'll spare you those recs. However, Tsurahashi does have really good grilled beef parts.

          Bella Cuba has great Cuban. Try the braised oxtail if you're looking for something interesting and delicious.

          If you have to go safe, do Marche and skip the other two.

          However, Playground's IO (Invite Only) is your huckleberry.

          8 Replies
          1. re: Porthos
            uhockey Jun 28, 2013 09:10 PM

            ...I'm not sure where I said I don't like Japanese food; I just don't find very good stuff in Central Ohio or (worse) Phoenix. I loved Shunji, Raku Vegas, and Taro DC. I generally don't seek out beef - so perhaps tat is where you got the idea?

            How does one get invited to the invite only (or Club 33 at Disney, for that matter?)


            1. re: uhockey
              Porthos Jun 28, 2013 09:31 PM

              Think you mentioned somewhere about not wanting to spend on high end sushi due to cost benefit ratio. It was from 2011 so maybe things have changed drastically.


              In that case, Ramen Zetton for their Tsukemen is one I just discovered myself recently.

              Kasen does very traditional high quality sushi. Simple stuff but good.

              For IO, the waiters at Playground invite you if you're an adventurous eater. But honestly I don't know how they keep track. Email me, I'll try to get you the number.


              1. re: Porthos
                uhockey Jun 29, 2013 08:29 AM

                Ah, well, it wasn't a dislike for Japanese, but rather that I didn't have the experience to differentiate $100 sushi from $400 sushi. The thing is, in Los Angeles the sushi is all quite excellent, so it is less a risk.

                Really like the look of the Cuban place you posted so I may check that for a lunch. Actually, may consider not even driving up to LA and just staying in OC all three days to get a lay of the land.

                I've totally misplaced your e-mail...


                1. re: uhockey
                  Porthos Jun 29, 2013 08:19 PM

                  I only go to LA for Red Medicine, Sotto, and Shunji these days. And LQ and Vertical in Pasadena come end of July.

                  Between Shuck, Playground, IO, Tsuruhashi, Pizzeria Ortica, Pizza e Vino, Bella Cuba, Ramen Zetton...there is no need to head up to LA in a 3 day period. It would also be a good time for you to explore Westminster: pho, house special lobster, broken rice plates, 7 courses of beef...

                  1. re: Porthos
                    uhockey Jun 29, 2013 09:49 PM

                    Any thoughts on Lien Hoa for the Peking Duck?


                    1. re: uhockey
                      Professor Salt Jul 6, 2013 10:31 PM

                      Lien Hoa doesn't do Peking duck. They do roasted Cantonese-style duck. It's also a to-go takeout joint, not a sit-down restaurant. They do good versions of Cantonese roasted meat (crispy skinned whole pig, ribs, duck, chicken, etc)

              2. re: uhockey
                Porthos Jun 28, 2013 11:09 PM

                Almost forgot, there is Shuck Oyster bar which serves 15 types of oysters. The fried oysters are also excellent. It's BYO.

                Months with "R" rule doesn't really apply these days so it's all good.

                1. re: Porthos
                  uhockey Jun 29, 2013 09:05 AM

                  Will definitely look into this as well.

                  Looking for a decent Sunday Brunch/Lunch place, as well.


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