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|After decades of languishing in the shadows of Los Angeles, the Orange County food scene has as of late been able to craft a strong identity all its own. Find out GAYOT's picks for the 10 Must-Visit Restaurants in Orange County.
Moulin, a cafe designed to capture the feel of a vintage French bistro, has opened its doors. The Newport Beach venue serves up iterations of classic French cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as prepared by the venue’s native French executive chef Anthony Bar. Dishes range from savory crêpes stuffed with rotisserie chicken and steak frites to classics like coq au vin and boeuf bourguignon. The venue also features more than 70 varieties of wine, French beer and freshly baked breads. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner daily. Moulin, 1000 N. Bristol St., Newport Beach, CA 92660, 844-376-6243.
The city of Costa Mesa welcomes another new restaurant into the fold with the debut of SOCIAL Costa Mesa. Executive chef Jeffrey Boulit, who previously made a name for himself locally as the sous chef at Playground in downtown Santa Ana, offers his take on the popular chef-driven culinary concept, utilizing artisanal and locally sourced ingredients whenever possible. The venue will also feature craft cocktails, late night bites and brunch on the weekends. Dinner Tue.-Sun., Brunch Sat.-Sun.
Cucina Enoteca has rolled out a second Orange County location, in Newport Beach’s famed shopping center Fashion Island. Like the original OC space, the new space features an array of rustic Italian cuisine and an extensive list of wines that may be purchased at retail prices. Cucina Enoteca, Fashion Island, 401 Newport Center Dr., Newport Beach, CA 92660, 949-706-1416.
Din Tai Fung, the Los Angeles-area restaurant that has built a cult following around its Shanghai-style soup dumplings, has opened in an 8,000-square-foot space in South Coast Plaza. Din Tai Fung, South Coast Plaza, 3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, CA 92626, 714-549-3388.
Costa Mesa’s Triangle Square shopping complex is the home of the Mexican culinary concept La Vida Cantina. The restaurant is housed in the former location of El Corazon de Costa Mesa. Guests can sit on the venue’s massive outdoor patio and enjoy margaritas and other specialty cocktails, or indulge in modern Mexican dishes made with organic ingredients, such as lobster enchiladas served with a poblano cilantro tomatillo sauce. For more information, visit www.lavidacantina.com. La Vida Cantina, Traingle Square, 1870 Harbor Blvd., Costa Mesa, CA 92627, 949-612-2349.
Island Hotel Newport Beach has opened its new culinary concept Oak Grill. Executive chef Marc Johnson brings his interpretation of contemporary cuisine to the sleek, completely redesigned dining space, creating dishes that highlight refined techniques and strong relationships with top purveyors. Also debuting is the adjacent Aqua Lounge, a bar concept featuring outdoor seating, craft cocktails, an extensive wine list and small bites. For more information, visit www.oakandaqua.com. Oak Grill, Island Hotel Newport Beach, 690 Newport Center Dr., Newport Beach, CA 92660, 949-759-0808.
Celebrated Orange County chef and restaurateur Alessandro Pirozzi has opened Pirozzi Corona Del Mar. The Italian eatery, which is located in the heart of the iconoclastic subsection of Newport Beach, will be serving up hand-made pasta and pizzas baked in a 900-degree, wood-burning oven. The restaurant will also feature a prosciutto and mozzarella bar and homemade gelato. Lunch & Dinner daily. Pirozzi Corona Del Mar, 2929 East Coast Hwy., Corona Del Mar, CA 92625, 949-675-2932.
GourMondays at AnQi Gourmet Bistro by Crustacean
AnQi Gourmet Bistro by Crustacean hosts GourMondays, a multi-course dining experience designed to highlight exquisite takes of epicurean expression. The meal pairs with carefully selected wines with a varying number of dining courses constructed on an evolving theme. Some of these themes touch on the South Coast Plaza-based restaurant’s adherence to fusion, while others focus on the enjoyment of traditionally indulgent dishes. Seats are limited to 18 patrons. The cost of the meal varies and excludes tax and tip. The dinners are slated to start at 6:30 p.m. on the first Monday of the month. AnQi Gourmet Bistro by Crustacean, South Coast Plaza, 3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, CA 92626, 714-557-5679.
Frites Grill Menu at Mimi's Cafe
Chef Katie Sutton, the head of the culinary team at Mimi’s Cafe restaurants, spent two months in France perfecting her version of the French frite that’s crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. The results can now be found on the Frites Grill menu, offering steak frites, grilled salmon & frites, grilled chicken & frites, mussels & frites, and roasted chicken & frites. For more information and locations, visit www.mimiscafe.com
Two-Course Lunch Express Menu at Andrea
Andrea, the flagship restaurant of The Resort at Pelican Hill, offers a two-course menu espresso (express menu) at lunch served in 45 minutes or less Wednesday through Sunday. Diners select one appetizer, soup or salad to begin, followed by one hand-made pasta dish or lunch entrée. The meal concludes with coffee service. The cost is $45 per person, plus tax and gratuity Andrea, The Resort at Pelican Hill, 22701 Pelican Hill Rd. S., Newport Coast, CA 92657, 949-467-6800.
French Pop-Up at Little Sparrow
Little Sparrow is hosting their own pop-up restaurant concept within the confines of its downtown Santa Ana restaurant. The pop-up concept will be based exclusively on French cuisine, as created by the restaurant’s executive chef Eric Samaniego. Select menu items will include skate grenobloise, moules frites, coq au vin and steak au poivre. For more information, visit www.littlesparrowcafe.com. Little Sparrow, 300 N. Main St., Santa Ana, CA 92701, 714-265-7640.
Roy Hendrickson has left his post as executive chef at Zimzala, the flagship restaurant at the Shorebreak Hotel in Huntington Beach. Hendrickson has migrated south to San Diego, where he oversees the kitchen at Vessel Restaurant, the flagship eatery at the Kona Kai Resort & Marina. The replacement for Hendrickson has not been officially announced. Zimzala, Shorebreak Hotel, 500 Pacific Coast Hwy., Huntington Beach, CA 92648, 714-861-4470.
Bruno Massuger has been appointed executive chef at Back Bay Bistro, the flagship restaurant at the Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort. Massuger comes to the Newport Beach eatery armed with several years of experience culled in similar resort-type venues. In addition to overseeing the restaurant, he will also be managing the sprawling resort’s catering operation. Back Bay Bistro, Newport Dunes Resort, 1131 Back Bay Dr., Newport Beach, CA 92660, 949-729-1144.
Cody Storts is no longer the executive chef at HopScotch. The popular chef parted ways with the downtown Fullerton restaurant in late July. Storts has resurfaced at Nieuport 17, where he is working with executive chef Greg Moro, while the Tustin venue goes through a renovation process. HopScotch, 136 E. Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton, CA 92832, 714-871-2222.
Landmark in Corona Del Mar has closed its doors. The restaurant, which was known for its steaks and its late-night scene, held its final day of operation May 10. Plans for a new restaurant to occupy the now-vacant space have been announced, although the actual dining concept is still under wraps. Landmark, 3520 E. Coast Hwy., Corona Del Mar, CA 92625, no phone.
View our calendar of Wine Dinners & Tastings in Orange County