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Javier’s Cantina & Grill recently opened at Crystal Cove Promenade in Newport Coast, offering the same well-loved gourmet regional Mexican cuisine and grilled seafood, steak and chicken dishes as the Irvine and former Laguna Beach locations. New items on the Newport Coast menu include spare ribs, osso bucco and Cabo azul, a large seafood entrée with an assortment of shrimp tacos, Maine lobster enchiladas and grilled chile rellenos with fresh shrimp and crab.  Javier’s also is known for its large selection of premium tequilas and made-to-order margaritas. This spring, Javier’s plans to add  breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays from 8-11:00 a.m. Javier’s Cantina & Grill, Crystal Cove Promenade, 7832 E Pacific Coast Hwy Newport Coast, 949-494-1239.

Buon Giorno, an authentic Italian coffee shop, has opened in Costa Mesa. Located in the original Diedrich’s coffeehouse on 17th Street, Buon Giorno offers Costadora of Torino coffee, teas, fresh juices and a menu of light Italian café cuisine. There’s also free WiFi and a rather nice patio. On the weekends, owner Athos Fiori brings in European-style musicians. Buon Giorno Café, 474 E. 17th St., Costa Mesa, 949-645-3900.

The Counter, a gourmet make-it-your-way burger concept, has opened in Irvine at Woodbury Town Center. The restaurant promises more than 312,000 ways to build your burger, with variables including three kinds of meats, a veggie burger, three patty sizes, 10 cheeses, 26 toppings, 17 sauces and three bun varieties. The Counter, Woodbury Town Center, 6416 Irvine Blvd., Irvine, 949-336-7272,

The Beach Pit BBQ, which is owned by ex-minor league ball player and Newport real estate developer Tim DeCinces, opened a second location in late January. Located in quaint Old Town Tustin, this Beach Pit BBQ post is a real historical site, the location of California's first mechanic's garage. "The pit," as it is known in Newport-Mesa, serves up authentic Southern barbecue favorites, including smoked ribs, tri tip and chicken. You'll also find hearty entrée salads, smoky baked beans, you-can't-eat-just-one sweet potato fries and homemade banana pudding. They even smoke whole turkeys for the holidays and other special occasions. Like the Newport-Mesa restaurant, this family-friendly spot also has an upscale yet down home dine-and-play area for the kids out back. Beach Pit BBQ at The Tustin Garage, 560 El Camino Real, Old Town Tustin.

The eagerly anticipated Hamamori Restaurant-Lounge has opened. Located in the former Bangkok Four space inside South Coast Plaza's home store wing, the restaurant is owner James Hamamori's crowning achievement. Hamamori has collaborated with chef Takumi Murase, who is known for his kaiseki style of cooking and was previously associated with Megu in New York. The decor is clean and modern, with a distinct Asian sensibility. The menu features many of Hamamori's fusion creations from his Wasa Sushi restaurants. The lunch menu consists of small plates, lunch sets, sushi and sashimi platters and an ozen platter similar to a bento box. Lunch dishes range from $6 to $28. Dinner prices stretch from $6 to $39, with a high of $70 for a Kobe filet steak. An omakase menu is available for $80, and that meal can be accompanied by a wine and saké pairing for an additional $40. Hamamori Restaurant-Lounge, South Coast Plaza, 3333 Bear St., Costa Mesa, 714-850-0880.

Taps Fish House & Brewery will open at The Promenade Shops at Dos Lagos in Corona. Like the original Taps in Brea, the second Corona restaurant features a full brewery, a large open dining room, an exhibition kitchen, an oyster bar, a lounge and three patios with fire pits. Taps is known as a lively upscale lunch and dinner spot serving large portions of New Orleans-themed American classics and fresh contemporary seafood dishes. You'll also find hand-thrown pizzas and sandwiches at lunch. TAPS Fish House & Brewery, The Promenade Shops at Dos Lagos, 2745 Lakeshore Dr., Corona, 951-277-5800,

Pelican Grill has opened at the famed Pelican Hill Golf Club in Newport Coast. While the adjacent resort won’t open until next year, the golf club’s Pelican Grill has garnered chef Thomas Ryan to oversee the kitchens at this oceanview resort restaurant. Chef Ryan’s menu has some traditional favorites, such as steaks and seafood as well as pasta dishes, salads and soups, prepared with fresh ingredients in season. The restaurant’s grand interior is reflected in the Palladian-style architecture and arching windows that overlook the golf greens and ocean blues just outside. Guests can also dine on the outdoor terrace or in the lively lounge. Pelican Grill, Pelican Hill Golf Club, 22800 Pelican Hill Road South, Newport Coast,

Yard House has opened its fourth OC location in Fashion Island. Adjacent to Bloomingdale’s, this Fashion Island Yard House features 100 beers on tap as well as the American and Pacific Rim fusion cuisine of chef-partner Carlito Jocson. The restaurant’s interior is highlighted by a contrasting mix of warm woods, stainless steel, art by local painters and an oval bar with a fleet of 100 handles. We are ready to saddle up to this serious beer bar while watching sports on two dozen plasma TVs and listening to a library of over 5,000 digital titles of classic rock tunes, ‘70s disco hits and ‘80s new wave sounds. Yard House, Fashion Island, 401 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach, 949-640-9273,

The Arches has reopened in a new space at 508 29th Street in Newport Beach’s Cannery Row Village. We’ve heard owner Dan Marcheano has created another instant OC classic with his Texas-style barbecue dishes, along with steaks, chops and seafood. The Arches, 508 29th St., Newport Beach, 949-645-7077.

Flight Bistro & Social Lounge is now set to open in mid October. This Asian-inspired small plates concept is located in the ever-so-unsuccessful space (Blue Agave, Scorpion Steakhouse, AKA) at the corner of Adams Avenue and Beach Boulevard in Huntington Beach.  Entrepreneur Stephen Chu blew us away with his seasonal small plates menus filled with organic, locally-grown fruits and vegetables, which were conceived by LA-based consulting chef Mark Mittleman (Republic, WEST Restaurant & Lounge, Polo Lounge). Chu says his “extensive wine list” changes seasonally. The decor will be a fusion of contemporary and antique styles in navy blues and grays with a highly modern lounge. Flight Bistro & Social Lounge, Huntington Beach, 714-374-8300,

Izakaya Zero, located in downtown Huntington's former Red Pearl Kitchen, has opened. This new Takashi Abe spot is a departure from his upscale Bluefin in Newport Coast's Crystal Cove Promenade. The word "izakaya" is used in Japan as a general term for working-class taverns that serve shared small plates in a casual environment. Sometimes called "Japanese tapas," the cuisine at Izakaya has been interpreted by chef Abe as "Japanese classics with fusion touches." Some menu items include crab "cigars" (hand-rolled and deep-fried crab, shrimp, and scallops served with spicy mango salsa), yaki onigiri (grilled rice balls), popcorn shrimp in a truffle butter-ponzu sauce, mixed sashimi ceviche, seared halibut carpaccio, Mexican-style lobster gratin and marinated lamb chops. Decorated with strong colors and geometric patterns, Izakaya Zero also features a full bar, a specialty sake menu and a good selection of wines, mostly from California, by the glass. Izakaya Zero, 412 Walnut Ave., Huntington Beach, 714-960-1278.

The Winery Restaurant & Wine Bar opens August 27 at The District in Tustin. The anticipation for this latest OC wine country restaurant owes to the presence of chef Yvon Goetz (The Balboa Bay Club & Resort, Culinary Adventures, The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel). The interior promises to be hip, lively and sophisticated, with dark woods, leather and velvet bar stools. The restaurant claims its state-of-the-art 5,000 bottle cellar will be one of the largest in Orange County. Open daily for lunch and dinner, The Winery also features a wine tasting bar with a full bar menu. Two private rooms feature handmade doors from Spain, presentation equipment for corporate meetings and one room even has a waterfall and fireplace. The Winery Restaurant & Wine Bar, The District (Jamboree Road & Barranca Parkway), 2647 Park Ave., Tustin, 714-258-7600,

Whole Foods Market

Whole Foods Market, a natural and organic foods supermarket chain, has relocated its downtown Tustin store on Holt Avenue to The District at Tustin Legacy. Opening in late August, Whole Foods Market will offer 60,000 square feet of shopping space, including a wine and tapas bar, tea bar, butter bar, chocolate island, bakery, hand-cut cheese department, smokehouse and seafood grill, taqueria, churrascaria and Asian-style eateries. There’s also free wireless internet access at this location. Whole Foods Market, The District at Tustin Legacy, Jamboree Road & Barranca Parkway, Tustin,

Huntington’s Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort has completely renovated its signature restaurant, bestowing the new name Shades on its oft-overlooked restaurant (formerly Palm Court). While the inside was made more stylish about a year ago, the biggest change is outside, where there’s now a hip patio with an eclectic mix of classy shades. Chef Jeff Littlefield thankfully continues the restaurant’s tradition of market-fresh ingredients and tasty contemporary Euro-Cal cuisine. Shades serves breakfast, Sunday brunch, lunch, dinner and is also adding late-night live entertainment on the weekends at its “Shades PM” lounge scene. Shades, Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort, 21100 Pacific Coast Hwy., Huntington Beach, 714-854-8444.

Silvera Steakhouse & Lounge, sister restaurant to Tuna Town in downtown Huntington Beach, has officially opened. Chef Sabre Kennedy, who was most recently the chef at Landmark Steakhouse in Corona del Mar, heads up the kitchen. Silvera Steakhouse & Lounge, 126 Main St., Huntington Beach, 714-969-9000.

Marche Moderne, the new South Coast Plaza bistro owned and run by former Pinot Provence chef Florent Marneau, has opened for both lunch and dinner. Located in the former Troquet location, the restaurant also features Marneau's pastry chef wife, Amelia. 3333 Bristol Street, Costa Mesa, 714-434-7900.

In another hotel restaurant remake, former longtime Pavilions restaurant at The Island Hotel Newport Beach has been renamed Palm Terrace Restaurant & Lounge and redecorated with a Beverly Hills Hotel-style bold tropical print as well as re-engineering the restaurant into more of an indoor-outdoor space. Chef Bill Bracken is still at the kitchen’s helm and has devised some new menu items, a customizable tasting menu and more savory small bites well suited to the lounge. The Palm Terrace Lounge still hosts sold-out intimate jam sessions Wednesday through Saturday evenings with versatile singer Jimmy Hopper. Palm Terrace Restaurant & Lounge, The Island Hotel Newport Beach, 690 Newport Center Dr., Newport Beach.

Z Mario, which features traditional Italian fare, has opened for lunch and dinner in the former Chanteclair space across from John Wayne Airport. 18912 Macarthur Blvd., Irvine, 949-833-1900.

Two new restaurants have opened at The Camp in Costa Mesa’s SoBeCa district. 118 Degrees, created by the restaurateur behind Naked Apples in Laguna Beach, brings the raw food movement to The Camp. The restaurant, which showcases natural and organic cuisine in which nothing is heated above the namesake temperature, also features a beverage lounge, live music, organic wine and a smoothie and elixir bar. 118 Degrees, The Camp, 2981 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, 714-754-0718. And Old Vine Café, located in the former Village Bakery space, offers a full breakfast every day from 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Lunch and dinner feature tapas-style dishes as well as homemade soups and creative salads. There’s also a weekly wine pairing menu with a four- or five-course prix-fixe feast. An adjacent gourmet store sells wines, olive oils and other specialty food items from around the world. Old Vine Café, The Camp, 2937 Bristol St., Costa Mesa.

Commonwealth Lounge recently opened in Fullerton with chef Nick Phelps at the kitchen’s helm. Phelps worked most recently at the company’s sister restaurant, 320 Main in Seal Beach. This new upscale lounge in downtown Fullerton has a nostalgic concept in both food and décor. Commonwealth Lounge, 112 Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton, 714-525-8888,

Lazy Dog Café, a fine dining meets down home American restaurant concept, will open its third restaurant in April. Located in the Stadium Promenade Shopping Center, this Lazy Dog Café will serve a large variety of American, Italian, Chinese, Mediterranean and South American fare by chef Gabriel Caliendo. Lazy Dog Café, 1623 W. Katella Ave., Anaheim, 714-769-7020.

Panini Bistro in Newport Beach has reopened with a new menu. Panini Bistro, 4647 MacArthur Blvd., Newport Beach, 949-660-1010,

The Ghoukassian family, owners of the Dining as Art Catering Company as well as the acclaimed Bayside and Bistango restaurants, has opened Kimera Restaurant Lounge. Located near the intersection of Jamboree Road and MacArthur Boulevard in Newport Beach, Kimera offers a menu of contemporary global cuisine utilizing fresh local ingredients for lunch and dinner in an ultra-modern setting. Kimera Restaurant Lounge, 19530 Jamboree Rd., Newport Beach.

Eno in The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel

ENO, a wine, cheese and chocolate boutique, has opened at The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel. ENO fulfills every gourmand’s dream for the world’s three most decadent indulgences: fine wine, artisanal cheese and gourmet chocolate. The décor complete with a floor-to-ceiling wine tower, feels more like a casual wine tasting room rather than a typical store. ENO, The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel, One Ritz Carlton Drive, Dana Point, 949-240-2000,

VUE opened at the Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort in June. The redesigned restaurant serves contemporary California cuisine with an emphasis on fresh seafood to complement its bluff-top ocean views. Open daily from 6:30 a.m.-10 p.m. and offers a special Sunday brunch. VUE, Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort, 25135 Park Lantern, Dana Point, 949-661-5000.

The newly-remodeled Fairmont Newport Beach opened bambú restaurant, replacing Accents. The new restaurant offers seasonal California cuisine in the same atrium-like setting, but now with palms, orchids and 20-foot bamboo trees. Luckily, bambú follows its predecessor in offering one of the region’s best buffet brunches every Sunday starting at 10 a.m. bambú, 4500 MacArthur Blvd., Newport Beach, 949-476-2001.

Celebrated chef Michael Mina has teamed up with world-renowned designer Tony Chi to create the new Stonehill Tavern, a one-of-a-kind dining experience at the St. Regis Resort, Monarch Beach. Mina's Modern American menu, featuring his signature small plate trios, allows guests to enjoy their favorite menu items in three distinct preparations. Chi has created a contemporary, sophisticated dining room that is the perfect setting for Mina’s artful interpretations of classic American Tavern fare. In addition to the handsomely appointed dining room, Stonehill Tavern also offers an outdoor terrace for dinner or cocktails while enjoying a Pacific Ocean sunset; a warm and inviting bar and lounge; and a private, fireside dining room well-suited for larger groups or business dinners requiring more privacy.

Park Ave. serves interpretations of classic American cuisine in a distinctive setting that exudes a retro-chic ambience. The restaurant’s combination of swanky old-Hollywood décor and dishes such as horseradish hanger steak, scallop-stuffed mushrooms and peanut-butter-and-banana french toast transforms dining out into the special occasion it used to be. Park Ave. serves lunch, dinner, dessert, cocktails and weekend breakfast. To make a reservation or to place an order for take-out, call 714-901-4400 or visit

Centered on the cuisine of the country of the same name, Mozambique offers unique dishes using Peri-Peri, a traditional spice. Meats are cooked in an aromatic wood fire, and selections such as fava bean and wild mushroom minestrone, sweet potato gnocchi and Mozambique oyster and fish chowder aren’t too intimidating, but offer just enough variety and authenticity to be exotic. Mozambique, 1740 S. Pacific Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, 949-715-7100,

Dock and dine at the new Kantina on the Newport Beach waterfront. The “Nuevo Mexican” cuisine blends Mexican flavors with influences from Asian and other Latin cultures. Executive chef Robert Herrera, formerly of the Loft Restaurant at the Montage Resort and Spa, prepares breakfast, lunch and dinner. Park your boat in one of the multiple slips, then choose from indoor, outdoor patio or lounge seating. Open seven days a week, 7 a.m.-2 a.m. Kantina 2406 Newport Blvd, Newport Beach, 949-673-1400.

A former Hooters in Newport Beach is taking a turn towards sophistication by being transformed into Kantina by new owner Doug McAllister (also owner of the popular Sutra Lounge in Costa Mesa). Slated to open in early January 2006, the restaurant will be able to accommodate 200 people, who will enjoy a Latin-inspired menu from executive chef Stéphane Beaucamp's (also of Sutra). Expect dishes such as sugarcane-marinated chicken skewers in tortilla soup and mango-glazed pork ribs with Peruvian potato salad. Hours will be 7 a.m.-2 a.m. Kantina, 2406 Newport Blvd., Newport Beach, 949-673-1400.

Huntington Beach can now add an Italian-French fusion restaurant to its roster. Opened by chef/owner Stef Serafin, Ciao Brasserie offers many standard Italian favorites such as stone baked pizzas and chicken picatta but also some dishes with a French twist such as jumbo scallops wrapped with New York steak in a Dijon Pommery sauce and filet mignon with gorganzola cream sauce. Très bon e buono! 7568 Edinger Ave., Huntington Beach, 714-848-9385.

Residents of Lake Forest now have one more choice for casual upscale dining: the Corner Broiler. This cozy yet classy restaurant and bar opened very recently, and is still ironing out a few final kinks, but happy to welcome customers nonetheless. Corner Broiler, 24301 Muirlands Blvd., Lake Forest.

A splashy new Italian restaurant with an elegant dining room, an extensive menu and an adjacent nightclub, Bellagio is out to woo North County palates—and wallets. Definitely worth checking out, even if only for a drink and a look around. Bellagio, 12361 Chapman Ave., Garden Grove, 714-971-8250.

Takashi Abe fans have waited a while to get a taste of the former Matsuhisa chef’s cuisine. After Restaurant Abe was sold, people were told that Bluefin by Abe would open in May in the Crystal Cove Promenade. That month has come and gone, and we still hear rumors that the elegant Asian fusion restaurant will soon open. Stay tuned.

Arizona restaurant group Mastro’s is set to open Mastro’s Ocean Club Fish House in Newport Beach in August. This upscale seafood restaurant will be the first of three Mastro’s restaurants to open in Southern California in 2005, though not the first ever—there’s already a Mastro’s Steakhouse in Beverly Hills. Mastro’s Ocean Club Fish House, 8112 E. Coast Hwy, Newport Beach, 949-376-6990.

The owner of Sutra Lounge in Triangle Square is opening Kantina, a Nuevo Latino restaurant with the same upscale lounge vibe, in late summer. Stephane Beauchamp, chef at Sutra Lounge, is also heading up the kitchen at Kantina until further notice. Kantina, 2406 Newport Blvd., Newport Beach, 949-722-7103.

Mozambique, offering steaks and seafood without the soupçon of danger found in its namesake African island nation, is set to open in the historic Tortilla Flats building this summer. Mozambique, 1740 South Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, 949-715-7777.

Wine buffs have a lot to be happy about these days. Yet another wine shop and tasting bar is opening up in OC—this time, in the small community of Ladera Ranch. The Reserve Wine Bar and Shop is committed to offering the best prices and the friendliest environment. The Reserve Wines, 25642 Crown Valley Pkwy, Suite E5, Ladera Ranch, 949-276-5688.

We can barely keep up with Culinary Adventures—and in this, we’re not alone. The buzz about Rouge hasn’t even begun to die down, but already, this dynamic restaurant group is planning its next venture: French 75 Brasserie, set to open at the Tustin Marketplace sometime this year.

Score another for San Clemente. White Horses Restaurant & Bar, an unpretentious Continental bistro with a very eclectic menu and a lovely dining room, quietly opened this spring. The contemporary cuisine is delectable and the overall experience quite poetic. White Horses, 610 Avenida Victoria, San Clemente, 949-429-1800

Ten Restaurant Group debuted its latest hot spot in early January, and you could hear the oohs and ahhs of appreciation from miles away. This place epitomizes the glamorous, more-is-more, worldly but never edgy style that Orange County loves so much. Ten is actually three places in one: elegant Ten Asian Bistro, club-alicious Ten Ultra Lounge, and comfy little Café Panini, where you can go get real food if the nouveau Asian nibbles don’t satisfy you. 4647 MacArthur Blvd. Newport Beach, 949-660-1010.

Chakra Indian Cuisine has opened at the University Center. This place is groovy as can be and if you show up after dinner’s over, you’ll be “chak’d” to find that it has turned into a nightspot. Chakra Indian Cuisine, 4143 Campus Dr., Irvine, 949-854-0009,

There’s a new Panera Bread Bakery-Café location in Irvine at the Crossroads Shopping Center. This is the chain’s third Orange County branch, and we’re betting it’s far from the last. Panera Bread Bakery-Café, 3988 Barranca Pkwy., Irvine, 949-786-8800.

Slated for an August opening in The Old Pottery Place, a new ocean-view complex on the landmark site of Laguna Beach’s historic Pottery Shack, is Sapphire Laguna, serving lunch Monday-Friday, dinner nightly and brunch Saturday-Sunday. Owner/chef Azmin Ghahreman, who most recently manned the kitchens as executive chef at the St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort & Spa in Dana Point, plans to serve food inspired by cuisines from around the world, including such specialties as grilled Moroccan-style baja jumbo shrimp, wok-fried baby snapper with Thai chili-lemongrass sauce, braised prime short ribs and chicken pot pie. The main dining room will seat 60, the outdoor bi-level terrace will welcome another 38 guests and walk-in wine cellars will hold up to 700 bottles. Adjoining the restaurant will be a 930-square-foot gourmet shop. Sapphire Laguna, 1200 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach.

Charles Nelson and wife Candace are expanding from Beverly Hills to Orange County, opening a branch of their insanely popular Sprinkles Cupcakes in Corona Del Mar Plaza on August 14. Expect a menu identical to the original. Sprinkles Cupcakes, 800 Avocado Ave., Corona Del Mar.

For some reason, the space at Beach Boulevard and Adams Avenue in Huntington Beach cannot keep a permanent resident. Stung by the oft-abandoned location is Scorpion Steakhouse, which closed this spring. Alas, someone always seems to try, try again. This summer, the Aka Japanese Cuisine & Lounge opened its doors. The smoldering modern interior harkens hipsters to enjoy its cocktails, sushi bar and tempting dessert menu. Aka Japanese Cuisine & Lounge, 8082 Adams Ave., Huntington Beach, 714-374-9600.

Zov’s Karamardian of Zov’s Bistro in Tustin is opening two new restaurants. The first location will open in Newport Coast this spring, followed by an Irvine location at Orchard Hills Village Center in the fall. Both restaurants will feature a modified version of Zov’s Mediterranean-inspired breakfast, lunch and dinner menus. Zov's Bistro, 17440 E. 17th St., Tustin, 714-838-8855.

The Pinnacle Restaurant
at Temecula’s Falkner Winery opened on Sept. 2. The American-Mediterranean menu serves lunch daily in a panoramic hilltop view setting amongst the winery’s vines. So far, the restaurant is only available in the evenings for weddings and banquets. The Falkner’s have brought in chefs E. Dennis van Rumund (formerly owner of Fallbrook’s Lace Apron) and Cory Chung, formerly of Escondido’s California Center for the Arts. The Pinnacle Restaurant, Falkner Winery, 40620 Calle Contento, Temecula, 951-676-8231.

Re-invented yet again is the space in Fashion Island formerly known as Rouge Bistro. Now re-named French 75 by David Wilhelm’s Culinary Adventures group, the “new” restaurant is now part of the French 75 brand, which includes the original restaurant in Laguna Beach as well as outposts in The Marketplace (Irvine), Burbank and Century City. French 75, 327 Newport Center Dr., Newport Beach, 949-640-2700.

The newly opened Oasis Grill & Sky Lounge at the John Wayne Airport, from Culinary Adventures' David Wilhelm, features a Jetsons-themed décor with bright orange booths, futuristic light fixtures, and American fare for breakfast and lunch. Oasis Grill & Sky Lounge, John Wayne Airport, 949-252-6125.

The Wyndham Orange County Hotel, located across the street from the new Cesar Pelli-designed Orange County Performing Arts Center, has revamped its TerraNova Dining Room. Former St. Regis chef Azmin Ghahreman helped create the brasserie-style breakfast, lunch and dinner menus. At lunch, there’s an all-you-can-eat pasta bar. For dinner, choose from grilled meats, fresh seafood or seasonal specialties. TerraNova Dining Room, The Wyndham Orange County Hotel, 3350 Avenue of the Arts, Costa Mesa, 714-751-5100.

Sapphire Laguna, once slated for an August opening, will finally open in December. Located in The Old Pottery Place, this new ocean-view complex sits on the landmark site of Laguna Beach’s historic Pottery Shack. Owner/chef Azmin Ghahreman, who most recently manned the kitchens as executive chef at the St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort & Spa in Dana Point, plans to serve food inspired by cuisines from around the world, including grilled Moroccan-style Baja jumbo shrimp, wok-fried baby snapper with Thai chili-lemongrass sauce, braised prime short ribs and chicken pot pie. The main dining room will seat 60, the outdoor bi-level terrace will welcome another 38 guests, and walk-in wine cellars will hold up to 700 bottles. Adjoining the restaurant will be a 930-square-foot gourmet shop. The restaurant will serve lunch Mon.-Fri., dinner nightly and brunch Sat.-Sun. Sapphire Laguna, 1200 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, 949-715-9888.

Irvine's Quail Hill Village Center is fast becoming a mecca for foodies. The latest opening is Crystal Jade Asian Fine Dining, which sits right next to Euro-bistro Lucca Café and across from top-notch wine bar Bacchus’ Secret Cellar. Crystal Jade features dishes from all over Asian including China, Malaysia, Japan and Thailand. Dishes range from Cantonese-style dim sum to cream cheese eggrolls to chicken satay to Kung pao squid. Crystal Jade, Quail Hill Village Center, 6511 Quail Hill Pkwy., 949-725-3368.

Sapphire Laguna has begun accepting reservations. Located in The Old Pottery Place, this new ocean-view complex sits on the landmark site of Laguna Beach’s historic Pottery Shack. Owner-chef Azmin Ghahreman, who most recently manned the kitchens as executive chef at the St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort & Spa, plans to serve food inspired by cuisines from around the world, including such specialties as grilled Moroccan-style baja jumbo shrimp, wok-fried baby snapper with Thai chili-lemongrass sauce, braised prime short ribs and chicken pot pie. The main dining room will seat 60, the outdoor bi-level terrace will welcome another 38 guests and walk-in wine cellars will hold up to 700 bottles. Adjoining the restaurant will be a 930-square-foot gourmet shop. Most of the other shops (an art gallery, chocolate shop, shoe salon and a lovely book store) in The Old Pottery Place are already open for business. The restaurant will serve lunch Mon.-Fri., dinner nightly and brunch Sat.-Sun. Sapphire Laguna, 1200 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, 949-715-9888.

Chris and Dennis Overstreet of Le Quai and The Wine Merchant of Beverly Hills recently re-opened the restaurant formerly known as Aubergine. Now called 50829, the eatery serves more casual European and contemporary fare in the modern cottage on a quiet street in Newport’s Cannery Village district. The restaurant is open Tues.-Sat. starting at 5 p.m. 50829, 508 29th St., Newport Beach, 949-723-4150.

The Melting Pot opened its second Orange County location in San Clemente. Mother-daughter restaurateurs Mira Selbo and Dana Tanner opened their first Melting Pot location in Irvine. They plan to open a third location this spring in Downtown Brea. The Melting Pot, 647 Camino de los Mares, San Clemente, 949-661-1966,


Joshua Nudd, previously of Hoku’s in Honolulu, has been named chef de cuisine at Pavilion, the fine dining establishment at The Island Hotel in Newport Beach. So far, there are no changes to executive chef Bill Bracken’s menu. Pavilion, 690 Newport Center Dr., Newport Beach, 949-760-4920.

Restaurateurs Tim and Liza Goodell (Troquet, Red Pearl Kitchen, Dakota) have sold The Lodge in Costa Mesa to Michael Bassler and Troy Furuto, who plan on reopening it under a different name. The Goodells plan on opening another Red Pearl Kitchen in San Diego in January 2006.

It’s been a tumultuous time for casino restaurants. Morongo Casino in Indio Valley abruptly bid adieu to its erstwhile culinary partner N9NE Group in late May, reopening each of the former N9NE-managed venues under a different name, similar concept and tribal management almost immediately thereafter. Morongo Casino, 49500 Seminole Dr., Cabazon, 888-MORONGO.

A new chef has arrived at Great Oak Steakhouse in Pechanga Casino. Brian Johnston has revamped the menu, introducing some new main courses featuring buffalo and venison. Great Oak Steakhouse, Pechanga Casino, 45000 Pechanga Pkwy., Temecula, 909-719-8594.

South County’s popular Salt Creek Grille has undergone some major changes, starting with the hiring of new chef Scott Floyd, and continuing with a complete menu overhaul, a staff shakedown, and a new commitment to cook everything from scratch. Salt Creek Grille, 32802 Pacific Coast Hwy., Dana Point, 949-661-7799.

Check out chef Yves Fournier’s summer menu at the Hyatt Regency Irvine’s 6ix Park Grille. It features a warm seafood salad, seafood fettuccini, wood-grilled antelope chop and various delectable desserts. 6ix Park Grille, 17900 Jamboree Rd., Irvine, 949-225-6666.

Over in Fullerton, neighborhood fave Il Ghiotto changed its name to the more abbreviated and New World-glamorous Spadra. The cuisine remains the same. Spadra, 136 E. Commonwealth, Fullerton, 714-447-0775.

Patina Nabs OCPAC Contract
The Patina Group will open Leatherby’s Café Rouge on Sept. 23. Located inside the Orange County Performing Arts Center’s new Segerstrom Concert Hall, Leatherby’s seats 130 guests. In addition, Patina Group’s exclusive contract to provide food and beverage service at the nationally-acclaimed center includes space for events in the atrium-style concert hall lobby, a 64,000-square-foot outdoor plaza and terrace. For information on catering and special events at the center, call 714-556-2122.

Blue Coral Seafood & Spirits opened August 1 with a lavish grand opening party. Located in Fashion Island next to Fleming’s (and also owned by the same group), Blue Coral features classic updates of fresh seafood. The turquoise and warm wood décor is sumptuous, the blue-hued bar features a “vodka wall” of more than 60 vodkas from around the world and the restaurant also has one of Newport Beach’s loveliest patios. There are “seafood-friendly” wines by the glass and a special reserve wine list. Some of Blue Coral’s ongoing specialties include carpaccio niçoise, crab trio, caviar service with StoliElit vodka, Maine lobster en fuego, seabass en papillote and lobster macaroni and cheese. Open for lunch and dinner daily. Blue Coral Seafood & Spirits, 451 Newport Center Dr., Newport Beach, 949-856-2583.

After months of renovation, the Disneyland Resort has completely redesigned the décor and menu offerings at two of its restaurants. Yamabuki, in the Paradise Pier Hotel, features fresh sushi and Japanese fare and now offers a four-course "imperial menu.” The kitchen is headed by chef Katsuhiko Sato. Yamabuki, Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel, 1717 S. Disneyland Dr., Anaheim, 714-999-0990.

The former Granville's at the Disneyland Hotel is now Steakhouse 55 and Lounge at Steakhouse 55. The décor evokes a Hollywood glamour feel, and the menu features steakhouse fare like herb-crusted rack of lamb and a dry-rubbed grilled rib eye. The kitchen is helmed by chef Jason Martin. The sumptuous Lounge at Steakhouse 55 has velvet and leather chaise lounges, heavy drapery and black marble tables, and features a menu with crab cakes, smoked ahi, pizzetta and artisan cheeses. Steakhouse 55, Disneyland Hotel 1150 Magic Way, 714-778-6600.

Longtime Pinot Provence chef and Patina Group protégée Florent Marneau is moving across the street this spring to open his own bistro in the former Troquet location, once a Goodell OC icon. Marneau and his wife are calling the restaurant Marché Moderne. Marché Moderne, Coast Plaza, 3333 Bristol Street, Third Level near Nordstrom.

Morton’s The Steakhouse opened its second Orange County location in Anaheim. The menu and décor approximate the classic steakhouse vibe from its other restaurants. There’s also a large bar with plasma TVs and a private dining room, which can seat up to 72 guests. Morton’s The Steakhouse, 1895 S. Harbor Blvd., Anaheim, 714-621-0101.

The Yard House, an award-winning brewery and California cuisine spot popular with singles, is opening this summer at Fashion Island. The Fashion Island location is set to feature 100 taps of beer. Fashion Island, 401 Newport Center Dr., Newport Beach, 949-721-2000.

Carl Schroeder, the award-winning chef behind Bradley Ogden’s celebrated Arterra restaurant at the Del Mar Marriott, has opened Market Restaurant + Bar. Known for his farm-to-table fare, Schroeder cooks up fresh ingredients from local farms and ranches for his “California modern” cuisine. Market Restaurant + Bar, 3702 Via de la Valle, Del Mar, 858-523-0007.


The Club Grill & Bar, a famed dining and dancing spot at The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel, has closed.

Red Pearl Kitchen in Huntington Beach, owned by the Goodell duo of Tim and Liza, sold the restaurant to the owners of Takashi Abe's Bluefin sushi restaurant. Bluefin co-owner Ted Lee says the former Red Pearl Kitchen will re-opened with minimal décor changes but with a new concept–as a Japanese tavern known as Izakaya Zero.

Hamburger Mary’s in Newport Beach recently closed. It seems owner Stan Sax, who has five other burger joints across the country, was made a sizable offer by unnamed OC restaurateurs for this desirable location.

Longtime Fashion Island restaurant Tutto Mare closed recently.

Ciao Brasserie, located across from Huntington Beach’s Bella Terra shopping mall, closed in January. Chef-owner Stef Serafin hopes to re-open the restaurant this summer somewhere in Aliso Viejo.

The Island Hotel Newport Beach’s restaurant Pavilion, and adjacent Gardens Lounge, will close in mid-April to undergo a renovation and name change. The new restaurant and lounge, called “The Palm Terrace Restaurant & Lounge,” is slated for a June 10 opening and will remain under the direction of executive chef Bill Bracken.

Longtime Pinot Provence chef and Patina Group protégée Florent Marneau is moving across the street this spring to open his own bistro in the former Troquet location, once a Goodell Orange County icon. Marneau and his pastry chef wife, Amelia, are calling the restaurant Marché Moderne.

Proprietors Tim and Liza Goodell have closed Aubergine (508 29th St.), their noted Balboa Peninsula restaurant.

Surprisingly, Hard Rock Café in Newport’s Fashion Island shut its doors at the end of June, with no word as to when or where it would open another Orange County location.
Hard Rock Café, 451 Newport Center Dr, Fashion Island, Newport Beach.

Much to the chagrin of local golfers, the Irvine Company recently announced that Pelican Hill Golf Club will close for two years so that developers can build the highly anticipated Pelican Hill Resort next door. Pelican Hill Golf Club, 22651 Pelican Hill Rd., Newport Beach, 949-760-0707.

Two popular restaurant/live music venues, Kikuya and Crazy Horse, bid farewell to Orange County this summer, much to the dismay of music fans.

Once OC’s top restaurant, Newport Beach’s Aubergine opened and then closed within just a few months. Brilliant ex-Troquet chef David Man suddenly pulled out of the shaky venture, which was run by the Overstreet family of Le Quai fame. The Overstreets now claim Aubergine is not closed, but is just experiencing an “intermission.” Hopefully, Chef Man will once again set up shop somewhere in OC as he is one of the region’s top contemporary cuisine chefs.

Longtime downtown Laguna Beach restaurant, The Jolly Roger, closed in October after more than 50 years at this historic Pacific Coast Highway location. As reported by the "Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot," the restaurant closed after losing its liquor license and businessman Sam Goldstein subsequently bought the building for more than $11 million.

Another Tim and Liza Goodell landmark, South Coast Plaza’s Troquet, has closed its doors “indefinitely,” says our sources, leaving Red Pearl Kitchen in Huntington Beach the only Goodell-run restaurant in OC.

News Bytes

Wilhelm Launches Economic Stimulus Package
Need to tighten your wallet a bit? Famed OC restaurateur David Wilhelm has launched his very own “economic stimulus package” at all of his Culinary Adventures restaurants in OC (Savannah Supper Club & Lounge Costa Mesa, Savannah Steak & Chop House Laguna Niguel, French 75 Laguna Beach, French 75 Fashion Island, French 75 Tustin Marketplace, Sorrento Grill Laguna Beach). It seems Wilhelm is going “back to basics” by offering lunch and dinner options at very reasonable prices.  According to the guru of dining economy, Wilhelm’s “appetite stimulus/easy-on-the-wallet package” will be an integral part of his menu offerings this year.

New Sommelier and Cheesemonger Team Up at ENO
ENO, OC’s premier wine, cheese and chocolate tasting room at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, has announced the arrival of a new sommelier, Kevin Anderson, along with Jason Truckermiller, who is the new cheesemonger. ENO also recently opened a new location at San Diego’s Hotel del Coronado. ENO, The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel, 949-240-2000.

NYC in the OC
Expect a March opening for chef-partner Stephane Beaucamp and his Manhattan Supper Club, which is located in Orange’s hot Main Street district. Owner Anthony Paduano brings in manager-partner Carlos Miranda to head up what seems to be a New York-meets-Vegas steakhouse and entertainment lounge. Manhattan Supper Club, 202 S. Main St., Orange, 714-978-6161,

Bluewater Grill on the Move
Bluewater Grill has closed its South Coast Plaza Village location and is reopening in March at Tustin’s The District. A true seafood restaurant, Bluewater Grill offers a fresh seafood menu for both lunch and dinner, as well as a kid’s menu, oyster bar, patio dining and full bar with a decent wine list. Bluewater Grill also makes all of its chowders, soups, dressings and sauces each day in house. Bluewater Grill, The District at Tustin Legacy, 2409 Park Ave., Tustin, 714-258-3474,

Champagne Brunch at Flight Bistro & Social Lounge
Flight Bistro & Social Lounge in Huntington Beach is now offering a Sunday Champagne Brunch starting at $25. The Classic Champagne Brunch includes a choice of a starter, main course and unlimited Champagne. Diners can also indulge in a Premium Champagne Brunch for $115 (with a bottle of Veuve Clicquot or Moët, White Star). Selections from the brunch menu, such as eggs Benedict, Portobello mushroom panini, and spicy Italian sausage flatbread, may also be ordered a la carte. Flight Bistro & Social Lounge, 8082 Adams Ave., Huntington Beach, 714-374-8300.

Sunday Brunch at Lucca Café
Lucca Café, an upscale Euro bistro located in Irvine’s Quail Hill Village Center, is now offering Sunday brunch. Chef Cathy Pavlos and her crew cook up a gourmet Euro-American buffet brunch using seasonal and imported ingredients every Sunday. There’s an egg and omelet station, a carving station with certified Angus beef tri tip and Diestel free-range turkey breast. You’ll also find plentiful cold salads, hot pastas and desserts. The cost is $22 per person ($26 with two glasses of Champagne). Children 12 and under cost $15. Lucca Café, Quail Hill Village Center, 6507 Quail Hill Pkwy., Irvine, 949-725-1773.

Culinary Coach Comes to the OC
Chef Gregg Denter has brought his Culinary Coach business to Orange County. Denter, who has cooked at resorts including The Lodge at Pebble Beach and Carmel Valley Ranch, offers in-home cooking classes for groups and individuals. Chef Denter also offers a “phantom” cook service, where he caters a meal out of your kitchen without your guests knowing a private chef did the cooking. For more information, call 831-601-0933 or visit

Yard House’s Happy Hour
Looking for a new late-night spot? Yard House, with three locations in OC, is now offering a late-night happy hour Sundays through Wednesdays from 10 p.m. to midnight. Select appetizers are half price when the lights go down and the music gets loud here, plus domestic brews are just $3.25 a pint and martinis are $5.50. Wines are discounted $2 per glass. For more information, call 949-727-0959.

Mina Meets Arizona
Michael Mina, whose restaurants include Stonehill Tavern in Dana Point, announced

plans to open Bourbon Steak at The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess in Arizona. Opening in February 2008, this contemporary American steakhouse will offer Angus beef, American and Japanese Kobe beef in prime cuts including rib-eye, filet mignon, and flat iron steak, served with side dishes like blue-cheese scalloped potatoes, duck fat fries and spinach soufflé. Some of Mina's seafood dishes will include lobster pot pie, king salmon and bacon-wrapped Chilean sea bass. For the design, indigenous Southwest materials will be featured, such as flagstone and redwood and juniper woods. For more information, visit

No More Noir
In a bold move, Chat Noir has become Savannah Steak & Chop House. Perhaps David Wilhelm and his Culinary Adventures see an opportunity to compete better with neighboring Mastro’s Steakhouse. Culinary Adventures’ original Savannah Steak & Chop House is a Laguna Niguel institution with lively regulars, over-the-top service and Southern-themed contemporary cuisine with a California twist. And in yet more news, it seems Culinary Adventures’ four French 75 locations (Laguna Beach, Fashion Island, Burbank, Century City) will soon be renamed Bistro 75.

Bootleggers Come to Crystal Cove
The Beachcomber at Crystal Cove launched it newly-designed Bootlegger Bar, which is crafted to mimic the traditional palapa-style dwelling that once graced the Crystal Cove Historic District.  With its thatched roof and cedar paneling, The Bootlegger Bar adds some whimsy to this scenic seaside landscape as well as some much-needed space for people waiting up to two hours for a seat at the takes-no-reservation Beachcomber Café. Bootlegger Bar guests can enjoy sipping on a Gilligan’s Island-style tropical cocktail in a coconut-shaped cup while noshing on chef Chris Juers’ signature appetizers, such as shrimp Vera Cruz or the refreshing and crispy ahi tacos. The bar accommodates up to 37 people and is open daily through lunch and dinner. The Beachcomber at Crystal Cove, Crystal Cove State Park, 15 Crystal Cove, Newport Coast, 949-376-6900.

Dean & DeLuca to Arrive in Fashion Island
Known as the Rolls-Royce of gourmet retail, Dean & DeLuca is set to open a Fashion Island location in 2009. The preliminary design of this two-story space shows a Soho-style food hall, which will offer prepared foods, fresh produce, artisan cheeses, specialty meats and fresh seafood. Sources say this Dean & DeLuca store will also feature a wine department specializing in hard-to-find bottles from some of the best vineyards in California. A café and wine bar with indoor and outdoor seating is also planned.

First Class Wine Flights at Economy Prices
A cosmopolitan café and deli, Lucca Cafe in Irvine’s Quail Hill Village Center is offering international flights: first-class wine flights at economy prices. Sommelier Joe Lotko, who recently joined the Lucca team, will be in the dining room five nights a week for fall wine tastes from different wine regions, beginning at 5:30 p.m. These relaxed wine tastings are accompanied by Lucca Café’s new Aniata cheeses for $25 per person. Lucca Café, Quail Hill Village Center, 6507 Quail Hill Pkwy., Irvine, 949-725-1773.

Get Happy at Opah
Opah Restaurants have introduced an afternoon happy hour at all three locations (Aliso Viejo, Irvine, Rancho Santa Margarita). Held Sundays through Thursdays from 3 p.m.-6 p.m., the happy hour features half-priced appetizers at the bar or on the patio. Some of the starter selections include chef Marc Cohen’s signature tower of parmesan sweet potato chips with chipotle ranch dip and “bang bang” rock shrimp served with plum sauce and chili oil. Opah, The Town Center Aliso Viejo, The Town Center Rancho Santa Margarita, The Marketplace Irvine,

Infusion Nation
Need a great Christmas gift for under $10? OC-based 267 Fruit Infusions makes all-natural, ultra-premium alcohol infusions in your price range. Think of infusions like cranberries and vodka, mangos and rum or chili peppers and tequila. The “no mix, just chill and pour” philosophy of 267 Infusions piques our interest, as do the drop-dead gorgeous bottles. 267 Infusions is a certified OU company, so the bottles are completely kosher for Hanukah celebrations. For more information, call 973-357-5533.

Splashes Gets a Facelift
The famed Splashes restaurant at Laguna Beach’s Surf & Sand Resort has just completed a $6 million renovation. The restaurant, which sits just 20 feet from the Pacific Ocean’s crashing waves, has a new look with rich woods, modern furniture and a 300-bottle wine display in a custom-built cabinet. Also new is chef Lewis Butler’s dinner menu with his signature “American coastal cuisine.” Splashes, Surf & Sand Resort, 1555 Pacific Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, 949-497-4477.

On-The-Go Lifestyle has debuted in Orange County as a one-stop-shop for ordering takeout meals from more than 120 restaurants in the area, including Pasta Bravo, Tradition by Pascal, Avanti Café, Panini Garden & Bistro and Quizno’s. Visit to place orders for personal and business meals.

Cooks in Your Kitchen
Simple Gourmet, a culinary events company based in LA, is offering teambuilding and cooking parties all over Southern California. Chefs Melanie Barsuk and Taji Marie come to your home kitchen to teach cooking techniques in a casual, friendly atmosphere. Or, if desired, they get the participants involved in some friendly Iron Chef-style competition. The chefs also teach an all-day “culinary boot camp” for those who want to learn cooking basics in a jiffy. There are also seasonal classes, such as a holiday gingerbread workshop, Easter egg decorating and cupcake making sessions. Classes tend to highlight seasonal and locally-grown produce and food products. Simple Gourmet, 310-318-6464,

Rendezvous for Lunch
Rendezvous, an elegant restaurant located at San Juan Capistrano’s train depot, is now open for lunch Wednesdays through Sundays starting at 11:30 a.m. Guests can dine al fresco at lunch or dinner on the restaurant’s newly-opened patio. We can’t wait to try chef Peter Arachovitis’ seasonal and contemporary take on the midday meal. Rendezvous, San Juan Capistrano Train Depot, 26701-B Verdugo Street, San Juan Capistrano, 949-496-1006.

Sapphire Laguna

Sapphire Adds Starr Power
Starr Cornwall, formerly maître de fromage at Montage Resort & Spa’s interactive cheese gallery, has recently been named cheesemonger at Sapphire Pantry, the gourmet shop adjacent to Sapphire Laguna. Working with Sapphire Laguna’s chef Azmin Ghahreman, Starr is working to expand the store’s international cheese vault by introducing rare and hard-to-find varieties. Starr is also available to assist customers with cheese selections as well as to host special tastings and workshops. She is also available for collaborations on wine and cheese pairings with Peter Neptune, Master Sommelier at Sapphire Laguna. In addition, Starr offers an ever-changing cheese selection on the restaurant’s seasonal menu. Sapphire Pantry, 1200 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, 949-715-9888.

Crist Joins Palm Terrace
Romuald Crist, a European-trained hospitality professional, has been named the assistant manager and sommelier for the recently reopened Palm Terrace Restaurant & Lounge at The Island Hotel Newport Beach. Palm Terrace Restaurant & Lounge, The Island Hotel Newport Beach, 690 Newport Center Dr., Newport Beach, 949-759-0808.

Menu of The Gods
Ambrosia restaurant, which is located on the second floor of the decadent OC Pavilion theatre, is offering a new summer menu. Created by chef Michael Rossi, the contemporary Euro-Cal menu features new starters such as the sunflower tempura Chesapeake Bay soft shell crab and braised Berkshire pork belly. Seasonal entrées include Colorado lamb chops, hand-harvested sea scallops and Hawaiian yellowfin tuna. Ambrosia, 801 N. Main St., Santa Ana, 714-550-0811.

Lucky Locals
Through the "2007 Dine Around Costa Mesa" promotion, Orange County residents can receive two $10 lunch certificates and two $20 dinner certificates to enjoy at many of Costa Mesa's leading fine dining establishments and casual restaurants. Diners need only call 866-918-4749 to register to receive by mail the certificates and a color mini menu featuring the participating restaurants, which include Leatherby’s Café Rouge, Chat Noir, Pinot Provence and TerraNova. Certificates are limited to one per household and the offer runs through September 30.

Five Crowns Adds Small Plate Menu
Five Crowns, a Coronal Del Mar fine dining institution, continues to renovate its offerings with a new small plates menu and accompanying half-bottle wine and Champagne selections. Some of the new small plates include a ravioli of St. Pete’s bleu cheese with orange-glazed pears in a brown butter balsamic glaze, or seared foie gras with Turkish figs and caramelized baby leeks in a pinot noir reduction. Five Crowns, 3801 E. Coast Hwy., Corona Del Mar, 949-760-0331.

Lucca Lucca
Lucca Café, which is located in the Quail Hill Village Center off Irvine’s Shady Canyon Drive, is now offering a summer dinner menu as well as one of OC’s only true “antipasto tables.” Chef-owner Cathy Pavlos says she scours local farmers’ markets on Wednesdays and Saturdays for the freshest produce, such as zucchini blossoms which she will serve stuffed with four kinds of cheese. In addition, this Euro-Cal bistro has introduced its Lucca2Go dinners for pick up between 4 p.m.-7 p.m. (48 hours advance notice required). Lucca Café, Quail Hill Village Center, 6507 Quail Hill Pkwy, Irvine, 949-725-1773.

Friday Surf and Turf Nights at Palm Terrace
Enjoy alfresco dining and surf sounds on the Palm Terrace patio at The Island Hotel Newport Beach every Friday night from 4 p.m.-8 p.m. through Labor Day. Executive chef Bill Bracken has created a “Chilled Surf and Grilled Turf” menu that includes chilled prawns, lobster and crab claws, seared ahi tuna and oysters on the half shell, Prime New York steak, lamb chops, jidori chicken thighs, and pork baby back ribs. “S’Mores Made to Order” are available to satisfy sweet tooths. To accompany the evening, The Surftones will perform the greatest hits of the early 60s and favorite California surf songs by The Beach Boys, The Ventures and The Safaris. The tab for “The Surf Is Now Up” experience is $69 per person. Palm Terrace, The Island Hotel Newport Beach, 690 Newport Center Dr., Newport Beach, 949-760-4920.

Summer Sundays at The Balboa Bay Club
Sundays during summer can be celebrated two ways at Newport’s Balboa Bay Club & Resort: with a new European breakfast buffet ($30 per person) from 9:30a.m.-1 p.m. and a buffet barbeque ($28 adults, $16 children) at 5 p.m. on the Duke’s Place patio. Duke’s Place, Balboa Bay Club & Resort, 1221 W. Coast Hwy., Newport Beach, 949-645-5000.

King’s Hawaiian Contest
King’s Hawaiian, makers of sweet and savory breads and dinner rolls, is holding a vacation sweepstakes through Oct. 31. Called “Grill Hawaiian Style,” the contest prize is a one week all-expenses-paid trip for four to Hilton Waikoloa Village. Winners also enjoy a by-the-shore feast prepared by Hilton’s chef Kenny Omiya. Visit for rules as well as summer grilling tips and recipes.

Hamamori Update
Master chef James Hamamori’s upcoming ultra-modern sushi restaurant bearing his name is now scheduled to open in October. Located in the former Bangkok Four space in South Coast Plaza’s Macy’s Home Store Wing, Hamamori will offer a blend of New York and Las Vegas with an oasis-like underwater lounge as well as a cocktail bar, sushi bar and dining room.

Goodell Madness
They're back! Just when you thought husband-and-wife restaurateur duo Tim and Liza Goodell were out of the OC restaurant scene, think again. In a complicated plan involving several restaurants and even a Hollywood producer, the Goodells have announced they are taking over Newport's The Arches restaurant, remodeling it through the summer and reopening in the autumn with an as-yet-undisclosed name and concept. Two investment partners in the new space include movie producer Joseph McGinty Nichol (aka McG), the man behind the Charlie's Angels movies and The O.C. television series, and real estate developer Chris Brigandi. We are hoping the Goodells don't open another famed restaurant like Aubergine or Troquet only to close it down just when we have added it to our fine dining repertoire. And in a development offering an amusing coincidence, Dan Marcheano, the former owner of the 85 year-old restaurant, is planning to relocate The Arches as a “beach bistro” concept in the former Aubergine space in Newport’s Cannery Village.

A Tisket A Tasket
Sapphire Pantry, the brainchild of Sapphire Laguna's chef Azmin Ghahreman, offers three picnic baskets for the summer months: Mediterranean, Wine Country and California Coastal. The baskets come filled with Ghahreman's favorite ingredients from all over the world–freshly-baked breads, artisanal cheeses, charcuterie, savory relish items, salads, sandwiches and desserts. Refreshing beverages, such as a white peach sangria or French lemonade, are made on site and bottled. Wines can be paired from Sapphire Pantry's international inventory. Basket prices range from $65-$80. For $15 more, the basket, plates, napkins and utensils are included. To order, call Sapphire Pantry at least 24 hours in advance. Sapphire Pantry, The Old Pottery Place, 1200 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, 949-715-9889.

Sapphire Laguna

Sapphire Mines for New GM
Scotland native Gary Murray has been appointed general manager at Sapphire Laguna, located in Laguna’s landmark Pottery Shack, where chef Azmin Ghahreman prepares globally inspired cuisine. An accomplished restaurateur and hotelier, Murray was most recently banquet director at The Little Nell, the highly acclaimed Aspen hotel. Sapphire Laguna, 1200 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, 949-715-9888.

Spring Cleaning at Five Crowns
Five Crowns, a Corona del Mar institution with a traditional European bent, has unveiled its new menu of light and contemporary entrées. Chef Dennis Brask consulted with Ryan Wilson from San Francisco's famed Quince restaurant to modernize some menu offerings by combining locally grown ingredients with exotic flavor profiles. Our favorite new menu item is the “free form” lobster ravioli in a vanilla bean sauce. Five Crowns, 3801E. Pacific Coast Hwy., Corona del Mar, 949-760-0331.

New Steakhouse in Town
Silvera’s Steakhouse, sister restaurant to Tuna Town in downtown Huntington Beach, is slated to open in May. Chef Sabre Kennedy, who was mostly recently the chef at Landmark Steakhouse in Corona del Mar, heads up the kitchen.

Shop Till You Dine
Fine dining guru Charlie Palmer has announced he will open a restaurant at South Coast Plaza’s new Bloomingdale’s. The restaurant is slated to open this winter with Amar Santana as executive chef.

Sutra Lounge

Sutra Sizzles
Sutra Lounge’s chef Stephane Beaucamp has recently updated his global cuisine menu with such dishes as black peppercorn brioche sliders, Latin-spiced steak skewers, crab ravioli, crab claws tempura, teriyaki salmon and a Cajun-style crusted rib eye. On Sundays, Beaucamp serves a prime rib dinner, which features the house salad, one side dish, two dipping sauces (béarnaise, black peppercorn, bleu cheese, blueberry) and dessert. Sutra Lounge, Triangle Square, 1870 Harbor Blvd., Costa Mesa, 949-722-7103.

Eye Candy
The Anaheim White House and its charismatic owner Bruno Serato have just released a cookbook. Titled “Temptation at the White House,” the 140-page color pictorial combines the sensuality of food and fashion. Each recipe and accompanying food shot gets paired with a provocative picture of a leading male model. One of these is film star Raoul Bova, best known for heating up the screen with actress Diane Lane in “Under the Tuscan Sun.” To pre-purchase “Temptation at the White House”, visit

Vinotinis Arrive
Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar has paired wine and vodka to create Fleming’s Vinotinis. These unusual concoctions were created by Fleming’s wine director Marian Jensen op de Harr and award-winning mixologist Francesco Lafanconi. Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, Fashion Island, 455 Newport Center Dr., Newport Beach, 949-720-9633.

Wasa Comes to South Coast Plaza
Master sushi chef James Hamamori of Wasa fame has plans for a modern restaurant and bar at South Coast Plaza. Slated for a May opening, this restaurant in the former Bangkok Four space in the Macy’s Home Store Wing will offer a blend of New York and Las Vegas, complete with an underwater oasis-like lounge as well as a cocktail bar, sushi bar and dining room.

Palm Court

Palm Court Changes Name
Palm Court, the award-winning dining room at The Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort in Huntington Beach, is changing its name this spring to Shades. This new identity comes at a time when this property is being renovated into a luxury boutique hotel. Shades (formerly known as Palm Court), The Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort, 21100 Pacific Coast Hwy., Huntington Beach, 714-845-8444.

Fresh AIRe
Restaurateurs Tim and Liza Goodell (Troquet, Red Pearl Kitchen, Dakota) have sold The Lodge in Costa Mesa to Michael Bassler and Troy Furuto, who recently remodeled the space as a hip tapas night spot renamed AIRe.

Half Off at Happy Hour
One of the best deals in central county is the new happy hour at Ambrosia restaurant, located inside the artfully-decorated OC Pavilion. Every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 4:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m., Ambrosia offers half off on appetizers and cocktails. Ambrosia, 801 N. Main St., Santa Ana, 714-550-0811.

Fresh Picks of the Week
South Coast Farms, an organic farm in San Juan Capistrano, now has a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program. Orange County residents can pick up a weekly basket of fresh, organic produce direct from South Coast Farms at several locations in San Clemente, Capistrano Beach, Laguna Niguel, Mission Viejo and Costa Mesa. Cost: $28-$35. To sign up, call Rebecca or Vanessa at 949-661-9381.

Beverage Selections Run DRY
The Montage Resort & Spa is offering an alcohol-free beverage menu throughout the resort featuring a new line of sodas from DRY. The sodas are concocted from exotic fruits and flowers such as lemongrass, rhubarb, kumquat and lavender. Other non-alcoholic selections include specialty cocktails, iced teas and elixirs. The Montage Resort & Spa, 30801 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, 949-715-6420.

Celebrating California Citrus
During a recent trip to Japan, Studio chef James Boyce was inspired by the different ways Japanese cuisine pays tribute to the beauty and complexities of citrus fruits. So, he came back and created flavorful flights of cocktails and small plates that celebrate California specialty citrus. Served at the bar and communal table, Studio’s California citrus tasting menu offers a fruit-specific tasting menu. Guests can enjoy the featured flights ($40 each) or sample any beverage or dish individually ($14-$20). Menu changes seasonally or upon availability. Studio, 30801 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, 949-715-6420.

American in Paris Experience
French 75 Brasserie and Rouge have added live entertainment to their roster. With an expanded lounge area at Rouge and the installation of grand pianos at both establishments, the restaurants are now primed for appearances by local and Los Angeles-based jazz vocalists and musicians. Live music is scheduled Thursday-Sunday nights at French 75 and Wednesday-Saturday nights at Rouge. While you listen, enjoy specials like steak frites from the summer dinner menus as well as “Bubbly Hour” Monday-Friday, featuring carafes of wine at glass prices and half off signature champagne cocktails. Rouge, 327 Newport Ctr. Dr, Newport Beach, 949-640-2700; French 75 Brasserie, 13290 Jamboree Rd., Irvine, 714-573-7600.

Lighter Lunches at French 75
French 75 has added an assortment of lighter, healthier alternatives to its lunch menu, with an emphasis on “freshness, variety and convenience without compromising on taste.” Guests can order a trio of daily composed salads; a “Le Petit Bistro” lunch featuring smaller portions of soup, salad, homemade Parmesan chips and half a sandwich; a soup-and-salad duet; and other new options including ahi tartare and walnut-crusted salmon salads. French 75, 13290 Jamboree Rd., Irvine, 714-573-7600.

Just for the Zov of it
Owner and chef Zov Karamardian of the beloved OC-based Zov Bistro has released a cookbook where she shares her favorite recipes and culinary memories. Just a taste of what to expect? Crab and shrimp phyllo triangles, coconut beef stew with cilantro and mint and bulgur pilaf with garbanzo beans and toasted pita are only a few of the many Mediterranean-inspired dishes.

Changing up the Ritz
The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel in Dana Point has undergone serious changes this past year, first by closing The Dining Room for revamps, then reopening it as Restaurant 162'. Now the oceanside resort has closed its other restaurant, The Terrace, and its chef Joel Harrington will jump over to guide 162' during the transition. The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, One Ritz-Carlton Dr. (Pacific Coast Hwy.), Dana Point, 949-240-2000.

Brunch at Bistro Rouge
Culinary Adventures’ bistro Rouge offers Sunday brunch. Smoked salmon Benedict with creamed spinach and hollandaise and chocolate crème brûlée french toast may be enjoyed along with a Bellini or Bloody Mary. Rouge, 327 Newport Center Dr., Newport Beach, 949-640-2700.

Mina’s Tavern at St. Regis
Stonehill Tavern, led by chef Michael Mina, will replace Aqua at the St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort & Spa in Dana Point. Set to open in February 2006, Stonehill Tavern will feature modern American cuisine in an elegant, yet casual and comfortable environment. Dishes will include organic whole fried chicken with roasted vegetables and suckling pig with root vegetables, truffle sauce and wild arugula. 1 Monarch Beach Resort, Dana Point, 949-234-3200,

Goetz Dishes for Chat Noir
Yvon Goetz just completed Phase I of his much-anticipated overhaul of David Wilhelm’s French menus. Chat Noir, formerly known for its jazz and super-cool ambience, now offers some pretty fantastic seasonal French creations too. New items include a grilled veal chop and grilled pork tenderloin. Nightly specials are also on offer. Chat Noir, 655 Anton Blvd., Costa Mesa, 714-557-6647.

Heading Down South
Tim and Liza Goodell, the dynamic duo behind Meson G on Melrose Avenue, are opening a second Red Pearl Kitchen in San Diego (yes, San Diego). The chef of the first Red Pearl Kitchen in Huntington Beach (412 Walnut Ave., 714-969-0224), Binh Truong, will go down to the Gaslamp district to oversee the opening of the new restaurant in the summer. Red Pearl will take its place in a new mixed-use development at the corner of Fifth and J Streets with retail stores on the street level and living quarters above.

Jazz Up Lunch
Want a little jazz with your lunch? Ambrosia, located inside the decadently-decorated OC Pavilion, serves an express lunch 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. every Tuesday-Friday. The Chris Williams jazz trio plays on a small stage in this romantic eatery while professionals nosh on a three-course meal in 30 minutes for $30. Ambrosia, 801 N. Main St., Santa Ana, 714-550-0811.

Prix Fixe Lunch for $27
Another power lunch spot is at The Island Hotel’s Pavilion restaurant. Chef Bill Bracken has created the Quick Fix Lunch, a two-course prix fixe menu for $27 with service in under an hour. Here, lunch goers can start with either a light salad or a healthy soup. The second course features the chef’s daily special, which includes vegetable accompaniment. Pavilion, The Island Hotel, 690 Newport Center Dr., Newport Beach, 949-760-4920.

Camp Out at The Farm
One of the best things to do on a lazy Sunday morning in OC is to attend the new Farm & Art Market at the CAMP ( Located in so-called SoBeCa, the outdoor market is held 9 a.m. -1 p.m. each Sunday, featuring certified California-grown produce, fresh cut flowers, local artisans and live music. The Farm & Art Market at The CAMP, 2937 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, 714-966-6661.

Half Price Wine
Tim and Liza Goodell of Domaine Restaurants are offering 50 percent off wines at Red Pearl Kitchen in Huntington Beach every Sunday. Red Pearl Kitchen, 412 Walnut Ave., Huntington Beach, 714-969-0224.

Fall Into Autumn
Balboa Bay Club chefs Josef Lageder and Yvon Goetz have created a fall menu at the resort’s First Cabin restaurant. The seasonal offerings include both European-style, cold-weather specialties and American favorites such as a Tuscan-style cannellini bean soup, winter greens in a warm bacon-raspberry vinaigrette or a hazelnut-crusted venison medallions surrounded by a huckleberry sauce. First Cabin, The Balboa Bay Club & Resort, 1221 W. Coast Hwy., Newport Beach, 949-645-5000.

Gayot's Annual Awards
Studio, helmed by the masterful chef James "Jimmy" Boyce, not only garnered the top score (17/20) in OC, but was also honored as one of the nation's Top 40 Restaurants. Chef Boyce's Cal-Mediterannean cuisine always tastes better in the handsome Craftsman-style restaurant he helped design, which just happens to be perched atop one of Laguna's most picturesque coves..

Eat Like a Star
NutriFit, a Los Angeles-based gourmet meal delivery service, has expanded its delivery area to include Orange County. Now OC receives the same amenities that celebrities such as Charlize Theron, Reese Witherspoon, Ryan Phillippe, Owen Wilson, Angelina Jolie, Uma Thurman and Will Ferrell love about the L.A. program—customized and individually tailored healthy meals, snacks and desserts delivered fresh three times per week. Reaching as far south as Mission Viejo and as far east as the I-5 corridor, the meals are delivered from their kitchen in Huntington Beach. Call 800-341-4190 or visit

Mel’s Diner Drives Into OC
Remember Mel’s Drive-In from “American Graffiti,” George Lucas’ classic 1973 film about 1950s America? Well, Mel’s is coming to OC early next year. Located in Seal Beach’s landmark, space age-like Parasol building, Mel’s will offer the same hamburger-and-fries menu as its seven other locations in L.A. and San Francisco.

Artistic Arrangement
Costa Mesa’s Wyndham Garden Hotel is offering a parking, dinner and cocktail package for those attending performances at the nearby Orange County Performing Arts Center. Located directly across the street from the new Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, the Wyndham’s “Theatre Night” package includes free self parking or $8 valet parking with a minimum $50 purchase at the hotel’s TerraNova restaurant. Reservations are required. Wyndham Garden Hotel, 3350 Ave. of the Arts, Costa Mesa, 714-751-5100.

Ruby's Sliders

Edible Island Slides
Ruby’s Diners and King’s Hawaiian, the producers of Hawaiian sweet breads and dinner rolls, have teamed up to create three new “island sliders,” which are served as a combination plate with a side salad and fries. We recently tried all three flavors and were pleasantly surprised at the flavorful American Kobe beef slider, which comes smothered in grilled onions. There’s also the “three little pigs slider” (pulled pork in barbeque sauce) and the crab cakes slider. Ruby’s Diners, various Orange County locations.

Chef Shuffle

Jean Pierre Dubray, the executive chef at The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco, has been named executive chef of The Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Coast. A native of France’s Loire Valley, Dubray came to the United States to be part of the opening team of La Vie en Rose in Brea and later was named the first dining room chef of The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel. He will be responsible for The Resort at Pelican Hill’s culinary offerings, comprising Pelican Grill (the signature restaurant at the Pelican Hill Golf Club), Andrea (Northern Italian cuisine), a poolside grill and bar, the resort’s pastry and bakery operations, room service, and catering and special event services. Dubray starts March 17. The resort, located between Newport Beach and Laguna Beach, opened the Pelican Hill Golf Club in November 2007; all other components–128 bungalows and 204 villas, a spa with 22 treatment rooms, and more restaurants–will open in fall 2008.

Chef John Garcia has taken over the kitchen for Restaurant 162’ at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel. We were highly impressed with executive chef Rob Wilson’s cooking, so we are hoping chef Garcia brings to the table the same freshness and innovation. Garcia is formerly a chef at San Diego’s Hotel Del Coronado and Chicago’s Park Avenue Café. Restaurant 162’, Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel, One Ritz-Carlton Dr., Dana Point, 949-240-2000.

Chef Lauren “Lulu” De Rouen has taken over the kitchens at Leatherby’s Café Rouge, the ultra-modern Patina Group restaurant inside the Henry and Renée Segerstrom Concert Hall at the Orange County Performing Arts Center.

Chef Stephane Beaucamp has resigned from his post at Kantina in Newport Beach with no word on where he will land next.

Chef Mark Gold has left Leatherby's Café Rouge, the highly acclaimed restaurant located inside the Segerstrom Concert Hall. The Patina Group has promoted Tim Guiltinan to the top spot.

Chef Ronnie Arnold, formerly of Laguna’s hush, is now the chef de cuisine at Motif, the casual restaurant inside The St. Regis Monarch Beach. Chef Ashley Ewart has taken over the kitchen at hush.

Chef Yvon Goetz, formerly with The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel and then The Balboa Bay Club, is now executive chef and partner at The Winery Restaurant, which is slated to open this July at The District in Tustin. The Winery Restaurant, The District, 2647 Park Ave., Tustin,

Chef Katie Averill, formerly of Mirabeau in Monarch Beach, is now a culinary arts instructor at The Art Institute-Orange County. She heads up the Institute’s new “Art of Cooking” and “Baking & Pastry” diploma programs, which begin April 2nd. These two accelerated four-quarter programs focus on developing cooking, baking and pastry skills in American regional food. For more information, call 888-549-3055 or visit

Chef Bruce Logue, who recently cooked for Mario Batali’s Babbo in New York City, is now the executive chef at Vivace, the fine dining restaurant at Carlsbad’s Four Seasons Aviara. Chef Logue stresses seasonal cooking for what he dubs “interpretive regional Italian cuisine."

Frederic Castan has been appointed executive chef at the St. Regis Resort, Monarch Beach. Castan comes to the Dana Point resort straight from the Sofitel Chicago Water Tower, where he was executive chef. He has also held that position at the Westin South Coast Plaza, and The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel.

Chef Bill Bracken, most recently serving as the executive assistant manager of food and beverage at The Peninsula Beverly Hills, has been named the executive chef of the newly renamed The Island Hotel Newport Beach (formerly Four Seasons Newport Beach) where he will oversee the Pavilion, The Gardens Lounge and Café, banquet services and 24-hour in-room dining.

Jim Bellino is the proud new owner of Newport Beach's Margaritaville. Community support runs high, and locals look forward to seeing what he'll do with this popular Mexican restaurant. Margaritaville, 2332 W. Coast Hwy., Newport Beach, 949-631-8220.

Dorian Rommel has recently been appointed as the director of food and beverage at The St. Regis Resort Monarch Beach. Rommel, who is responsible for all culinary events, brings experience from a host of luxury hotels here and in Europe, including the Sheraton Hotel & Conference Centre in Frankfurt, the Dorchester Hotel in London and The Pierre and The Waldorf Astoria in New York City.

Alessandro Serni has been named executive chef at Vineyard Rose. Located at Temecula’s South Coast Winery Resort & Spa, Vineyard Rose serves Mediterranean-style cuisine. Italian-born Serni, who most recently was executive chef in charge of banquets and special events at Anaheim’s Disneyland Resort, hopes to make the menu at Vineyard Rose more wine friendly. Serni has also held posts at Four Season Aviara Resort in Carlsbad and San Diego’s award-winning Vivace.

David Man, formerly of Troquet and most recently Aubergine, has found a home at The Island Hotel’s Pavilion restaurant. Chef Man says he will use his formidable contemporary cuisine talents mostly at dinner, hopefully adding some of his signature items to executive chef Bill Bracken’s already decadent dinner menu. We are hoping for the speedy return of chef Man’s Stilton bleu cheese soufflé with white port cream.

Brian Pekarcik has been elevated from executive sous chef to executive chef at Arterra restaurant in the San Diego Marriott Del Mar. Pekarcik continues to work closely with consulting chef Bradley Ogden of Lark Creek Restaurant Group to maintain Arterra's tradition of using only the highest quality produce and ingredients to create farm-fresh, seasonal dishes. One of Pekarcik's signature dishes is a duo of veal that includes marinated tenderloin and chipotle-glazed meatloaf with Chino Farms roasted vegetables and Madeira essence.

Chef Yves Fournier has relocated from The Hyatt Regency Irvine’s celebrated 6ix Park Grill to a position as executive sous chef at The Hyatt Regency Newport Beach (formerly The Hyatt Newporter). Chef Fournier says he wants to bring more prominence to the cuisine at this resort, which hasn’t been known for its food and beverage offerings.


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GAYOT's Annual Restaurant Awards honor America's best chefs, as well as promising newcomers and a top restaurateur.

VEGETARIAN FOODWith GAYOT's lists of the Best Vegetarian-Friendly Restaurants, you can discover where to find the best meatless meals.