My husband and I are from the San Francisco Bay Area and we just got back from a trip to Southern California, mainly staying at the Newport Coast. Here is my restaurant report.
We are always searching for good, authentic Japanese food and know we can find it in SoCal more than Northern California (though it’s getting a bit better up here). On this trip we discovered Ebisu Mendokoro in Fountain Valley, which has great ramen, udon, soba, etc. They also have okonomiyaki, which we did not try. Inexpensive and pretty authentic. On our last trip we ate at Kappo Honda-ya an izakaya also in FV, which is also good. Also on another trip we ate at Kitayama in Newport Beach, which is more upscale, but is also recommended. Also checked out the food court at the Mitsuwa Marketplace in Costa Mesa. Had been to the one in Torrance so I knew to go for the Santouka ramen, which is quite good. My husband went for the Japanese Western-style food with a hamburger steak at Italian Tomato.
We really enjoyed Sage at the Coast in the Crystal Cove Shopping Center. We went for lunch and ended up going for dinner later in the week for their tasting menu, which was $45 with paired wines. Excellent food, service, and atmosphere. The chef has definite Asian influences, which were a real pleasure, but the tasting menu also had Spanish touches. The dessert was a mini lemon meringue tart -- heaven!
Had lunch at French 75 in the Fashion Island Shopping Center. We’d gone to R&D Cafe on our last trip, so decided to try a different place this time. We enjoyed it, reminding us of a French mini-chain up here called Left Bank. Pleasant, faux-French atmosphere, good steak with Bernaise sauce, nice wines. Also pleasant was the Sun Dried Tomato Cafe for dinner in Laguna Beach, which had very reasonable prices compared to some of the other restaurants in the neighborhood. We had a nice butternut squash soup and I had a salmon dish that probably would have cost fifty-percent more at 230 Forest Avenue, which just looked overpriced to us. Not as great as Sage, but quite decent. On our way back to the car we passed Five Feet, which looks really intriguing and we want to try it next time.
On our last trip we tried Zov’s in Newport, based on a friend’s request, but we weren’t very impressed. But we liked Gulfstream, though we didn’t have a chance to go back there this time.
Also was in Torrance where we went to Ichimi on Cravens Avenue for the second time, a little hole in the wall that serves mostly udon and soba that tastes like what you’d get in Tokyo. It’s the real deal and everyone in the joint was Japanese except me. Nothing like this up in the SF Bay Area, I’m sorry to say...
And also one day spontaneously went to the LA Farmer’s Market, which I’d never been to before. Of course the choices were overwhelming. We ended up at Monsieur Marcel’s, which wasn’t that great and probably wasn’t the best choice, but what can you do when you’re a tourist and you’re there at the last minute with no time to research? Still it was a lot of fun to be there. Also tried Pinkberry yogurt, but did not become a fan. :-)
And lastly we were at Third Street Promenade, which was not what I expected. No interesting looking restaurants to speak of (including another branch of Monsieur Marcel!) and nothing but chain stores. Tried to go to Anisette Brasserie, which looked nice. but it wasn’t open yet (we were there around 3:30) so we ended up at Cafe Crepe for some wine and their cheese and charcuterie plate which, at 12.50 with a generous amount of bread, wasn’t too bad.
Love SoCal -- can't wait to return.