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Grub Guide

Tasty morsels from OC's best damn dining guide

SEBASTIANI'S ITALIAN BISTRO
Owner Pablo Benavente references his Peruvian roots during lunch and Italian dinners. Before you chow through an extensive, expensive gustatory tour of Southern Italy—highlights include powerfully herbed cannelloni, filling risotto and multiple chicken dishes—Benavente trots out a thimble of ají, the deceptively spicy Andean condiment, for your bread-spreading pleasure. 6078 Warner Ave., Huntington Beach, (714) 841-3619; www.sebastianis.net. $$

IRVINE

CHINA GARDEN
The dim sum jockeys who patrol China Garden with their carts and filled plates want you to gorge immediately, but pace yourself: the visits will not cease, the goodness of the county's best dim sum will not end. Cha shu bao, filled with sweet red barbecued pork, perfectly foils the steaming cup of the sharp house oolong tea. So does the steamed chicken bun, a light, chewy thing filled with ground chicken meat, ginger and herbs. 14825 Jeffrey Rd., Irvine, (949) 653-9988. $$

Location Info

Map

Sonic

1632 N. Lemon St.
Anaheim, CA 92801

Category: Restaurant > Fast Food

Region: Anaheim

Thai Laos Market

1721 W. La Palma Ave.
Anaheim, CA 92801

Category: Restaurant > Grocery

Region: Anaheim

Portillo's

8390 La Palma Ave.
Buena Park, CA 90620

Category: Restaurant > Italian

Region: Buena Park

Irvine Lake Cafe

4621 Santiago Canyon Road
Silverado, CA 92676

Category: Parks and Outdoors

Region: Silverado

Karl Strauss Brewery

901 S. Coast Drive
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Category: Breweries and Wineries

Region: Costa Mesa

Sushi Sho Japanese Restaurant

2263 Fairview Road, Ste. J
Costa Mesa, CA 92627

Category: Restaurant > Japanese

Region: Costa Mesa

Ziing's Bistro and Bar

209 N. Harbor Blvd.
Fullerton, CA 92832

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Fullerton

Hang a Ri Noodle House

9916 Garden Grove Blvd.
Garden Grove, CA 92844

Category: Restaurant > Korean

Region: Garden Grove

Esther's Place

6789 Warner Ave.
Huntington Beach, CA 92647

Category: Restaurant > Sandwiches

Region: Huntington Beach

Sebastiani's Italian Bistro Co.

6078 Warner Ave.
Huntington Beach, CA 92647

Category: Restaurant > Italian

Region: Huntington Beach

Vessia

3966 Barranca Parkway
Irvine, CA 92606-8235

Category: Restaurant > Italian

Region: Irvine

Onami Sushi & Seafood Restaurant

24155 Laguna Hills Mall, Ste. 1301
Laguna Hills, CA 92653

Category: Restaurant > Japanese

Region: Laguna Hills

DIHO BAKERY
The Japanese are the creators of nikuman, the world's cutest sandwich, which consists of a candied, spongy flour wrapped around gingered meats and vegetables. At Diho Bakery, nikuman-type sandwiches are elevated to an art form on par with calligraphy. The taro, in particular, is a pleasant surprise—not your tiki party's dull, watery poi paste, but instead a jam waiting to be copyrighted by See's. 14130 Culver Dr., Ste. J, Irvine, (949) 857-6415. $

VESSIA RISTORANTE
Irvine's finest fine-dining experience. High ceilings, tall windows and a fine bar. Order the brasciole aua barese (pancetta, garlic and pecorino cheese rolled into a tender flank steak), or the ab-fab rotolo di spinaci. 3966 Barranca Pkwy., Ste. B, Irvine, (949) 654-1155; www.vessia.com. $$

WHEEL OF LIFE
Whether it's your first visit to Irvine's Wheel of Life Restaurant or your 30th, the welcome remains the same: a smile, a pat on the back and a vigorous handshake offered by owners Victor and Kim Lim. Even if the only interaction between owner and customer here were the bill, the Wheel's fresh, flavorful, flesh-free food (prepared mostly via a Thai cooking prism) would continue to attract the most demanding gourmand. 14370 Culver Dr., Ste. 2G, Irvine, (949) 551-8222; www.wheelofliferestaurant.com. $$

LA HABRA

GREAT WALL MONGOLIAN BBQ
In a culinary tradition that varies little whether you're chopsticking through Mongolian barbecue in Ulan Bator or Utica, Great Wall differentiates itself by offering grub more fiery, more nuanced and a bit more bountiful than other charcuteries. Their daily lunch special is one of the most rewarding in the county—$4.50 for a bowl of Mongolian barbecue, along with a better-than-average egg roll, a thimble of fried rice that tastes vaguely Mexican and a small tureen of unctuous egg flower soup. 1261 Harbor Blvd., Ste. A, La Habra, (714) 680-3569. ¢

LA PALMA

A'ROMA RISTORANTE TRATTORIA
The restaurant has a modern décor in deep soothing colors, and the servers are attentive. Put yourself in the mood for the chicken-breast special, which is cooked to a golden tenderness and seasoned to a subtle richness. 30 Center Pointe Dr., Ste. 1, La Palma, (714) 523-3729. $

LAGUNA, LAGUNA, LAGUNA!

ANASTASIA
A sweet little restaurant perfect for l'amour. The food is billed as French/California hybrid, but that is selling it short. 470 Ocean Ave., Laguna Beach, (949) 497-8903.$$

THE COTTAGE
What's the secret of this Laguna Beach restaurant's decades of success? Good food and lots of it; comfy chairs and friendly service; charming framed photographs of Laguna's original greeter; and a full, sated belly every time you leave. 308 N. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, (949) 494-3023. $

EVA'S CARIBBEAN KITCHEN
Eva's occupies the same simple cottage that the dearly missed Drew's Caribbean Kitchen rented for many years. The best remnant from the Drew's days is an open kitchen that continues to flambé and sauté a cruise-ship tour of Caribbean cuisine, with stops for moist Bahamian conch fritters, a sweet St. Martin-style salad and enough varieties of rum to give Captain Morgan cirrhosis. 31732 S. Pacific Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, (949) 499-6311; www.evascaribbeankitchen.com. $$

THE JOLLY ROGER
This plain-folks restaurant's best dish is as plain as you can get: fish and chips. Fit to satisfy Ishmael's cravings, the fish is soaked in a thick batter that seals in the flavor just like the fish and chips from around London. 400 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, (949) 494-3137. $

ONAMI SUSHI & SEAFOOD RESTAURANT
Here, you can partake of as much sushi as you want. You can gobble down transparent globules of ikura (salmon roe) like popcorn or tiny particles of masago (smelt egg) as if they're—well, tiny particles of masago. 24155 Laguna Hills Mall, Ste. 1300, Laguna Hills, (949) 768-0500.$$

SAVOURY'S
Located in the La Casa de Camino Hotel in beautiful Laguna Beach, the restaurant is run by executive chef Brad Toles, captain of Team California in the International Culinary Olympics. He melds Asian and European cooking with a New Age flair. You can have your Brie and pad Thai here, and you'll like them. 1287 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, (949) 376-9716; www.savourys.com. $$$

SOLOMON'S BAKERY
At 3 a.m., when most Orange Countians are halfway through their slumber, Solomon Dueñas leaves Aliso Viejo and begins the 15-minute commute he's made nearly every morning to his Jewish bakery since 1988. Glass displays at Solomon's are clean, highlighting all the favorites of the Jewish-pastry galaxy—stomach-stuffing babkas; fruity hamantaschen; crumbly rugelach available in chocolate, raspberry and apricot. Even better is a Dueñas original that he calls an apple-raisin bran, a block of caramelized flour so decadent that customers drive in from San Diego and even Washington state just for a sniff. 23020 Lake Forest Dr., Ste. 170, Laguna Hills, (949) 586-4718. $

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