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Grub Guide

Tasty morsels from the county's best damn dining guide

PERUVIAN KITCHEN

The folks at Peruvian Kitchen don’t dumb it down for the city’s bros at all. In addition to their black-but-moist hen, they offer fried rice adorned with raisins, carrots and corn; sturdy French fries with snappy hot dog slices, and a fabulous mesquite-smoked yam. But go for the anticuchos: two skewers of dark-brown beef heart glazed with garlic. The anticuchos were chewy, intensely meaty, the best offal in the county. 17552 Beach Blvd., Huntington Beach, (714) 847-7555. $

IRVINE

Location Info

Map

Thuyen Vien

11080 Magnolia St.
Garden Grove, CA 92841

Category: Restaurant > Vegetarian

Region: Garden Grove

Claes Restaurant

425 S. Coast Highway
Laguna Beach, CA 92651

Category: Restaurant > Seafood

Region: Laguna Beach

Thai Dining

28051 Greenfield Drive, Ste. J
Laguna Beach, CA 92677

Category: Restaurant > Thai

Region: Laguna Niguel

Ami Sushi

1804 N. Tustin Ave., Ste. C
Santa Ana, CA 92705

Category: Restaurant > Japanese

Region: Santa Ana

First Class Pizza

17853 Santiago Blvd., 101
Villa Park, CA 92861

Category: Restaurant > Pizza

Region: Villa Park

Cajun Islands

15430 Brookhurst St.
Westminster, CA 92683

Category: Restaurant > Cajun

Region: Westminster

Duong Son BBQ

9211 Bolsa Ave., Ste. 115
Westminster, CA 92683

Category: Restaurant > Barbecue

Region: Westminster

Pagolac Restaurant

15470 Magnolia St.
Westminster, CA 92683

Category: Restaurant > Barbecue

Region: Westminster

Kim Su Seafood Restaurant

10530 Bolsa Ave.
Westminster, CA 92683

Category: Restaurant > Chinese

Region: Westminster

Lua Bistrot

9892 Westminster Ave.
Garden Grove, CA 92844

Category: Restaurant > Vietnamese

Region: Garden Grove

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. $$

CHUAO CHOCOLATE CAFE
We first read about Chuao in Forbes, where the Carlsbad-based chocolatier achieved the dubious distinction of appearing on the magazine's list of "most expensive chocolates" at $79 a pound, well below something called Chocopologie by Knipschildt ($2,600 per pound) but considerably more than a 10-pack of Reese's for a buck. Its Irvine location shows why it's worth it. Spectrum Shopping Center, 95 Fortune Dr., Ste. 603, Irvine, (949) 453-8813. $

WHOLESOME CHOICE
Wholesome Choice is the most diverse supermarket in Orange County—maybe Southern California—a garden of produce delights where Armenian cherry preserves, Polish kielbasa, Middle Eastern cream cheese, organic eggs and Tapatí­o exist within a three-aisle radius. But its greatest treat is the sangak, crispy Persian flatbread as crucial to Iranian identity as Rumi and about four feet in length. 18040 Culver Dr., Irvine, (949) 551-4111; www.wholesomechoice.com. $

LA HABRA

GREAT WALL MONGOLIAN BBQ
In a culinary tradition that varies little whether you're chopsticking through Mongolian BBQ 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 BBQ, 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

ELLEN'S PINOY GRILLE
Ellen's attracts as many non-Filipinos as pinoys, perhaps because Ellen's offers a menu—a list of all 70 entrées, 10 of them available at any time in the always-steaming turo-turo buffet. The daing na bangus—milkfish stew marinated with garlic and cucumbers and cooked in a searing coconut-and-soy-sauce broth—is fabulous. 7971 Valley View St., La Palma, (714) 522-8866. $ 

LAGUNA BEACH

CLAES
Whether you're up for blowing the per diem, meeting friends for a quiet dinner (on them!) or sneaking into a corner for a romantic rendezvous, it doesn't get much better than Claes, where chefs play with seafood recipes like scientists with compounds. 25 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, (949) 376-9283; www.claesrestaurant.com. $$$

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 sautée 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. $$

FIVE FEET
It's no secret why snazzy Ritz-Carlton guests in Dana Point head north to Laguna Beach each night. For more than a decade, chef/owner Michael Kang has ranked among the most creative in California. Particularly popular is the whole catfish in hot braised sauce or the pan-roasted scallops. Reservations are a must. 328 Glenneyre St., Laguna Beach, (949) 497-4955. $$$

ROMEO CUCINA
At Romeo Cucina in Laguna Beach, the carpaccio appetizer—a large platter caked with carpaccio—is preposterously delightful and, at $11.95, a steal of a meal. Both shaved and chunky, the soft morsels are complemented with zingy lemon and capers, fresh-shaved Parmesan, artichoke hearts and salad bits. Other Italian platters are excellent, but the carpaccio is like a beef-flavored Listerine strip for the gut. 249 Broadway, Laguna Beach, (949) 497-6627. $$

LAGUNA HILLS

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 1987. 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; www.solomonsbakery.com. $

LAGUNA NIGUEL

THAI DINING
Start with their tom kah gai soup, a creamy, flavorful offering of the popular Thai chicken-coconut soup; then try the beef panang. It rates pretty high on the beef panang scale—and it'll make you sweat. 28051 Greenfield Dr., Ste. J, Laguna Niguel, (949) 643-5521. $

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