Behold our annual 100 Favorite Dishes countdown! Every day until the publication of our fantabulous Best Of Issue, we'll list our favorite meals this year in descending order. Enjoy, pass it on, and tune in daily!
Driving through Laguna Beach in the summer time, or anytime, is nothing short of a nightmare. There's basically one road, no parking, and it's microscopic. But their restaurants never cease to impress, and they redeem each trip through the city.
While you could throw a stone and hit a fantastic restaurant anywhere in Laguna Beach, the one you should hit is Hapi Sushi on Beach Street.
Veering from a menu of 45 "different" plates that are basically California rolls topped with various fish, Hapi Sushi offers a bit more originality. Taking the spotlight for the number 42 for this year's 100 Favorites, I present Hapi Sushi's 79 Special.
Like much of the short menu, the 79 Special doesn't have some frilly name with the words "dynamite," "dragon," "sexy," or "sexy dragon" next to glossy pictures of elaborate sushi rolls. Simple yet jazzy, this roll is a little package of smart textures and flavors.
While uncooked sushi comes first in my heart, this roll of baked eel makes for the perfect bookend to any meal at Hapi. The sweetness from the teriyaki sauce drizzled over the warm rice, salty eel, buttery avocado, crunchy Panko crumbs and speck of Siracha, blends together in luscious harmony. But the real kicker? Strawberries.
Bursting with their delicate acidity and bright and tangy sweetness, the strawberries are pure candy in this dish and turn this lunch/dinner roll into a unique dessert.
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God bless the Japanese for creating the word "umami" because few others can translate the ensemble of flavor in a roll like the 79 Special.
43. Chicken Nuggets at The North Left 44. Spicy Lemon Garlic Chicken at Chicken Maison 45. Surround Sound Burrito at the Secret Spot 46. Cheesecake Beignets At Scott's Restaurant 47. Spam and Egg Banh Mi From Tan Hoang Huong 48. Marianne's 10-2- Ice Cream At Ruby's Diner 49. Chile Relleno Pretzel Cheeseburger at OC Fair 50. Lunch at Big Thunder Ranch at Disneyland 51. Pescado A Lo Macho at Muelle Peruvian Cantina 52. Cemita de Milanesa at La Cemita Poblana 53. Meatballs and Polenta at 320 Main 54. Shellfish (Ốc) at Hien Vuong Da Kao 55. Basic Bol at Boldo Bol 56. Bang Bang Shrimp at Bonefish Grill 57. 10-Item Plate at Thuan Kieu Noodle & Grill 58. Leche Frita at Cafe Sevilla 59. Happy Hour Sushi at Ginzaya 60. Red Beans and Rice at Disneyland's French Market 61. Consommé from Tacos y Birria El Güero 62. Fried Chicken Biscuit Sandwich at Little Sparrow 63. Breakfast Taco at Sapphire Laguna 64. Husky Burger at Husky Boy Burgers 65. Love Bagel from Koffee Klatch 66. Kouign Amann From The Crema Cafe & Bakery 67. Chili Lime Popcorn From Green Tomato Grill 68. PB & J At Hopscotch 69. Takuwan Sushi from AnQi by Crustacean 70. Ube Ensaymadas from The Ensaymada Project 71. Pork Bánh Mì at the OC Poultry and Rotisserie Market 72. Tacos Gobernador from Mariscos Los Corales 73. Dutch Baby at the Original Pancake House 74. Doughnuts from Sidecar 75. Lengua Tacos at La Chonita 76. Oysters from Carlsbad Aquafarm at the Orange Homegrown Farmers Market 77. Lemon Miso Crab Melt at Umami Burger in Laguna Beach 78. Pani Puri from Adya 79. The Pocket at the Pocket Burger 80. Gyro Sandwich from Paul's Place 81. Slice of Heaven at Pie-Not 82. Taquitos at El Toro Bravo 83. Peanut Butter and Jelly Donut at the Donuttery 84. Dan Dan Mian at Wei-Shian Noodle 85. Beef Burger at Rider's Club Café 86. Smoked Trout at Provenance 87. Small Plates at A&J Restaurant 88. Corn Cheese at Zoomak Asian Bistro 89. Pumpkin Curry at Bhan Baitong 90. Poke at Costco Tustin II 91. Pambazo at Tacos Radioactivos 92. Beef Pho at Pho Crystal Noodle House 93. Breakfast Burrito from Cafe Calacas 94. Koobideh Plate from Grill Cafe 95. Tacos de Cecina from Alebrije's 96. Jajangmyeong from Ching Chinese Express 97. Breakfast Sausage from Da-Le Ranch 98. Any Special Dinner by Old Vine Cafe's Mark McDonald 99. Tres Amigos Burrito from Piaggio on Wheels 100. Bacon-Wrapped Dates from Lola Gaspar