Yet another sampling of restaurants that are making their debut in the Grub Guide. Skoal!
Thong "Chim" Johnson, owner of Bangkok Taste, knows how to pack heat into her torrid Thai creations, like her luscious green curry and her garlic shrimp; no other Thai place I know of makes its own ice cream like Johnson's does. 2737N.GrandAve.,SantaAna,(714)532-2216.$
Located at the tranquil Sherman Library and Gardens, the café's menu is well-thought-out. The mushroom soup is the color of a spa mudpack with an earthy mushroom flavor, and all of the desserts are made on the premises. 2647E.PacificCoastHwy.,CoronadelMar,(949)673-2261.$$
Casual. Cheap. Terrific. This restaurant specializes in fresh fish, and you must try the gumbo: a spicy, cumin-scented stew of grilled fish topped with jasmine rice and fresh vegetables sautéed in olive oil. 670W.17thSt.,Ste.G8,CostaMesa,(949)645-8873.$
Every night is amateur night at Captain Thai Restaurant, a nightclub that happens to serve great Thai food as wannabe singers take the stage to belt out some favorites. Fortunately, the food is better than the talent. 8552BeachBlvd.,BuenaPark,(714)995-1999.$$
Only card-carrying Club 33 members and their guests can enter this exclusive club, located in the bowels of Disneyland. The all-you-can-eat buffet is by far the best in all the land of Disney, which, in itself, isn't saying much. But you can be legally shit-faced here instead of telling park security your soda fermented as they throw you into Disneyland's drunk tank. 33RueRoyale,NewOrleansSquare,Disneyland.OnlyworshippersofWaltcanenter.
The Edenic sense of isolation you get visiting here is due not only to the soothing waterfall and atrium-like patio but also to owner Kim Simpson's pleasing menu. She uses only the freshest ingredients and a home-style flair in her delicious (and reasonably priced) food. You gotta try her scones. And cobb salad. And don't think of leaving without some peach cobbler. 130E.17thSt.,Ste.O,CostaMesa,(949)722-1177.$$
Cajun purists will howl that there are no outposts of this rapidly expanding chain actually inthe Crescent City, so therefore the food cannot possibly pass muster—hell, theydon'tevengotgator!But it's no Disneyfication of the Big Easy, either. The shrimp po' boys are just the way they oughta be: a flaky French bread roll bloated with lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, spicy mayo and fried, bite-size prawns, and messier than a dip into the Mississippi. 2933ElCaminoReal,Tustin,(714)453-3555,WWW.CRESCENTCITYBEIGNETS.COM. $$
Many sushi bars don't stock hokegai, a generously two-toned Japanese clam with a mild flavor. It's a mark of quality that Gen Kai has occasionally on hand, and their fish servings are out-of-the-net fresh! 3344E.CoastHwy.,CoronadelMar,(949)675-0771;WWW.GENKAIRESTAURANT.COM. $$
Whether the hissing grill and spinning knives at Karuta strike you as a little pop-culture retro or even warmly nostalgic, they are a startling reminder of the joys and dangers of this food-and-fun combo. While you're awaiting portions of shrimp, sesame chicken and teriyaki steak, along with mixed veggies and sprouts, comics/surgeons/cooks will make a what-did-the-banana-say-to-the-vibrator joke while strobe lights flash on their flicking, flashing knives. Food's good, too. 6890BeachBlvd.,BuenaPark,(714)994-2730.$$
The rotisserie and mochiko chicken plates are the Kauai of Kokona Hut, but you'll smile through the rest of the mainland Hawaiian grub choices as well: a crispy chicken katsu that crumbles the second you stab a fork into it, a stringy slab of Kahlua pork, or a tender slice of spicy pork, the pig charred and hosting the slightest of fires. And, Hawaii being the West Coast Ellis Island, there's also a side business in fine-for-Placentia sushi rolls and kim chi (strangely called bean sprouts). 1204E.OrangethorpeAve.,Placentia,(714)524-0077;WWW.KOKONAHUT.COM. $
Located on the outskirts of Little Gaza, La Langosta is a family-themed Mexican seafood restaurant. Order its namesake langosta ranchera—lobster prepared with peppers, onions, cilantro, tomatoes and a salsa that is hot both in a literal and culinary sense. 408S.BrookhurstSt.,Anaheim,(714)772-6666.$$
Their fish-taco platter is the best bargain this side of Loreto. It comes with two warm flour tortillas loaded with mild fish filets, purple cabbage, a drizzle of sour cream, grated white cheese and tomatillo salsa. 2300W.OrangethorpeAve.,Fullerton,(714)441-3420.$
PoFolks is a rustically eccentric restaurant—tin and wooden agricultural-company signs on the walls, a working train that chugs the perimeter—specializing in Norms-style home cooking with a Southern bent, the kind of place where fried chicken livers with red beans and rice is a daily special and peach cobbler isn't some ironic/iconic treat but what's for dessert. 7701BeachBlvd.,BuenaPark,(714)521-8955.$$
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Among traditional Italian fare, you'll find creations here that satisfy even the pickiest eaters. The rigatoni with broccoli and artichoke hearts is in a cream sauce and a surprisingly light and flavorful dish. The tiramisu is fluffy, not too sweet, and among the best I've tasted. 1576NewportBlvd.,CostaMesa,(949)645-8560.$$
Although the food menu isn't particularly extraordinary—an unimaginative, though tasteful, tour of northern and southern Italian favorites, with weekly chefs' menus of American fare like steaks and sesame-encrusted ahi passing for experimental—Tannins' wine execution and presentation make the place a must-dine. Sommelier Kijou Morris rotates the wine list every three months and scours the vineyards of the globe for pleasing brands. He even offers a cheat sheet for the ignorant—every entrée lists two wine recommendations. 27221OrtegaHwy.,Ste.C,SanJuanCapistrano,(949)218-3560.$$
Vine is an epicurean stunner, a snug eatery that's been open for about a year now but continues to attract South Countians seeking a joyous repast. It focuses on California wine-country cuisine, meaning alchemies of seasonal flavors and ingredients that are as nuanced and numerous as the vineyards of Napa: pumpkin ravioli appetizers, sea scallops with fava beans, and other assorted meal miracles prepared by owner/chef Justin Monson. 211N.ElCaminoReal,SanClemente,(949)361-2079;WWW.VINESANCLEMENTE.COM. $$$