Orange County Dining

In these capsules of recent reviews, dollar signs indicate the average price of a meal for one, without beverages.

$: less than $10

$$: up to $20

$$$: up to $30

$$$$: more than $30.

PICAYO: Hidden away in residential north Laguna, a little bungalow houses Picayo, a French restaurant with Spanish and Moroccan influences and a taste for duck, both as appetizer and entree. Try Chilean sea bass on eggplant with olive vinaigrette, or the napoleon of scallops, prawns and salmon with black truffle sauce. Picayo, 610 N. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach. (949) 497-5051. Dinner Tuesdays-Saturdays, 5:30-10 p.m.; brunch Sunday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. $$$

PLAZA GARIBALDI: The main attraction is the mariachi dinner show (Fridays-Sundays). Though the limited show menu offers quality, such as pleasing shrimp dishes and a fine carnitas entree, a larger menu of standard Mexican dishes is served during the week. Plaza Garibaldi, 500 N. Brookhurst Ave., Anaheim. (714) 758-9014. Lunch and dinner Mondays-Thursdays, 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m.; Fridays-Sundays, 11 a.m.-midnight. $$

PLUMS: Once known only for breakfasts, sandwiches and salads, Plums Cafe now offers creative entrees, ranging from fried trout to tenderloin medallions topped by mushrooms. If it's a sandwich you crave, the confetti meatloaf is rich with cumin flavor and the excellent lamb-burger comes alive with fresh oregano. Plums Cafe, 369 E. 17th St., Costa Mesa. (949) 722-7586. Breakfast and lunch Mondays-Fridays, 7 a.m.-3 p.m.; Saturdays-Sundays, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. $

POLISH RESTAURANT: First it was a plain barbecue restaurant, but patrons liked the Polish dishes that sneaked on the menu so now it's known as Polish Restaurant. So enjoy the potato pancakes, the sweet-sour sauerkraut, the veal cordon bleu-like cutlet Sobieski--and once in a while, have some of that barbecue too. Polish Restaurant, 2610 W. La Palma Ave., Anaheim. (714) 827-9074. Lunch and dinner Tuesdays-Fridays, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Saturdays-Sundays, noon-9 p.m. $$

THE QUIET WOMAN: The Quiet Woman leads a sedate life, but it is one of the area's most consistently good dining spots. Entrees, mostly cooked on a mesquite grill, include Angus beefsteaks, fresh fish and a terrific rack of lamb. There are good salads, excellent homemade soups and fine desserts too. Don't miss the homemade pumpkin pie in season and the fudgy Toll House pie all year. The Quiet Woman, 3224 E. Coast Highway, Corona del Mar. (949) 640-7440. Lunch Mondays-Fridays, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; dinner Sundays-Thursdays, 5 p.m.-10 p.m.; Fridays-Saturdays, 5 p.m.-11 p.m. $$$

RESTAURANT ABE: Master chef Abe (pronounced AH-bay) has been called the Matsuhisa of Orange County, and the comparison is apt: He has worked at Nobu Matsuhisa's famed Japanese fusion restaurant in West Hollywood. Come to Abe's Newport restaurant for the sushi if you must, but he has far more interesting creations, such as tuna rib, smoked monkfish liver, oddball oyster shooters and mind-blowing omakase dinners. Restaurant Abe, 2900 Newport Blvd., Newport Beach. (949) 675-1739. Lunch Mondays-Fridays, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.; dinner Mondays-Thursdays, 5:30-10 p.m.; Fridays-Saturdays, 5:30-10:30 p.m.; Sundays, 5-9 p.m. $$$

THE RITZ: Hans Prager's ornately decorated restaurant, the Ritz, remains a bastion of Continental cuisine after more than two decades at Fashion Island. A well-dressed Newport crowd still turns out for retro faves such as lobster bisque and veal Oscar. Now there is a lovely outdoor garden area open during lunch and dinner. The Ritz, 880 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach. (949) 720-1800. Lunch Mondays-Fridays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; dinner Mondays-Thursdays, 6-10 p.m.; Fridays, 5:30-11 p.m.; Saturdays-Sundays, 5-11 p.m. $$$

ROMA D'ITALIA: Tustin's busy Roma D'Italia is an old-fashioned checked-tablecloth pizzeria/restaurant specializing in dishes with big, rich flavors, such as chicken d'Italia, which includes eggplant, ham, tomatoes, provolone and mushroom sauce. For something lighter, try the mixed seafood platter in a flavorful garlic white wine sauce. Roma D'Italia, 611 El Camino Real, Tustin. (714) 544-0273. Lunch and dinner Sundays-Thursdays, 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; Fridays-Saturdays, 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. $$

ROYAL KHYBER: Royal Khyber is aiming to be O.C.'s top Indian restaurant, and it has all the tools--a gorgeous dining room, an innovative menu and the talents of chef Arun Puri in the kitchen. Some of the dishes need more oomph, but certainly not the terrific shrimp samosa, killer warm eggplant salad or wonderful lamb shank in spicy broth. Royal Khyber, Fine Indian Cuisine, 1621 W. Sunflower Ave., South Coast Plaza Village, Santa Ana. (714) 436-1010. Lunch Mondays-Fridays, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.; dinner Sundays-Thursdays, 5:30-9:30 p.m.; Fridays-Saturdays, 5:30-10:30 p.m.; Sunday brunch, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. $$$

ROY'S: Roy's benefits from the inventive Pacific Rim cooking of superstar Hawaii chef Roy Yamaguchi. But this isn't the islands, and you won't find many of the fresh Hawaiian fish or Japanized items that make the restaurant soar there. Don't miss crunchy lobster pot stickers and blackened ahi. There also is a signature chocolate souffle. The wine list, by the way, is priced for Honolulu, so consider bringing your own. Roy's, 453 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach. (949) 640-7697. Dinner Sundays-Thursdays, 5-10 p.m.; Fridays-Saturdays, 5-11 p.m.; holiday lunches daily, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. $$$

SPAGHETTINI: With a name like Spaghettini Italian Grill and Jazz Club, it's hard to know what to expect. Not improvisation, it turns out; the ingredients are of the highest quality, but they're used in a cautious, lackluster way. Still, it has jazz, an open kitchen and dramatic low lighting, and the chocolate souffle cake is a knockout. Spaghettini Italian Grill and Jazz Club, 3005 Old Ranch Parkway, Seal Beach. (714) 960-6002. Lunch Mondays-Fridays, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; dinner Sundays-Mondays, 5-9:30 p.m.; Tuesdays-Wednesdays, 5-10 p.m.; Thursdays-Saturdays, 5-11 p.m.; brunch Sundays, 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m. $$

S.W. SEAFOOD & BARBECUE RESTAURANT: Featuring a mind-numbing range of barbecue entrees (go with the pork) and seafood dishes (great shrimp and scallops). If you're feeling particularly carnivorous, order the blossom platter, a heaping cold-cut sampler of pork, chicken, duck and jellyfish. S.W. Seafood & Barbecue Restaurant, 5406-A Walnut Ave., Irvine. (949) 262-0128. Lunch and dinner daily, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. $$

TANGATA: Joachim Splichal's museum-located restaurant is worth going to even if you aren't interested in art. At Tangata, the famous chef is playing with Mexican themes as well as brunch ideas like a crab Benedict and light, "tall food" French toast. And Tangata can give you fast service when you need it. Tangata, Bowers Museum of Cultural Art, 2002 N. Main St., Santa Ana. (714) 550-0906. Open for lunch daily (except Mondays), 11 a.m.-3 p.m. $$

TANGERINE GRILL: Though right across the street from Disneyland, Tangerine Grill is actually a decent California cuisine restaurant. This means Italian touches like fresh mozzarella and an imported tangerine sorbetto, but it also grills a good Santa Maria-style strip steak and a pork chop in a successful cranberry Bourbon sauce. Tangerine Grill and Patio, 1030 W. Katella Ave., Anaheim, (714) 772-1186. Lunch, breakfast and dinner daily, 6 a.m.-10 p.m. $$$

TAPS: Taps is one of the most ambitious brew pub/restaurants ever to open in northeast O.C. It's a 14,000-square-foot establishment featuring gleaming copper fermentation tanks, a centrally located oyster bar and a large, hangar-like dining room. Fresh seafoods, good side dishes and the dozen-plus house beers are best bets. Starters, pizzas and pastas are often either muddled or bland. Taps, 101 E. Imperial Highway, Brea. (714) 257-0101. Daily, 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. $$$

THAI PORN: This restaurant is named for its owner, Pornpan, whose name means "blessing." But Isarn (northeast Thai) dishes are the real blessings here. This disarmingly simple restaurant is the place to come for raw green papaya salad (som tam), Thai barbecued chicken, the chopped meat salad larb or anything made with the homemade sour pork sausage. It's all quite good Thai Porn, 1739 W. La Palma Ave., Anaheim. (714) 956-8105. Daily, 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. $

THANH MY: The big deal at Thanh My, one of Little Saigon's oldest Vietnamese restaurants, is bo 7 mon, beef served in seven courses such as salad, soup, rice paper wrap and meatloaf. The hot pots, cooked at your table, are also good, though messy to eat. Late groovers, take note--Thanh My stays open till 1:30 a.m. Thanh My, 9553 Bolsa Ave., Westminster. (714) 531-9540. Lunch and dinner daily, 10 a.m.-1:30 a.m. $

TIRAMISU: From the street, Tiramisu looks like a jewel box; inside, it's all restrained elegance in earth tones. Many of the best dishes, notably the thin-crust pizzas and whole fish, come from a wood-burning oven. The pastas are fine when the kitchen goes easy on the sauce. And yes, the tiramisu, available in three flavors, is the star attraction. Tiramisu, 2325 E. Coast Highway, Corona del Mar. (949) 673-8444. Lunch Mondays-Fridays, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; dinner Sundays-Thursdays, 5-9:45 p.m.; Fridays-Saturdays, 5-10:45 p.m. $$$

TROQUET: A polished French bistro in a mall? Sure, when Aubergine's Liza and Tim Goodell are behind the operation and the mall is South Coast Plaza. Try the celery root puree garnished with duck confit and pears and Maryland crab cakes with a smoky chipotle aioli and fried capers. Troquet, South Coast Plaza, 3333 Bristol Ave., Costa Mesa. Lunch Mondays-Saturdays, 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.; dinner Tuesdays-Thursdays, 5:30-9 p.m.; Fridays-Saturdays, 5:30-10 p.m.; brunch Sundays, noon-5 p.m. (714) 708-6865. $$$

WEI'S: Wei's is O.C.'s best Chinese restaurant at the moment, a boxy place that serves the fiery cuisine of China's Sichuan province and much more. Look to the short house-specialties section to snare the dishes that all these Chinese families are eating. The fabulous stewed assorted pork has a meatball, Chinese bacon, chicken feet and cooked spinach. Also be on the lookout for boiled salty duck and the best sizzling rice soup around. Wei's, 17046 Magnolia St., Fountain Valley. (714) 842-9778. Lunch Tuesdays-Fridays, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.; dinner Tuesdays-Saturdays, 5-9 p.m.; Sundays, 4:30-9 p.m. $$

YAMABUKI: This is really three restaurants: an elegant main dining room, private tatami rooms (where you dine while seated on straw mats) and a polished cedar sushi bar. Of the three, the sushi bar is by far the best--and the most economical. Let the chefs ply you with treats such as monkfish liver, delicious marinated raw mackerel, broiled smelts and almost any kind of sushi. Yamabuki, Paradise Pier Hotel, 1717 Disneyland Drive, Anaheim. (714) 239-5683. Lunch Mondays-Fridays, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.; dinner daily, 5:30-10 p.m. $$$

YARD HOUSE: The clubby, boisterous Yard House has 180 beers on tap, which it claims is the world's largest selection. Chef Carlito Jocson has cooked up a fusion menu of appealing pub dishes, such as salmon spring rolls, grilled shrimp skewers with Indonesian fried rice, pan-roasted sea bass and a variety of meats cooked on a mesquite grill. Yard House, 1875 Newport Blvd., Costa Mesa. (949) 642-0090. Lunch and dinner Sundays-Wednesdays, 11:30 a.m.-midnight; Thursdays-Saturdays, 11:30 a.m.-1 a.m. $$$

Y ARRIBA Y ARRIBA: Y Arriba Y Arriba offers pan-Latin American tapas along with its flashy floor show. The churrasco is a grilled skirt steak served with a garlicky vinaigrette, the lechon is moist Cuban roasted pork with a well-balanced sauce of garlic, lime juice and oregano. The ceviches--all five variations--are also superb. Y Arriba Y Arriba, Downtown Disney, Anaheim. (714) 533-8272. Lunch and dinner daily, 11 a.m.-2 a.m. $$

ZOV'S BISTRO: A longtime Orange County institution, Zov's has expanded its dining space again. One still goes for hummus and baba ghannouj, Middle Eastern gravlax, the pork prime rib in sour cherry glaze and rich pastries such as chocolate obsession: mousse on chocolate hazelnut crust. Zov's Bistro, 17440 E. 17th St., Tustin. (714) 838-8855. Cafe open Mondays, 7 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; Tuesdays-Thursdays, 7 a.m.-8 p.m.; Fridays-Saturdays, 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Bistro open for lunch Mondays-Fridays, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; dinner Tuesdays-Thursdays, 5-9 p.m.; Fridays-Saturdays, 5-10 p.m. Closed Sundays. $$

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