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We're vacationing in Newport Beach later in the summer. Hope someone has some good recommendations. Atmosphere and quality of food are more important than a great wine list for this trip but if the foregoing are there then a great wine list is the cherry on top the cake.
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Another place in Laguna is Las Brisas, its a Mexcian seafood. The food is just ok but best ocean view you will ever find!
Also, not too far from Newport is The Hobbit in city of Orange.
Here is what Zagat wrote about this place:

"Reservations can be hard to get” but they’re “worth the effort” for a “once-in-a-lifetime”, “special-occasion” dining experience at this French-Continental in a “converted hacienda” in Orange; the evening begins with hot and cold hors d’oeuvres and “bubbly in the wine cellar”, followed upstairs by a “splendid fixed menu” of “many gourmet courses” (seven) served in such an “unhurried” manner that guests are allotted time to tour the kitchen and grounds.

While you are down in the cellar having hors d. YOu can select wine from their cellar.
Been there 4 times and always had a great time!
Originally posted by tomtom:
I would drive a short distance to Laguna Beach and try French 75. Newport Beach is great and I used to live there, but for intimate dinners I would venture down the coast. The restaurant is outstanding and very romantic.
And guess what I now work for this company Smile
We have 6 restaurants right now.
But yes tomtom is right French 75 is really romantic and has a nice wine list too.
If you don't mind driving you can also come to where I work, Chat Noir in Costa Mesa.
Nice place but not by the beach though...
I used to live in the area and Aurbergine gets my vote-but for a close second for both food and wines I like Troquet in Costa Mesa. If you and any traveling companions are going to South Coast Plaza to shop- and it's huge and well stocked with all kinds of opportunities to spend your $- Troquet will allow you to unwind after the trudge through the Mall.
French 75 is by far one of my favorites in the Laguna area.
If you want to go for a cocktail prior to dinner, Splashes at the Surf & Sand Hotel, located ocean side of PCH almost directly across from French 75 is a very romantic spot, sundown is breathtaking. Although the dining is average tourist fare, for a pre-dinner cocktail and light app, it is the place to go!

ancora imparo
capitolkat, that's a "Top Cat" recommendation you made and after looking at the many great suggestions, I've settled on Troquet. Here's the reasoning: In the process of doing my research, I found the following review for Troquet:
Troquet A+. That review informed me it's located in the South Coast Plaza Mall, about which I knew nothing before. The bride has this thing about shopping, and why not have a great meal, followed by some excellent shopping--and should we have had a little too much wine, we can walk it off in the mall and drive safely to the hotel afterwards. Finally, the review says Troquet allows a corkage be paid, which it shows to be $15. I'll confirm that by a call but I have some fantastic wine that I would love to take with us for a meal and that's what I'll plan doing.
Be sure to keep your Amex warm as the Mall is huge, the stores top rate and during the off season some resorts have a combo plan to shuttle their guests to the Mall for shopping and dining and you don't have the worry about drinking and driving. You might also check into the Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach. You will never see anything like it as for many years the Pageant has replicated the great art of the world with living models, and backdrops in this summertime festival. Ask the Concierge at your hotel about tickets- I guarantee it will be a highlight of your trip - but tickets are hard to come by. cheers
I was out in Laguna Beach last weekend and thought I’d throw my 2 cents into this thread…
We stayed at the Surf and Sand Spa/Resort, right on the beach. Beautiful place… great beach and views of the sunset. I had the duck confit hash for breakfast at their restaurant (Splashes) and it was delicious. We also ate at French 75 and had a wacky German waiter who could have been plucked direct from a 1920s Parisian bistro. Food was excellent (I had the braised short ribs) and wine list was very solid, although not as replete with bargains as I had hoped. Still, I felt the wine we ordered was delicious and a relatively good deal – it was a 2001 Lamborn Family Zin (“The Cork Report”) that was priced at $55/btl. Made by Heidi Barrett, it was a medium- to full-bodied, beautifully balanced and complex red-fruit-driven Zin. Not a fruit bomb, but it kept pumping out an array of berry flavors and spice along with lovely mineral and earth notes. Good match for the meat. We also drove out to Temecula for an afternoon and visited a half-dozen wineries. By far, the best we found were Leonesse Cellars (pouring a yet-to-be bottled Cinsault “port” and a merlot barrel-sample) and Palumbo (pouring a delicious Bordeaux blend called Tre Fratelli).
Really a beautiful weekend.
Ate at French 75 last night with a couple of colleagues and the experience was alright, but not great. The server said that the restaurant has just returned to its original ownership after having gone through a couple of different owners.

The biggest downside is that the music was really loud. A guy at the piano in the bar singing 70s pop tunes loudly amplified. When he took a break after awhile they switched to some sort of musack that was tolerable.

The service was slow.

We did get a bonus from the wine list sort of. They did not have either of the wines I ordered (a half bottle of Lageder Pinot Grigio 2007 or a full bottle of Perrin & Fils Les Sinards Cdp 2004) so they brought us a bottle of Beaucastel 2005 and gave it to us for the same price as the Perrin ($80) which was nice. They eventually came around with a house Pinot Grigio which was fine but it took forever to sort this out. The Beaucastel was tight as a drum.

Almost half of my moules didn't open but the ones that did were terrific in their sauce and they make great frites. My John Dory on pureed parsnips with olives and a crispy onion garnish was awesome. My colleagues liked what they had but weren't that wowed.
We ate at French 75 a few years ago and I ordered a 2003 Lamborn 'Papa's Vinatge' Zinfandel. It came out way too warm and I asked the waiter to put it into an ice bucket for a few minutes to bring it down to cellar temperature. He looked at me like I had two heads, but sent over the wine steward who knew exactly what I was going for. In any case, we had a nice night....

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