Follow Cameron Diaz’s lead and visit chef Tin Vuong and partner Jed Sanford’s first O.C. restaurant (their ninth to open between here and L.A. in five years). The beachy blonde has been spotted at the 235-seat culinary homage to the shore at Pacific City. It boasts an unbeatable ocean view and a hot ambience, mixing the feel of a hometown hang with a cosmopolitan vibe—and a global menu of coastal cuisine. The uni risotto is sumptuous, but the splashiest pairing is the paella of rice and noodles for two (with an ocean’s worth of fish, chicken and sofrito) and the La Sirena cocktail. Its tequila, elderflower liqueur, honey, lemon and Curacao cut into the heat—like a dip in the water after hours on the sand.
2. FARMHOUSE AT ROGER’S GARDENS
Like a green thumb tending to his plot, executive chef and owner Rich Mead is taking farm-to-table dining and making it grow. His chopped grilled veggie salad is a blend of the best fresh produce he buys weekly at the Santa Monica Farmers Market, with balsamic, feta, avo and a red-wine Dijon vinaigrette. The Colin’s Mistress drink mirrors the salad’s brightness with strawberry shrub, citrus, blanc de blanc and Tru Organic Gin. And the bistro’s design taps into the setting’s natural beauty, with alfresco seating and an interior inspired by a modern farmhouse, with chandeliers sparkling over wooden tables. The secret to this garden? Make reservations now; a spot was recently booked for a year out.
We always want to sit in the orange semiprivate booth that peeks out on Laguna Niguel and the sea—it boasts baseball glove leather like you’d find in a Range Rover. (Partner John Nye calls it a close second to his dream car.) Here, we dine on chef and partner Rainer Schwarz’s tastes, some hailing from his Austrian heritage (a burrata spaetzle), others from his seafood skills (think The Deck and Driftwood) and more from his passions. His eyes light up when he talks about his rotisserie as it roasts rosemary-lemon chicken, lamb leg and porchetta. A new roti veggie platter rounds things out with crops like parsnips. Team it with the Net Zero for a healthy sip of carrot juice, Seagram’s Gin and turmeric. It’s another hit of our fave hue.
4. LIDO BOTTLE WORKS
Ah, Pop Rocks, those sugary bursts of yesteryear. Chef Joel Harrington—who’s worked with Top Chef Master Marcus Samuelsson—repurposes them for his tuna tartare at the Lido Marina Village eatery. The seafood, from local fishmonger Patrick Glennon, is dressed with compressed cucumber, avo, radish and chili Pop Rocks. To activate the fireworks of flavor: yuzu ponzu. The 2015 Cedarville Viognier from the list of 25 sustainable vinos made from Cali grapes accents the yuzu’s citrus notes and tames the chili’s heat. (There are 15 craft beers and kombucha on draft, and 40 brews by the bottle too.) Also on tap: tables crafted from one redwood tree and silverware from families across the country.
5. MEIZHOU DONGPO
Chef Xiangrui Chen has a guide for eating the roast duck: Take a mini pancake and spread it with robust plum sauce, spring onion and cucumber before topping it off with slices of the lush meat. Roll it up and dig in—and your taste buds will travel to China, where the bold Sichuan restaurant originated. It has 120 eateries around the globe, including this first Irvine spot. Foodies have been flocking here for that spin on Peking duck (try it with the fruit-forward 2013 Jordan cab) or the artful sweet and sour rockfish, which is sculpted and fried into the shape of a pine cone, and glazed with a tomato-based sauce. Those who don’t want the heat can choose the spiciness level on many dishes—but we suggest taking Chen’s advice. 949.387.7773