1. ANQI’s PAN-ROASTED MAINE LOBSTER WITH GARLIC NOODLES
Its robust flavor belies the simplicity of this dish, a signature item of the legendary An family’s South Coast Plaza spot. “It’s two basic ingredients, but both are done well,” notes chef Tony Nguyen. “Beautiful noodles and perfectly cooked lobster glazed in a nage that is rich in flavor but light on the body—it’s a tenet very important in the cookery of chef Helene ‘Mama’ An.”
2. BLUEWATER GRILL'S CHIPOTLE BLACKENED SWORDFISH
The fish is harpooned from the waters off the SoCal coast from the restaurant’s boat, The Pilikia, and served with a bright roasted corn and avocado relish that sings of summer. Another nibble: Dine at Bluewater’s Cannery Village resto—one of seven, with two more opening soon in Santa Barbara and San Diego—and you might see the crew offloading its catch.
3. THE RANCH'S NEW YORK DELMONICO
This off-menu item at the Anaheim eatery is a carnivore’s dream—a succulent 42-ounce cut of prime dry-aged beef cooked to perfection, with sweet potatoes, applewood smoked bacon, trumpet mushrooms, blue cheese and a caramelized leek puree. Pair it with the 2009 Harlan Estate cab.
4. SELANNE STEAK TAVERN'S LORD STANLEY CUT
Chef Josh Severson sources the wagyu from a ranch in Australia’s famed Darling Downs region and chooses specific cuts. He ages the meat for 45 days and sears it at 2,000-plus degrees. The 38-ounce chop is topped with bone marrow butter, black truffles and caramelized shallots. It’s one of owner (and former Ducks star) Teemu Selanne’s faves at his Laguna Beach restaurant. The 2010 Gaja Sori San Lorenzo nebbiolo is a worthy mate.
5. STUDIO'S JAPANESE WAGUY
Priced at $45 an ounce, this cube of wagyu arrives at the table like a work of art. The Montage Laguna restaurant’s chef, Craig Strong, pairs it with baby veggies atop a silky potato mousseline. Try the 2013 Buccella cab to sip. A tip for before you go: Diners must request the dish a day in advance.