Orange County Business Journal

Unpretentious, Delicious ‘Middle Menus’ Gain Steam

For some reason, I recently had the thought that Orange County has a knot in its britches about who and what we are in the culinary psyche. People will not leave their hometown enclaves to experience things across the county. No wonder the jammed traffic saps the adventurous spirit to try what’s new.

By Fifi Chao July 3, 2017 midnight share »

Greeley to Hand Over Golden Truffle After Long Reign

You’ll be sad to hear that Alan Greeley, a chef held in the highest regard by his peers, is selling his Golden Truffle restaurant in Costa Mesa after 37 years.

By Fifi Chao June 5, 2017 midnight share »

New Offerings Offer Multitude of Tasty Dishes

Hendrix at Laguna Niguel’s Ocean Ranch Village is brand-new, good-looking, very energetic and delicious.

By Fifi Chao May 1, 2017 midnight share »

When One Restaurant’s Door Closes, Another Opens

The freeway of restaurant openings, closings and moves is staying busy with lots of traffic.

By Fifi Chao April 3, 2017 midnight share »

Dine Around the World One Tasty Plate at a Time

Orange County keeps getting richer and richer with dining possibilities. We are lucky to have so many family-owned, individual places interspersed with the big, fancy restaurants.

By Fifi Chao March 6, 2017 midnight share »

Food Dreams on Okinawa Unfold at South Coast Plaza

This is a story of a little boy in Japan who knew what he wanted to be when he grew up, and us food lovers are all the better for it.

By Fifi Chao March 6, 2017 midnight share »

New Year Offers New and Tried-and-True Options

The French food at Pinot Provence hit a graceful note when the restaurant opened many years ago in the Westin Hotel in Costa Mesa, but the truly French decor probably got as much publicity as the Gallic food.

By Fifi Chao February 6, 2017 midnight share »

2016 Taste Bud Pleasers and a Pig’s Head on the Brain

This is the month when I look back at the past year, remember the best dishes, and look forward to the broad restaurant scene that is ever changing. There were many superb meals, and a lot of interesting restaurants visited.

By Fifi Chao January 2, 2017 midnight share »

2016 Nears Close With Entrepreneurial Flurry

More changes and circulating stories in the industry.

By Fifi Chao December 5, 2016 midnight share »

Changes at the New Ritz a Charm This Time Around?

My readers know by now that I don’t do hatchet jobs on restaurants. My husband and I spend a lot of money trying out restaurants that you never hear about in these columns.

By Fifi Chao November 7, 2016 midnight share »

Chefs Hopscotch Around OC, Keeping Eats Fresh

The chef shuffle has been quite the popular dance lately.

By Fifi Chao October 3, 2016 midnight share »

Plenty of Taste Temptations Pop Up Around County

Trends are exploding all over the county.

By Fifi Chao September 5, 2016 midnight share »

Out With Old Tastes, in With New Across County

Savannah Chop House at Golden Lantern and Camino del Avion in the Ocean Ranch Village of Laguna Niguel is closed.

By Fifi Chao August 1, 2016 midnight share »

Generation or More Proves Eateries’ Recipes Timeless

I did not realize until I started researching for this mini-tome that we had so many restaurants that have endured for at least 25 years in Orange County. I’d been to some of these in the reasonable past, but not all, so I was a busy gal catching up on the status of the others.

By Fifi Chao June 27, 2016 midnight share »

Italian With Drive to Cook Realizes Food Lover’s Dream

It’s part of my job to watch what a lot of chefs are doing. Some, of course, are more impressive than others. Watching a fine chef open a restaurant and keep on doing his job so well that the public, year after year, continues to embrace the concept and the food makes for a great candidate for Chef of the Year.

By Fifi Chao June 27, 2016 midnight share »

Fresh Eatery Arranges Its Plates in Agreeable Row

Ironwood in Laguna Hills opened only a month ago, and we have been busy introducing friends via word of mouth and by taking them there. It’s rare for me to keep wanting to return to the same restaurant—there are just too many places I need to try, and there’s only one of me. To say that Patrick and I are quite taken by Ironwood would certainly be an understatement, and we are enjoying our multiple visits a lot.

By Fifi Chao June 6, 2016 midnight share »

South County Gains in the Gastronomic Department

South County is getting more sophisticated on the dining front.

By Fifi Chao May 2, 2016 midnight share »

News Flows From All Corners of OC’s Food World

After decades in South Coast Plaza’s Crate and Barrel/Macy’s Home Store wing, Nello Cucina is no more. Antonio Cagnolo shuttered the operation in late February, focusing on his three other restaurants: Antonello Ristorante, Quattro Caffé and Antonello Espresso Café.

By Fifi Chao April 4, 2016 midnight share »

Restaurateur of the Year Built 2nd Career on Memories

Cathy Pavlos, co-owner and chef of Lucca in Irvine and Provenance in Newport Beach, has earned her place as one of Orange County’s most admired chefs. She is our 2016 Restaurateur of the Year.

By Fifi Chao March 7, 2016 midnight share »

Supper Club Gets Love From Culinary Friend and Fifi

It’s refreshing to see restaurateurs help advertise each other’s new venues. In this case, Rich Mead, highly regarded for his former Sage restaurants, sent out positive commentary on Jack Jasper and his Campus Jax restaurant—full name Campus Jax, a mindful kitchen, brasserie & Supper Club.

By Fifi Chao February 1, 2016 midnight share »

Favorite Dining Choices to Help Start 2016 Off Right

As I start the new year, I think back on good food I’ve had and what I look forward to now.

By Fifi Chao January 4, 2016 midnight share »

Dine in Holiday Style With the Best Seasonal Trimmings

This is the time of year when all sorts of nostalgia takes over. We used to stop by and see the decorations at some of the upscale restaurants—there are now so many.

By Fifi Chao December 7, 2015 midnight share »

Recent Restaurant Closing No Surprise, Another Sad

Double bombshells hit diners in the past month with the sudden closing of Tamarind of London at Newport Coast and news that Scott’s would be closing at the end of the year.

By Fifi Chao November 2, 2015 midnight share »

New Chefs, Enriched Eateries Offer Fresh Opportunities

I mentioned two months ago that Little Sparrow in downtown Santa Ana had parted ways with its chef.

By Fifi Chao October 5, 2015 midnight share »

Restaurant Anniversaries Coincide With New Players

Moulin Bistro, Newport’s cute little culinary bôite filled with French aromas, ambiance, food and wine, and happy patrons, celebrates its first anniversary this month.

By Fifi Chao September 7, 2015 midnight share »

Abundant Restaurant News Starts Sad, Ends Glad

Lots of Tidbits today: • The sad news: The shock of the month came with the announcement that Bruce Marsh, owner of Little Sparrow, the darling little restaurant in downtown Santa Ana, let chef Eric Samaniego go.

By Fifi Chao August 3, 2015 midnight share »

Fifi's Best

It always happens.

By Fifi Chao June 29, 2015 12:04 p.m. share »

Golden Truffle’s Alan Greeley Has Recipe for Satisfaction

I don’t even want to count how many restaurants I have eaten in this past year. But I can tell you that no chef has consistently impressed me more over a few decades, and still does, than Alan Greeley, the chef and owner of Golden Truffle in Costa Mesa. This special guy is my pick for Chef of the Year because he thinks globally about food and he makes culinary memories for all of us.

By Fifi Chao June 29, 2015 midnight share »

Lark Creek Recalled as Group Partner Cuts New Path

Still sad over the quiet closing last month of the Lark Creek restaurant in Fashion Island. It had some of the best food in that upscale center.

By Fifi Chao May 4, 2015 midnight share »

Musings on Departing Eateries, Good, Bad Memories

It came as a shock to serious diners that Charlie Palmer is closing his eponymous restaurant at Bloomingdale’s South Coast Plaza at the beginning of May.

By Fifi Chao April 6, 2015 midnight share »

Upscale Bars Offer Comfort, Sociable Dining Alternative

Having a glass of wine with friends is no longer the cutting-edge trend. We are now having cocktails.

By Fifi Chao March 2, 2015 midnight share »

Chef Built Beloved Restaurant on Natural Talent

Our now legendary Orange County lady chef and restaurateur Zov Karamardian set out to introduce the dining public to Mediterranean food 27 years ago.

By Fifi Chao March 2, 2015 midnight share »

Ode to Local Pioneer; New Twists in Familiar Places

We recently lost Larry Cano, a true icon not only in Orange County dining but a major player in introducing America to sit-down Mexican dining and cuisine at a sophistication level way above the familiar taco genre.

By Fifi Chao January 5, 2015 midnight share »

New Option at Spectrum, Old Standby in Anaheim

Del Frisco’s Grille opened recently at Irvine Spectrum.

By Fifi Chao December 1, 2014 midnight share »

Take It From Tommy Bahama: Follow-Up Matters

This tidbit about a restaurant doing it right, doing what hospitality is really all about, seems like such a good way to start the column.

By Fifi Chao November 3, 2014 midnight share »

Upscale Dining Weekend, New Eateries on OC’s Plate

There’s a very special event happening at the end of this week.

By Fifi Chao October 6, 2014 midnight share »

OC’s First Din Tai Fung and Other Worthy Food Adventures

Din Tai Fung, the famed Chinese dumpling house, opened two weeks ago at South Coast Plaza (entrance on the upper level next to Sears). I surmise that, having heard the buzz about its international reputation, the crowds will flow.

By Fifi Chao September 2, 2014 midnight share »

Café Tu Tu Tango Still Tempts Taste Buds for Less

People always ask restaurant journalists: “What is your favorite restaurant?”

By Fifi Chao August 4, 2014 midnight share »

Dining on the Latin Side Vibrant, Tasty, Unexpected

This is the first time I have rounded up a group of Mexican or Latin-themed restaurants for Fifi’s Best. There are lists of the Best Tacos, the Best Margaritas, the Best Mexican Restaurants, and more in so many publications and online. I’m taking another avenue.

By Fifi Chao June 30, 2014 midnight share »

Recent Changes Stir Orange County Fine-Dining Pot

Restaurants keep opening, many of them good, but when we spent time at the new Watertable in the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Hotel & Spa, we realized dish by dish that there are still culinary frontiers being conquered and ways to set the bar much higher. It has been one of the most eye-opening, palate-pleasing forays into fine dining on a comfort-food level that I’ve come across in a long time.

By Fifi Chao June 2, 2014 midnight share »

Same Place, Fresh New Vibe at Vine in San Clemente

Old venues can rev up a lot of new excitement when someone with a strong restaurant background and reputation for being warm and respectful to his employees comes along as owner and offers up a singular kind of affordable wine country experience.

By Fifi Chao May 5, 2014 midnight share »

Seafood Lovers, Food Writers Mourn Chef’s Passing

Orange County lost a beautiful person and passionate chef last month in Brian Hirsty, executive chef of the Bluewater Grill restaurants. He was only 48, and though he had a rare bone marrow disease, his death was completely unexpected.

By Fifi Chao April 7, 2014 midnight share »

Primo Restaurants for Fresh, Creative Spring Fare

Springtime brings thoughts of colorful flowers emerging, a climate conducive to beaches and boating, and getting out as the winter fades, even though we’ve had such a mild winter.

By Fifi Chao March 3, 2014 midnight share »

Pelican Hill Offers Food, More for Locals, Guests

There’s so much happening at The Resort at Pelican Hill all during the year. I’ll try to capsulize it but nevertheless want to bring you the best of the resort.

By Fifi Chao March 3, 2014 midnight share »

Passion for Food, Sharing It Make Dubray Stand Out

Our Chef of the Year, Jean-Pierre Dubray, has been engaging the public in appreciation of gorgeously showcased and inherently delicious food for more than three decades.

By Fifi Chao March 3, 2014 midnight share »
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It’s Hard Keeping Up With Pascal Olhats These Days

A couple of Pascal Olhats surprises popped up recently, and they do not make me happy.

By Fifi Chao February 1, 2014 midnight share »
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Balboa Bay Club Vet Hissin to Island Hotel as GM

The exodus of the three well-known faces of the Balboa Bay Club and Resort is complete.

By Fifi Chao January 4, 2014 midnight share »
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Fresh Seafood Order of the Day at New Tustin Eatery

Bonefish Grill has come to Orange County.

By Fifi Chao December 1, 2013 midnight share »
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Couple Brings Japanese-California Fusion to OC

Okura, a robata grill and sushi restaurant, has opened in Laguna Beach and is making use of the space that previously housed Hush and then Katsuya.

By Fifi Chao November 2, 2013 midnight share »
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The Ranch Loses Wine Expert, Keeps Abiding Quality

Michael Jordan has left The Ranch Restaurant & Saloon in Anaheim

By Fifi Chao October 6, 2013 midnight share »


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