I really enjoy the Orange County sushi scene, especially when comparing the price point to comparable sushi in Los Angeles. I haven’t tried too many places in the area (I really enjoy Ohshima in Orange), but a friend recommending trying this spot in Santa Ana. Sushi Murasaki has been one of the highly regarded sushi spots in the area for the past decade.
The Ponte marks Scott Conant’s return to the Los Angeles dining scene after Scarpetta’s closure last year. Partnering up with LA restaurateur Stephane Bombet, The Ponte is a different concept from Scarpetta although there are a lot of familiar dishes. The famous spaghetti is here, as well as a take on the Scarpetta truffled mushroom polenta and tuna/yellowtail tartare. Ex-Scarpetta and Georgie chef Freddy Vargas has returned here to lead the kitchen.
I’ve been to Alexander’s Steakhouse in San Francisco and Pasadena a few times and have had a few good meals here. This latest visit was prompted by DineLA restaurant week, in which the restaurant was offering six courses for $115. One of those courses, the steak course, offered an option of an 18oz dry aged New York strip or 3oz of Kagoshima wagyu. This tasting menu provided quite a bit of value (compared to regular pricing) and an opportunity to try a little bit more of the menu here.
Shunji Nakao’s eponymous restaurant has been a sushi staple on the west side since opening in 2012. Nakao has been at the forefront of sushi in Los Angeles for decades since being one of the opening chefs of Matsuhisa. After Matsuhisa, Nakao has also been chef at notable restaurants Asanebo and The Hump.
I’ve been to Shunji once, for lunch, and had an enjoyable meal (it was a great value too). I was excited to come in for dinner and try a little more. We went with a sushi omakase, adding a few cooked dishes to begin with.
I first dined at Shibumi in July very soon after the restaurant opened. The meal was very good, although the restaurant was still finding its stride. The restaurant has garnered some considerable praise since then. LA Times critic Jonathan Gold named it the second best restaurant in the city in October. Besha Rodell of the LA Weekly gave it 4 stars. The restaurant has been particularly popular in recent months given the praise, but I was able to snag a table over the holidays. I returned in to see how the food has evolved now that it’s been open for six months.
I really like Papilles’ concept. A $38 three course menu is served daily with multiple options for each course. The menu, influenced by the French bistronomy movement, changes constantly. This evening’s menu featured a squash salad with an optional upgrade to foie gras torchon and a main course of prawns, hangar steak or duck breast.
Yazawa is a chain of restaurants based in Japan specializing in Japanese wagyu beef. The restaurant group has locations in Singapore and Milan in addition to Japan, but this is their first in America. As the server described it to us, what differentiates Yazawa is that they are also a distributor of wagyu cattle; they butcher their own beef in-house and are not required to freeze their meat before serving. As a result, Yazawa serves the largest variety of wagyu I have seen in America. They have some domestic beef varieties too, as well as some chicken and pork cuts all grilled up at the table. A handful of appetizers and side dishes, many of them featuring wagyu, are available too.
Baco Mercat has been open for almost five years now and still seems to be going pretty strong. It’s been over three years since my last visit; a friend visiting from out of town wanted to dine here, leading to this latest meal.