French 75 - Laguna Beach

1464 South Coast Highway
Laguna Beach, CA 92651

Tel. 949.494.8444

Once the original in the restaurant empire of David Wilhelm, ok maybe not an empire, but there were 4 French 75's at one point, as well as a few others in the empire. The empire has now dwindled down to 3 restaurants, and David Wilhelm's no longer "helming" the empire. Now all that is left is the original French 75 in Laguna Beach, Chimayo in Huntington Beach, and Savannah in Laguna Niguel. French 75 is housed in a 60 year old cottage located on PCH in Laguna Beach that emphasizes on French food with a contemporary twist.

Olive garlic butter with French bread. The olive garlic butter was a nice change from the regular butter. It had a pronounced olive and garlic flavor. The color was a bit standoffish for me, but I kept dipping my bread in it.

'Certified Cage Free' Hudson Valley Foie Gras (20) The nightly preparation included grilled peaches in a balsamic reduction. The lobe of foie gras rested upon a piece of toast and frisee. The foie was overcooked, which resulted in the texture not being as soft and smooth as we like it to be. The grilled peaches went well with the the foie, which is usually paired with a sweet component. Overall, due to the foie being overcooked, we felt this was an average dish.

Short Rib, Horseradish Mashed Potato, Charred Asparagus, Cipollini Jam, Braising Jus (26)
The short rib was braised, the mashed potato had a faint but present horseradish taste, and the asparagus was nicely charred. Eating the short rib by itself was good, but when eaten with the cipollini jam, really made this dish. The cipollini jam was sweet, yet it still retained that onion essence. I felt that the cipollini jam really elevated this dish. 
Study of Shellfish Maine Lobster, Scallop, White Shrimp, Wilted Spinach, Himalayan Red Rice, MirinGlaze (33)
After studying this study of shellfish, I will now give you an presentation on it. The lobster and the shrimp were cooked perfectly, but the scallop wasn't as enjoyable. I'm not sure if it was the cooking of the scallop or the quality of the scallop. The thing that really stood out about this dish, and not in a good way, was that it was majorly over salted. The Himalayan red rice helped to reduce the salty taste but still felt the dish was too salty. Had it not been for this saltiness, the dish would have been a quite nice study.

With a mix of an average appetizer, a good main course, and an over-salted main course, we still had a overall positive experience. Out of all the other restaurants that were once a part of the empire, I can see why this restaurant is still around: mainly because of the location and because of the French food with a contemporary twist.


California Shabu Shabu (Fountain Valley)

18908 Brookhurst Street
Fountain Valley, CA 92708

I am no Shabu Shabu connoisseur. But my go to place when I crave reasonably priced shabu shabu is California Shabu Shabu. They recently opened up a new location in Costa Mesa and there is usually a wait for both locations.  In my opinion, though, the wait is worth it. Maybe sing a song or two at the karaoke studio next door or visit the Japanese market down the corridor.  Either way, this is a must go-to place for my favorite shabu shabu place in OC. There are no actual tables but everyone sits at a U-shaped bar with everyone facing the middle and watching the workers do their thing.

Here's the plate of fresh veggies.  We have here spinach, broccoli, napa cabbage, tofu, carrots, udon noodles, enoki mushrooms, seaweed, and green onions.

These savory dipping sauces make this meal magical. On the left is the sesame-based Goma sauce and to the right is the citrusy Ponzu sauce. Feel free to add your own mixture of scallions, daikon, radish and garlic to the sauces to your liking.  I usually dip my meat in the goma, while using the ponzu for the vegetables.  Actually, it's more like soaking the meat and vegetables in these sauces.

To add a little kick to it, ask for the hot drops.  Taking out the eye dropper, the server will ask how many drops.  If you are daring, try 2-3. I usually take one and that's enough to sting my tongue.  They said some kid who is a regular takes about 7 drops. Some people can even do the whole line -- what is this? Crack?
For the beef shabu shabu dinner, there are 3 choices: Beef Shabu Shabu $13.99 for Regular and $16.99 for large, Prime Beef Shabu Shabu $16.99 for regular and $21.99 for large or the Kobe Beef Rib Eye $35.99. We've never tried the kobe beef (double the price) but we're satisfied with the others.  Content with the regular Beef Shabu Shabu this is our go to selection. Pictured below is the beef shabu shabu. 
Shabu Shabu actually means swish-swish as in, move your meat around a few times and the cooking is done.
Towards the end of our meal, they will offer a bowl with their dashi so that you can add the broth that you have been cooking your veggies and meat in. The broth, combined with the dashi, transforms into your second course - some wonderful udon soup. Make sure to save a few slices of beef and noodles to eat with the soup.
Voila! Another entree added to our shabu shabu. This is as comforting as the best chicken noodle soup.

There aren't many choices for shabu shabu in Orange County although there have be a few new ones popping up within the past few years. California Shabu Shabu may not be the most traditional and authentic version of Shabu Shabu that you may find in Tokyo, but for a fun cook yourself and fairly healthy meal, this is still our go-to Shabu Shabu spot!