Set on the third floor of South Coast Plaza amidst fashionable stores, this steady operation is small, elegant, and well-appointed. Add on a gleaming open kitchen, chef's counter, as well as a secluded patio—and you know you've struck gold. Well-heeled patrons and in-the-know locals pack this place, and everyone is here for Chef Tony Esnault's contemporary take on classic French cuisine. The menu highlights imaginative dishes that weave technique with ingenuity. For starters, crisp-skinned sea bream in a simple beurre blanc is matched with fennel done two ways—braised then seared, as well as a bright "kraut." Close at the heels is an equally clever dessert, where a frosted meringue shell is cracked open to reveal a rhubarb sorbet with strawberry gelée.
- MICHELIN guide inspectors
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