Old Vine Kitchen and Bar, an Orange County favorite that began as [the award-winning] Old Vine Café in 2007, has recently reopened with a fresh look. Located in The CAMP in Costa Mesa, right next to its original location, this Italian destination holds an elevated but homey feel, where fine dining doesn’t have to sway guests from being themselves.
The redesigned restaurant features a long bar and adjacent lounge space, with an intimate dining room and heated patio. The open-space concept is tastefully sectioned using custom metalwork from sculptor Mark Gerardi. The walls are lined with paintings by artist Paul Cole, who also hand-painted the restaurant’s menu canvases.
Chef-Owner Mark McDonald has curated breakfast, lunch, dinner and happy hour menus that integrate Italian favorites, including daily hand-made pastas, with a touch of Latin and Asian influence in various places. Partner Sommelier-Owner Kate Perry completes the experience with an intriguing wine selection as well as a full cocktail program to go with that new bar. The duo comes together with four tasting menus with wine pairings, including dedicated vegetarian and vegan menus.
While the look may be new, Old Vine Kitchen and Bar picks up right where the café left off in terms of community engagement. McDonald and Perry continue to partner with local farmers, participate in nearby food and wine events, and lead twice-annual trips through Italy, known as the Splendors of Italy tours.
Old Vine Café is located at 2937 Bristol St. Suite A-103, Costa Mesa, CA 92626. Open daily for breakfast and lunch from 9a – 3p. Open Tue – Sat for dinner from 5p – close. Bar open 9a – midnight Sun – Wed, 9a – 1a Thu – Sat. For more information, call (714) 545-1411 or visit OldVineKitchenBar.com
Adjacent to Studio City’s rustic drag along Tujunga Ave sits Los Balcones, bringing exotic flare and a flash of gourmet to the neighborhood’s otherwise quaint and classic dining scene. Setting up shop in the relatively intimate space formerly occupied by high-end hotspot Girasol, Los Balcones is an expansion from the restaurant’s first location in Hollywood, which has been around for 14 years and counting. But even if you’ve tried the former, this new haute spot is full of surprises.
Guests find themselves in a high-energy room with a modernistic backdrop, where locals go to let their hair down and in-the-know Angelinos venture to try the next great thing. The L-shaped dining room holds maybe 20 tables, with a few more on the narrow heated patio right outside, and every one of them is packed with guests yearning for that elusive Mestizo cuisine, a meld of Peruvian and Spanish flavor rarely done north of the border.
If lomo saltado, a marinated beef dish with vegetables, fries and rice, is your litmus test for Peruvian food [it has the ubiquity that cheeseburgers do in the US], this place has made it about as tender as you’ll find. From there, Los Balcones branches far beyond just Spanish influence, instead covering much of Europe. Take their signature quinotto, which transforms quinoa into Italian risotto, finished with a mix of mushrooms and a mountain of shaved truffle. Savor over the locro parpadelle, rich with pumpkin ragout, as well as the pan de la chola, a Latin take on charcuterie.
The costilla de short ribs, another Los Balcones classic, showcases melt-in-your-mouth 6-hour slow cooked short rib with a play on classic tacu tacu, a harmonious compilation of rice and beans fried into a pancake, topped with a fried egg. The seco de pato, or duck two ways, yields succulent duck confit with its roasted counterpart alongside.
The bar works an equal level of magic, with creations like the sangre de la pacha, which will turn almost any bourbon hater with a mix of honey, ginger lemon and—what—beet. They make a mean margarita as well, and of course you’re not going to a Peruvian restaurant without getting a pisco sour [drinking it straight is another story]. For dessert, try the lucama budino. A meal like this might set you back more than some Peruvian real estate, but for those looking for a culinary adventure, Los Balcones is doing its high-end predecessor justice.
Los Balcones is located at 11334 Moorpark St, North Hollywood, CA 91602. Open 5 – 11p Tue – Sat. Closed Sun/Mon. Avg. out-the-door price for split appetizer, entrée, split dessert and 1 – 2 drinks is ~$95/person. For more information call (818) 924-2323 or visit LosBalconesPeru.com.
Once the guest cottage of the famed Raymond Hotel, an abode with celebrity allure since its founding during the place’s namesake year, The Raymond 1886 transitioned into an eatery more than 30 years ago and continues a rich legacy of hospitality in South Pasadena. Now with a new chef at the helm and an ever-evolving menu, this historic destination melds LA’s evolving culture with its iconic past.
Quaint and cozy fill every room in this labyrinth of a structure—which seems about three times the size of its true square footage—with dark wood and rustic features emulating a true 19th century feel. A new patio is found outside each window, each secluded and intimate in its own right, with small fountains casting a tranquil background chorus. The crowd spans across young families, elderly couples and large millennial groups, but the one thing they all have in common is the desire to sleep in: the brunch rush doesn’t start until about noon.
The menu is every bit as classy as you’d expect, with a healthy touch of fun added to your brunch classics. Executive Chef Jon Hung, younger brother of acclaimed LA Chef Michael Hung, is proving that there’s just something in the water for that family to produce such culinary talent. Delightfully tender steak and shoestring frites, heavenly biscuits topped with rich chorizo and perfectly cooked eggs, and a Dutch baby German pancake with seasonal berries and whipped cream create a spectrum of flavor for the palate to choose from.
Hung does get a slap on the wrist for his ‘al pastor’ breakfast burrito, which places just a paltry amount of meat atop an enormous burrito that should be filled with fewer [albeit delicious] eggs and more of that great pork. But he mostly makes up for it with his devotion to wholesome ingredients and scratch-made sauces. His pastry chef also churns out a decadent cinnamon roll…order extra cream cheese frosting!
Bar 1886, or just ‘The 1886,’ delivers an equally high-end cocktail program, plugging deep flavor into some very strong drinks. You’ll find your classic Bloody Mary, a mimosa sweetened with housemade curacao, and a beautiful Ramos fizz gin, a play on the sloe gin fizz, with whipped egg white orange peel to look like a sunny side up egg when viewed from the top.
The Raymond 1886 is located at 1250 Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena, CA 91105. Open 11:30a – 2:30p and 4 – 10p Tue – Fri, 9a – 2:30p and 4 – 10p Sat – Sun. Closed Mon. Avg. out-the-door brunch price for split pastry, entrée and 1 – 2 drinks is ~$58/person. For more information call (626) 441 – 3136 or visit TheRaymond.com
Benjamin Brown is a seasoned restaurant writer and hospitality consultant, serving up SoCal's hottest food news and reviews.