Anh Hong, 10195 Westminster Ave., Garden Grove. (714) 537-5230. Open Mondays through Thursdays 3 to 10 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Anh Hong is a Vietnamese restaurant for beef lovers only; the specialty is a seven-course beef dinner that would bring a trucker to his knees. You start with a flavorful beef salad topped with a sweet vinegar sauce and then experience a variety of courses ranging from fondue to grilled sausages wrapped in Hawaiian lot leaf. Service is warm and attentive. It's an encounter with Vietnamese culture as well as a culinary adventure. For $9.95, there's probably no greater value anywhere.
Bangkok IV, \o7 3333 Bear St., Costa Mesa. (714) 540-7661\f7 . \o7 Open daily for lunch and dinner.\f7
Now they've really done it. They've opened an upscale Thai restaurant in a shopping mall. What next? Bangkok IV is operated by veteran Lucky Teachanarong, and his newest outing is a flat-out winner. Appetizers like \o7 taro todd\f7 , Balboa mussels, and Thai toasts are terrific, and main dishes like \o7 paht\f7 Thai (flat noodles pan-fried with pork, shrimp, and bean sprouts) and pork with green beans in dry curry paste aren't far behind. Food tends to be on the sweet side here, but the management will turn up the heat on request. Now you've been warned. There are even some excellent homemade desserts.
Dover's, \o7 at the Doubletree Hotel, 100 E. The City Drive, Orange\f7 .\o7 (714) 634-4500. Open daily for lunch and dinner.\f7
Dover's at the Doubletree Hotel in Orange is an eye-catching restaurant with a ceiling over three stories high, but the cooking is often less lofty. Chef Steve Lancaster attempts too much, and the result is an erratic jumble of good and bad. Salmon tartare is wonderfully silky and big enough to share, and appetizers are generally impressive, especially a seafood sausage in a bed of green and white linguini. Entrees lean toward the exotic; avoid the Pacific Rim dishes (except for the tea-poached salmon, which is great), and pursue the simpler dishes. Dessert is dreary. Ambiance is dressy.
Sun Hai,\o7 8940 Garden Grove Blvd., Garden Grove, Suite 114. (714) 552-2851. Cash only.\f7
This tiny hole-in-the-mini-mall, in a quiet Korean neighborhood in Garden Grove, serves some of the best Chinese dumplings you will ever taste, at laughably low prices. Best are pan fried dumplings, eight to an order, perfectly browned, crunchy, and toothsome, eaten with rice vinegar and Korean chili paste. Also wonderful is the restaurant's spicy fried chicken, a sumptuously blended dish of red and green chili, green onion, and little bits of batter-fried chicken that have been rolled in pepper salt. Nobody here speaks very good English, but the smiles generated by the food are more than you will need to communicate.
Watercolors,\o7 at the Dana Point Resort, 25125 Park Lantern, Dana Point\f7 .\o7 (714) 661-5000. Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner.\f7
California cuisine looks even more exotic at the new, Cape Cod-style Watercolors restaurant located in the Dana Point Resort. Chef Peter Striffolino has put together a menu filled with local delicacies, like Pacific oysters baked with leeks and spinach, Sonoma goat cheese with red oak lettuce, and medallions of lamb with red cabbage and papaya chutney.