The following are summaries of recent Times restaurant reviews by Max jacobson. Prices are based on average cost for a party of two without wine. $--less than $15 $$--$15 to $39 $$$--$40 to $75 $$$$--More than $75
* Soup Exchange, 151 E. Orangethorpe Ave., Fullerton. (714) 992-5522. Open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. $
* Salmagundi, South Coast Plaza, 3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa. (714) 549-9267. Open Mondays through Fridays, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturdays till 6 p.m.; Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. $
Eat soup and live longer at these two emporia for our favorite comfort food. Soup Exchange is the slicker and less expensively packaged of the two, a soup and salad bar with such extras as frozen yogurt, muffins and a nacho bar. It's all you can eat and every man for himself. Salmagundi is homier and even a bit trendy, with such exotic soups as tortilla, wild rice and country cheddar; they change daily. Salmagundi also has a dessert bar where you can indulge in such goodies as trifle, apple brown betty and chocolate mousse.
* 3-6-9 Shanghai, 613 N. Euclid St., Anaheim. (714) 635-8369. Open daily except Sundays from 11:30 a.m.; Mondays through Thursdays to 9:30 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays to 10 p.m. $
One of the best small Chinese restaurants in the heavily ethnic San Gabriel Valley, 3-6-9 Shanghai has opened this storefront sister in an Anaheim shopping mall, bringing nearly all of its popular dishes. Handmade breads and savory dumpling preparations excel here along with such exotic cold appetizers as tea-smoked chicken and braised baby bamboo. The restaurant is cheap and basic; tell them to tread lightly on the MSG. The steamed pork with rice is a revelation.
* JW's, Anaheim Marriott Hotel, 700 W. Convention Way, Anaheim. (714) 750-0900. Open Mondays through Saturdays from 6 to 9 p.m. $$$$
JW's is one of those staunchly old-school, special-occasion restaurants, but the food is somewhat innovative and of surprisingly high quality. Appetizers show a certain daring, like home-grown foie gras served on a potato galette in a Madeira sauce, or escargot ravioli with wild mushrooms. Main dishes show enthusiasm as well, and the sauces accompanying them are generally big hits. Roast boar comes drenched with a simple sauce of sage, juniper and honey and has a robust spiciness. Venison comes in a sauce based on red wine vinegar. Prices are definitely on the high end; service, attentive and manicured. It is fail-safe the way only a good hotel restaurant can be.
* Sorrento Grill, 370 Glenneyre St., Laguna Beach. (714) 494-8686. Open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and from 5:30 to 9.30 p.m.; Sundays from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. $$$
Sorrento Grill is one of the best new restaurants around, a virtual lock for local stardom. The restaurant is a high-concept operation, and it pushes all the right buttons: a stunningly designed open kitchen, postmodern vastness and a decibel level even Philip Glass would object to. The food is wonderful. Young, innovative chef Roseanne Ruiz uses the finest ingredients, Chino ranch vegetables, carefully selected poultry and fish, and she prepares them with the finest olive oil and utmost care. Desserts like an amazing creme brulee are brutally rich. Expect lines and unbridled enthusiasm.
* McCharles House, 335 S. C St., Tustin. (714) 731-4063. Open Mondays through Saturdays from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. for lunch; 2 to 5 p.m. for tea; Thursdays through Saturdays from 5:30 to 9 p.m. for dinner. $$
If you have never experienced a proper English tea, then now's your chance at this converted Victorian house, built circa 1885 in Tustin's Old Town. You'll even get heart-shaped scones. Audrey Heredia and her daughter, Vivian, fuss over this dining room and tearoom, a spinster's fantasy of wooden tables, tasseled lamps and enough doilies to make Gladys Cooper an overcoat.
* Mene's Terrace, Orange Tree Plaza, 23532 El Toro Road, El Toro. (714) 830-3228. Open Mondays through Fridays from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and from 5 to 9:30 p.m.; Saturdays from 5 to 10 p.m. $$
Mene's Terrace is like a sun-splashed Aegean taverna transported magically to an El Toro shopping mall. You know you're not in Greece because you can see the Denny's just outside the window. The menu is small, but everything is prepared the way an Orthodox grandmother would prepare it. Tirapita and spanakopita (little cheese and spinach pies in a filo crust) are near perfect. The egg lemon soup is even better. Wonderful char-grilled meats, marinated in lemon juice and Greek spices, are served with rice pilaf and pan-roasted potatoes. There is even complimentary baklava at dinner time.
* Far Pavilions, 1520 W. Coast Highway, Newport Beach. (714) 548-7167. Open seven days a week from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and from 5 to 10:30 p.m. $$$