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The Best Of O. C. : Critic's Choices : Dining

January 31, 1991|MAX JACOBSON | Max Jacobson is a free-lance writer who reviews restaurants for The Times Orange County Edition.

I've experienced a whole lot of bests and worsts in Orange County, but for the most part, local eateries attempt, in the words of our commander in chief, to stay the course.

My best meal in recent memory was at the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel, where master chef Boris Keller, one of the classiest German imports since the Diesel engine, has elevated the Dining Room to new heights.

My worst meal of late was at a place called Hubert's, an empty cavern of a restaurant that served me a succession of reheated dishes. Shortly thereafter, it was announced that the restaurant was closing operations for dinner.

The best burgers continue to be at In-N-Out, in the various locations I visit whenever en route home from a particularly inedible meal. The worst burgers continue to be at the major fast-food chains, in the various locations I don't visit, even when I'm in Red Square.

Best pizza? That's easy. The pizza con scamorza e raddicchio at Mezzaluna, a crisp crusted pie oozing smoked mozzarella offset magically by a bittersweet salad green that you don't have to be an Italian to love.

If you're looking for value, look no further than the scores of Vietnamese restaurants along Bolsa Avenue in Westminster, where sumptuous bowls of noodles with luscious toppings can be found for less than $3.

Black Sheep Bistro in Tustin has the best wine list, a treasure trove of collector wines at reasonable prices.

Worst trend? The unending proliferation of restaurants attempting to serve French continental cuisine, a tired cuisine at best, even when done perfectly.

Kudos to Kitayama, Newport Beach's Japanese temple of gastronomy, for some of the most elegant Japanese cuisine this side of the Sea of Japan.

Catcalls to Showley-Wrightson, the charming neighborhood bistro that pulled up stakes and moved up the coast about 500 miles.

My favorite breakfast is still a Belgian waffle at Ron Voll's Original Pancake House in Anaheim, even if it means braving a long line practically every time I stop by.

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