With performances of "Les Miz" at the Orange County Performing Arts Center fresh in our minds, it's time to celebrate Bastille Day. The official date is Sunday, July 14, but many French restaurants will launch festivities earlier this weekend. Among them, Chanteclair will present a benefit for Childhelp, USA, on Friday from 4 p.m. to midnight. The $25 admission includes chef Byron Gemmell's cuisine, entertainment, and two tickets valid for wine, champagne, beer, or Vittel water. The restaurant is at 18912 MacArthur Blvd., Irvine. (714) 752-8001.
In addition, Le Meridien in Newport Beach plans a Bal Musette for Saturday. The dinner dance begins at 7:30 p.m. with a welcome cocktail. The menu for the four-course "Dinner Ginuette" is taken from a colorful restaurant on the Marne River east of Paris and includes an entree of lamb loin in a wild mushroom crust with rosemary juice. It's $35 per person, plus tax and tip, with limited seating. Reservations: (714) 476-2001, Ext. 2194, or (800) 543-4300. The hotel is at 4500 MacArthur Blvd.
Pascal in Newport Beach will present two Bastille Day dinners, Friday and Saturday, with seatings at 6 and 9 p.m. The menu features a choice of entrees, including lapin vin rouge, salmon in champagne sauce, and cassoulet. The cost, $43, includes wine and live French music. Reservations: (714) 752-0107. At 1000 Bristol St.
And in Brea, La Vie en Rose promises a magician, cancan dancers and music for its Saturday celebration. The five-course menu, at $50, highlights grilled sturgeon in a light sauce with essence of basil, and rack of Colorado lamb. Reservations taken between 6:30 and 8 p.m. 240 S. State College Blvd. (714) 529-8333.
The new Burrell's Bar-BQ is now open in Irvine, serving the same hearty fare that has made the two Santa Ana locations so popular: baby back ribs, beef ribs and chicken, with $9.50 the top price for the jumbo plate. (A family pack, serving four to five, is $19.95.) What's new and different here is breakfast and brunch. Breakfast, beginning at 6:30 a.m. daily, is country style, featuring eggs, slab bacon, pork chops, hot links, country ham, catfish, hot biscuits and gravy, muffins, corn bread and more. Prices: $2.75 to $8.95. The Sunday buffet brunch includes a country bar (pork chops, ribs, smoked turkey, baron of beef, grits, stewed apples), a seafood bar (fried catfish, steamed shrimp, crab legs, smoked fish, seafood gumbo) and omelets, salads and desserts. At $12.95, it includes champagne and is served from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Burrell's is open daily from 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. at 14962 Sand Canyon Road (half a block west of the Santa Ana Freeway). Information: (714) 786-0451. By the way, it doesn't take credit cards yet.
The Crivello brothers have renamed Ciao Ristorante in Santa Ana. It's now Bina Ristorante Italiano, to honor Mama Bina Crivello for teaching the boys "to prepare her delicious and secret recipes and how to live a happy Italian life." The casual restaurant is at 1730 E. 17th St., in the Albertson's shopping center. (714) 982-3101.
Dining trends: according to the California Restaurant Assn. newsletter, when it comes to ethnic eating, Italian (excluding pizza) is tops, closely followed by Chinese. Here is its report on the national percentages of adults who have eaten specific cuisines in the past month: Italian, 46%; Chinese, 45%; Mexican, 41%; Greek, 10%, and French, 9%.
Oven-roasted pecan-crusted beef tenderloin, accompanied by 1985 Concannon reserve Petite Sirah, will be a highlight of John Dominis' winemaker dinner Tuesday. Winemaker Mari Kirrane will comment on the pairings of Concannon vintages with chef Robert Reash Jr.'s cuisine. The five-course dinner is $50 per person, tax and gratuity included. The reception begins at 7 p.m., dinner at 7:30. The restaurant is at 2901 W. Coast Highway, Newport Beach. Reservations: (714) 650-5112.
If you've wished that you could lunch or sup al fresco, overlooking the ocean at the Ritz-Carlton in Dana Point, well, now you can. The Ocean Terrace, opened last season, delighted guests with its Pacific views. So this year, the hotel has added full bar and food service from 11 a.m. to sunset daily. The fare is light: sandwiches, salads, chili, priced from $6 to $9. But there's a festive touch: a "gold leaf champagne cocktail," with flecks of real gold leaf dancing in the champagne bubbles. It is beverage manager Michael Fahy's own creation, a combination of champagne, orange Curacao and Goldwasser liqueur. A Hawaiian guitar provides the musical accompaniment from 6 to 8 p.m. daily. Information: (714) 240-5008.
Beverly Bush Smith is a free-lance writer who regularly covers restaurant news for The Times Orange County Edition.