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Orange County Dining

April 26, 2001

In these capsules of recent reviews, dollar signs indicate the average price of a meal for one, without beverages.

$: less than $10.

$$: up to $20.

$$$: up to $30.

$$$$: more than $30.

OYSTERS: "Asian-influenced California cuisine"--well, you can't blame Oysters for wanting to distance itself from all the bad fusion cuisine around. But this spot, with its Chicago speak-easy ambience, could give fusion a good name with dishes like artichoke with tarragon sambal-aioli and Near East paella. Good oysters too, of course.

* Oysters, 2515 E. Coast Highway, Corona del Mar. (949) 675-7411. Open for dinner daily. $$

THE PERUVIAN GRILL: It specializes not so much in grilled food as in in Peruvian seafood dishes, such as ceviche appetizers large enough for a small meal and pescado ajo macho, a grilled fish topped with scallops, shrimp, calamari and a spicy cilantro sauce. Empanadas, not listed on the menu, are also worth a try.

* The Peruvian Grill, 9606 Hamilton St., Huntington Beach. (714) 593-3883. Dinner Monday-Saturday. $$

P.F. CHANG'S CHINA BISTRO: It serves Asian-inspired dishes in a high-voltage setting--and the dishes can be high-voltage with pepper themselves. Good appetizers are seared ahi and Chang's spare ribs. The best entree is Paul's catfish: tender chunks of fried catfish tossed with a garlicky black bean sauce. Desserts are outstanding.

* P.F. Chang's China Bistro, Irvine Spectrum Center, 61 Fortune Drive. (949) 453-1211; Fashion Island, 1145 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach, (949) 759-9007. Lunch and dinner daily. $$

PICAYO: Hidden away in residential north Laguna, a little bungalow houses Picayo, a French restaurant with Spanish and Moroccan influences and a taste for duck, both as appetizer and entree. Try Chilean sea bass on eggplant with olive vinaigrette, or the napoleon of scallops, prawns and salmon with black truffle sauce.

* Picayo, 1155 N. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach. (949) 497-5051. Dinner Tuesday-Saturday. $$$

POLISH RESTAURANT MR. SMOKE B.B.Q.: First it was a plain barbecue restaurant, but patrons liked the Polish dishes that sneaked on the menu so now it's Polish Restaurant Mr. Smoke B.B.Q. So enjoy the potato pancakes, the sweet-sour sauerkraut, the veal cordon bleu-like cutlet Sobieski--and once in a while, have some of that barbecue too.

* Polish Restaurant Mr. Smoke B.B.Q., 2610 W. La Palma Ave., Anaheim. (714) 827-6251. Lunch and dinner daily. $$

THE QUIET WOMAN: The Quiet Woman leads a sedate life, but it is one of the area's most consistently good dining spots. Entrees, mostly cooked on a mesquite grill, include Angus beef steaks, fresh fish and a terrific rack of lamb. There are good salads, excellent homemade soups and fine desserts too. Don't miss the homemade pumpkin pie in season and the fudgy Toll House pie all year.

* The Quiet Woman, 3224 Coast Highway, Corona del Mar. (949) 640-7440. Lunch Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; dinner Sunday-Thursday, 5 p.m.-10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m.-11 p.m. $$$

RESTAURANT ABE: Master chef Abe (pronounced AH-bay) has been called the Matsuhisa of Orange County, and the comparison is apt: He has worked at Nobu Matsuhisa's famed Japanese fusion restaurant in West Hollywood. Come to Abe's Newport restaurant for the sushi if you must, but he has far more interesting creations, such as tuna rib, smoked monkfish liver, oddball oyster shooters and mind-blowing omakase dinners.

* Restaurant Abe, 2900 Newport Blvd., Newport Beach. (949) 675-1739. Lunch Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; dinner Monday-Thursday, 5:30-10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5:30-10:30 p.m. $$$

THE RITZ: Hans Prager's ornately decorated restaurant, the Ritz, remains a bastion of Continental cuisine after more than two decades at Fashion Island. A well-dressed Newport crowd still turns out for retro faves such as lobster bisque and veal Oscar. Now there is a lovely outdoor garden area open during lunch and dinner.

* The Ritz, 880 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach. (949) 720-1800. Lunch Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.; dinner Monday-Thursday, 6-10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5:30-11 p.m. $$$

ROMA D'ITALIA: Tustin's busy Roma D'Italia is an old-fashioned checked-tablecloth pizzeria/restaurant specializing in dishes with big, rich flavors, such as chicken d'Italia, which includes eggplant, ham, tomatoes, provolone and mushroom sauce. For something lighter, try the mixed seafood platter in a flavorful garlic white wine sauce.

* Roma D'Italia, 611 El Camino Real, Tustin. (714) 544-0273. Lunch and dinner daily. $$

ALCATRAZ BREWING CO.: One of the most eye-catching places at the Block in Orange. You dine under a stunning replica of the Golden Gate Bridge, sipping well-made beers such as a chocolaty stout and a hopsy red ale. And surprise: The food is quite good, especially the brick-oven pizzas, the huge entree salads and a terrific sour cream fudge cake at dessert.

* Alcatraz Brewing Co., the Block at Orange. (714) 939-8686. Daily, 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. $-$$$

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