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The Hit List: Palate Pleasers

Hungry? Visit one of these five restaurants for a taste of what we crave.

Splashes’ black cod

1. Winter Waves
Imagine nibbling on a perfectly cooked piece of fish while sipping a fresh, inspired libation and looking out on the crystalline Pacific. Like what you’re seeing (and savoring)? Then head to Splashes at The Surf & Sand in Laguna. Executive Chef David Fuñe’s winter menu will tempt you with concoctions like the Pacific black cod. The tender fish is served with a pickled tempura eggplant, cilantro puree, squash and a sake broth. Ah, the good life… 1555 S. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, 949.376.2779

2. Maine Event
Delight in a jaw-dropping view of the Pacific and ply your palate with pan-Latin fare from Raya at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel. We can’t get enough of the Maine lobster salad with sweet potatoes, baby spinach, lemon vinaigrette, a chile ancho-port reduction and chive oil. 1 Ritz-Carlton Drive, Dana Point, 949.240.2000

3. California Dreamin’
It’s got a patio that’s steps from the sand, an indoor bar that spans almost the entire length of the restaurant (and offers a killer view of the ocean, its surfers, and teams of toned and tanned beach volleyball players), and a menu of inspired fare that can satisfy just about any hankering. I’m talking about Sandy’s—a gem of a place with food that is (in California vernacular) awesome. But it’s the seafood cocktail that is our obsession. A stack of sublime deliciousness, it delights with a base of tender shrimp and lobster, followed by a layer of chunky guacamole, and a topper of microgreens tossed in a citrus vinaigrette and a spicy-sweet drizzle of orange-chile sauce. One taste, and you’ll be back for more. 315 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach, 714.374.7273

4. Rumari Has It
Ristorante Rumari is a family-run eatery that’s been charming Laguna locals for years—thanks to its intimate, sophisticated surrounds and classic Italian cuisine. Our fave? The gnocchi al pesto. 1826 S. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, 949.494.0400

5. Showtime!
An evening at Broadway by Amar Santana is like dining in a theater—Amar Santana’s restaurant is a culinary performance extraordinaire. Start with the white bean and watercress salad, then enjoy the pan-roasted Scottish salmon and finish with a sweet grand finale: a banana and peanut butter parfait. It all deserves a standing ovation. 328 Glenneyre St., Laguna Beach, 949.715.8234