Best New Restaurants 2016

No. 1 Pascal

Every several years, Pascal Olhats, O.C.’s de facto king of French cuisine, seems to reinvent his life and kitchen. One thing that never changes is his mastery of French cooking, no matter the region or style. Which explains why a preponderance of our best chefs have logged formative time under his watch in one of those restaurants. His latest, most intimate enterprise celebrates the soulful, classic dishes not widely offered today—and certainly not as rigorously executed: tarte tatin with foie gras and blood sausage, veal bone marrow topped with garlic-herb escargot, braised rabbit loin served with egg noodles and creamy mustard sauce. “I am cooking the food no one serves anymore,” Olhats says. Allowing for slight exaggeration, his statement reveals another Olhats truth—that he follows no trends. Whether you order an onion tart for lunch in the sunny cafe or indulge in sweetbreads cloaked in Champagne mushroom cream at dinner, you’re satisfying a primal desire for French fare that meets Olhats’ unbending standards. Funny how old-school can taste so new.


FIELD NOTES O.C. chefs who have passed through Olhats’ kitchens include Florent Marneau of Marché Moderne; David Kesler of Bistro Bleu; Bernard Althaus of Basilic; Greg Daniels of Haven Gastropub; Lindsay Smith‑Rosales of Nirvana Grille; and Greg Moro of Chapter One.

Read our March 2016 Main Course review of Pascal here.

31451 Rancho Viejo Road, San Juan Capistrano