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Savor South Coast Plaza and their critically-acclaimed restaurants

Helmed by award-winning chefs, the Costa Mesa shopping destination is drawing epicures from near and far

Garlic Noodles, Filet Mignon Chow Fun, Kimchi Fried Rice, Egg; Tomahawk Ribeye Steak on Sizzling Salt Block
Image Credits Photography by Vincent Knakal

Renowned as a leading international shopping destination, South Coast Plaza is home to more than 250 prominent boutiques: Gucci, Hermès, Cartier, Dior, Alexander McQueen, Givenchy, and the list goes on. Its unparalleled collection of diverse retailers is complemented by the adjacent Segerstrom Center for the Arts and the Orange County Museum of Art as well as an impressive array of critically-acclaimed restaurants helmed by award-winning chefs, drawing epicures from near and far.

Chef Tony Nguyen, Culinary Director, House of An
AnQi Bistro, South Coast Plaza, Crustacean Restaurant in San Francisco, and Crustacean Beverly Hills

Tony Nguyen says the cuisine of his Vietnamese-born mother is the best he has ever tasted. Encouraged to pursue gastronomy, Nguyen aced the entrance exam for the Culinary Institute of America. During his school years, he interned in renowned restaurants including Guy Savoy and the James Beard House in New York City. Post-college, he headed to Las Vegas, where he cooked alongside Gerald Chin of Joël Robuchon’s L’Atelier and Rick Moonen, whose sustainable practices found acclaim at RM Seafood inside Mandalay Bay. The St. Louis-raised Nguyen then returned to the Midwest, where he created his own casual concept, Noodle Bar, in Kansas City, Missouri. Looking for a new adventure in the fine dining realm, Nguyen joined the House of An in Southern California. “I cooked a 15-course feast for the executive staff,” he recalls, “and thank God they liked it!” Nguyen is a veteran of food TV, having successfully competed on Guy’s Grocery Games, Beat Bobby Flay, Man vs. Child: Chef Showdown, and Recipe for Deception. To sum up his culinary approach, he says, “I am inspired by traveling, music, and what I see during the day and by all the chefs I work with, but the one constant is that there is always a Vietnamese influence.” 

Chef-Proprietor Nick Weber
Populaire Modern Bistro 

Nick Weber is chef and co-proprietor of Populaire Modern Bistro at South Coast Plaza, which opened May 2022. The Southern California native has an extensive culinary career with more than 25 years of professional experience. He served as executive chef of 24 Carrots, Orange County’s premier catering company, and prior to that, he served as executive chef of the popular Cannery in Newport Beach. Weber spent 15 years as executive chef for a multitude of restaurants across Patina Restaurant Group, including Pinot Provence, Pinot Bistro, and Catal Restaurant in Downtown Disney. He was mentored by Patina founder Joachim Splichal, a James Beard award-winning chef.

Chef Amar Santana, Executive Chef/Partner

Born in the Dominican Republic, Amar Santana and his family immigrated to the U.S. when he was 13, settling in Queens, New York. In his teens, he completed an internship at Chef David Waltuck’s Chanterelle, one of New York’s famed French restaurants, followed by a two-week externship at London’s Le Cordon Bleu. After graduating from high school, he enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, on a full scholarship. Soon after, Santana served on the opening teams for the acclaimed Charlie Palmer Steak and Fin Fish in Reno, Nevada, and Charlie Palmer at The Joule in Dallas. In 2007, Palmer selected Santana to run the kitchen of his first Southern California restaurant, Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdale’s South Coast Plaza. Santana’s career crescendo followed at age 30, when he opened his flagship restaurant, Broadway by Amar Santana in Laguna Beach. In 2015, together with business partner Ahmed Labbate, Santana went on to open Vaca across from South Coast Plaza in the area’s renowned theater district. The Spanish-centric concept focuses on tapas, paellas, wood-grilled steaks, and an impressive cocktail and wine list. Santana has appeared in four seasons of Bravo’s Top Chef and is currently serving as a judge on the show. 


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