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The seared ahi stack at H.H. Colton's in San Clemente. Photo: Matt Cortina
The seared ahi stack at H.H. Colton’s in San Clemente. Photo: Matt Cortina

H.H. Cotton’s, 201 Avenida Del Mar, San Clemente. 949.429.3321. www.hhcottons.com.

H.H. Cotton’s has a way of welcoming the uncool without sacrificing its own coolness. It’s like a self-assured older brother, or, like, David Bowie. It’s unclear if San Clemente co-founder Hamilton H. Cotton had this appeal, but the restaurant that now bears his name sure does.

It’s evident in the friendly yet cocksure staff, and the swanky yet comfy design. It’s also evident in the food.

Take the seared ahi stack: rare ahi tuna, honey-soy aioli, togarishi spice and daikon sprouts. Huh? But despite the unique ingredients, it tastes familiar. Hot spice and crispy-edged fish, with sweet and salty sauce. Cool avocado and tuna complement each other in texture and temperature. And the bowl of glazed and braised Brussels sprouts with soggy bacon was funk-less and packed with fat and crunch.

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