Sunday, September 20, 2009

Happy Birthday Rachelle at Mesa in the O.C.

725 Baker Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Girls' mini-weekend in Costa Mesa and we headed to Mesa restaurant just a few minutes from our hotel and a short walk to several interesting bars. Mesa is owned by the same investment group that owns Firefly in Studio City, not surprising considering the minimalist nature of both their websites. Neither website is a good place to go when looking for information about the chefs, how long they have been open, the architecture and design, etc. The website does not even offer the cocktail menu nor the wine list. Le sigh. I must make phone calls. And this review? Again with the iPhone. I brought both my cameras for the weekend, but left them both in the hotel room.

Celebrating Rachelle's birthday in a de facto kind of way, we hadn't planned it but it is Monday. This is a great year for her. She has a satisfying job that has led her to a man she is very much in love with. There is nothing better than seeing your friends happy. I have never really seen Rachelle unhappy, per se. Her glass is always half full. But I am glad she is in love and obviously thrilled about it.

Mesa's interior is nothing less than striking, with a retractable open ceiling, a giant bar in between a lounge and terraced restaurant seating that overlooks the entire room. The stage is set for prime partying in an upscale but unstuffy fashion. Mesa is a little (a lot) night clubby, but I like that. I never go to night clubs and even a girls' night out is a rarity these days. Mesa would be very successful in L.A., but L.A. has a short attention span for evening entertainment. I prefer that Mesa stay south where it might continue to thrive under the radar from L.A. PYTs and striped shirt brigade, well beyond the geographic reach of Paris Hilton's panty-less cooch.

C started with a Dragon Lady cosmo decorated with a dried hibiscus. It may be a hibiscus, they said it was a hibiscus. I usually think of hibiscus as red, but at any rate this was beautiful to look at and nice to drink.

The birthday girl and I started with lychee martinis. No simple syrup, simply housemade lychee puree. Always my go-to indulgent sweet girly drink. One of the girls thought the lychee looked like balls, I personally think they look like little brains. My mind is not in the gutter. Well, it is but just not with the lychee.

S started with a champagne cocktail and said it was crafted with perfection. Not too heavy on the bitters, and with a sugar cube as she prefers, rather than loose sugar in the bottom of the glass.

To get our appetites going, we started with a lovely little cheese plate. Rachelle ordered this, a regular guest at Mesa, this is not on the menu anymore but they still offer it if you know to ask for it. From the left: Roaring Forties, a semi-soft cow's milk bleu cheese from King Island, Australia. In the middle is a lovely little manchego. Manchego is a sheep's milk cheese from La Mancha, Spain created solely from the milk of Manchega sheep. And all the way to the right is my favorite, the Bermuda Triangle, an artisanal goat cheese that hails from Cypress Grove, California. Served alongside our cheeses was a cherry jam, honeycomb, and quince jelly. Perfect to coat four girls' tummies before a hard night of celebrating our girlness.

To start I ordered the mushroom salad for the table: Shaved Cremini Mushrooms, Radicchio, Parmigianino- Reggiano, White Truffle Oil, Sea Salt. It was delicious. No one else really dug into these beautiful shrooms, and I don't know why. More for me.

My three friends shared the Hamachi Sashimi on Crispy Rice Cakes, Local Hot Chilies, Green Garlic, Tobiko, Ginger Infused White Soy. They ooh'd and aah'd.

For an entree C took on the Caramelized Leek Pizza with Goat Cheese and Pancetta Pinwheels. She has a teeny tiny appetite and most of this beautiful pie went to waste even though we all considered hauling it around with us during our rounds of local bars in order to have something to snack on later. Our vanity got the better of us and we had them clear it away. It was delicious though, nice thin crust, goaty cheese presence...the pancetta was not overpowering. Is it wrong that I want a couple slices of this pizza for my breakfast right now?

Not a great pic, but the birthday girl ordered these beautiful prawns wrapped in pancetta, piquillo sauce, quince and parsley salad, XVOO. These are exquisitely yummy. Spanishy tapas kind of in nature, perfect for sharing, and sharing she did. We all ate a prawn.

I nommed on this hanger steak, being extremely carnivorous this weekend. It was cooked to perfect meduim-rare doneness, was lean yet extremely tender. Broccolini served with generous amounts of slivered garlic, all of which I ate. The tips of the broccolini were just dark enough to taste broiled...this is a perfect plate. Another thing that I really loved about Mesa, the food comes on small plates and with artful organization. This was not a huge amount of food, which is really appropriate. I don't need to be served a side of beef a la Mastro's or BLT (although I adore both these steakhouses). I can only eat so much food. I would rather be served less and not waste it than be served Paul Bunyon-esque portions.

The plating of the burger was no less inventive. I was kind of in love with it. Served on a long narrow piece of slate, and accompanied by pickles, catsup and mayo. The slate was a little small for such a big burger, and I couldn't help but reach over and clean some of the crumbs from the edge of the table. There was really nowhere for S's errant beef bits to fall. I love this though, I kind of want to hunt down some slate for my own kitchen.

A+ burger construction. Fresh produce generously piled high.

And a lovely piece of beef burger....S waxed on about how great the bun was, although I think toward the end she said it got a little too soggy. A challenging bun will do in a great burger every time.

One of the best things about Mesa is the service. We experienced stellar service from both our waitress and the sommelier. S, our resident wine expert, was torn between a few wines and the sommelier steered us toward a wonderful $38 bottle, less expensive than either of the wines S had been considering. It was soooo good, we drank two! Unfortunately, our server wasn't feeling well and went home early (we were done eating). Sadly our replacement kind of *poofed*. But upon moving to the bar, we again were taken well care of by an excellent bartender, so three out of four people who handled us did work that was beyond gracious and welcoming. 75% is pretty good odds if you're in Vegas, although only a C if you are in middle school. Spin it how you will, we had a great time, good food and are all left with a rare night to remember.

Mesa in Los Angeles


chef-renee said...

That was a great blog! Really well written. It caught my eye, I work around the corner for OC Fair and my sisters name is Rachelle. I know the area, but haven't made it in yet. Now I must try!

Kristine G said...

i would like to say that your lychee martini recipe can rivel any other lychee martini, any day of the week. :)

kevinEats said...

I've heard that this place has degenerated into a sort of douchebag scene-cum-cougar den. Did you find that to be the case?

Food looks decent though.

Food, she thought. said...

Chef Renee,

Greetings and thank you for reading.


The lychee martinis were delicious, but maybe not quite as good as mine. ;-)


It did not seem particularly cougar-y. Just very OC, and not necessarily in a bad way. They were busy with a mixed crowd and everyone was friendly. And the food was pretty durn good. Especially for a restaurant that is also kind of a night club, usually the food in those kinds of places is dog awful.

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Food, she thought,

Thanks for the review. I've been curious about this place for quite a while. I love Bermuda Triangle as well. :) And the Goat Cheese Flatbread looks delicious.

Costa Mesa CVB said...

Thanks for the great review. Would you mind if we post it on our website, We can link back to your site as well. Please email me at and let me know. Thanks!!