Daily Dish

The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

Category: Costa Mesa

Everyone's going loco over Taco Asylum in Costa Mesa

Tacos 
Is there room in Southern California for another hip taco slinger? Judging by the lunch crowds at Taco Asylum, there is indeed. They're lured in by creative taste combos such as lamb with ratatouille, background, wild mushroom with fried chickpeas and parsley salad, center, and a grilled octopus taco.

That's why it's our Find of the week.

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Andrew Kirschner leaving Wilshire to open his own restaurant

-- Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch

Photo: Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times

Red O by Rick Bayless; Mooi in Echo Park; Jason Travi, Mesa's new executive chef

Mooi2

Red O by Rick Bayless -- Bayless' first restaurant outside of Chicago -- is set to open next Wednesday on Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood. Bayless, chef, author and TV personality (whose restaurants include Topolobampo and Frontera Grill in Chicago), created the modern Mexican menu and trained the kitchen staff. The menu features a ceviche selection (served on tortilla chips, toasted baguette, plantain chips or jicama slices); family-style cazuelas to share such as albondigas al chipotle; enchiladas and tacos; entrees including striped bass with Veracruz-style rice; and snacks such as pork belly sopes. Dodd Mitchell and G + Gulla Jonsdottir designed the restaurant. A glass tequila tunnel between the dining room and lounge features the tequila selections. 8155 Melrose Ave., (323) 655-5009, www.redorestaurant.com.

Echo Park raw and vegan restaurant Mooi is scheduled to open Thursday in a two-level corner space of the Jensen Rec Center on Sunset Boulevard. Monday to Saturday, the restaurant will be open 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., serving juices, desserts and Intelligentsia coffee, with a limited menu of breakfast and lunch dishes. Dinner is offered Wednesday to Saturday from 6 to 11 p.m. (Sundays are for brunch.) Desserts are a specialty of proprietor Stephen Hauptfuhr; expect a vegan ice cream bonanza. 1700 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, www.mooifood.com.

Mesa -- in Costa Mesa -- announced that new executive chef Jason Travi has added spring dishes to the restaurant's menu. The restaurant is kicking off the arrival of Travi, formerly of Fraiche in Culver City and Santa Monica, with a Tuesday-to-Saturday cocktail party. “House Party ‘til Sundown” runs from 6 p.m. until the sun sets, with free small bites of the chef’s additions. New items include salt cod fritters with romesco, wood-fired roasted shrimp with kale and chickpeas; and Port Brewing "Old Viscosity"-braised short ribs. There's a new cocktail menu (take for example, the Clash, house-infused tangerine vodka with arbol chiles, Tuaca, lime and cilantro) and something called "flask service" -- your choice of spirit in a 9-ounce vintage flask, along with two house-made mixers for $100 (for $125 guests may keep the flask). 725 Baker St., Costa Mesa, (714) 557-6700, www.mesacostamesa.com.

-- Betty Hallock

Photo: Mango, avocado and strawberry salsa in corn tortilla at Mooi. Credit: Mooi restaurant.

 

Small Bites: Pizzeria Ortica's anniversary and buy-one-get-one-for-$1 cocktails; cassoulet at RH

Ortica1

Dollar cocktails: To celebrate its first anniversary this month, Pizzeria Ortica in Costa Mesa has launched a new cocktail program, dubbed 18A. Until Feb. 11, the restaurant will be running a month-long special: Anyone who buys one cocktail off the new cocktail menu will receive an additional cocktail for just $1 -- Pizzeria Ortica’s way of saying “thank you.” 650 Anton Blvd., Costa Mesa, (714) 445-4900, www.pizzeriaortica.com.

Cassoulet days: Sebastien Archambault, executive chef at RH at Andaz West Hollywood, is offering his cassoulet – the slow-cooked white bean/pork/sausage/goose/duck casserole of southwestern France -- every Tuesday and Wednesday for both lunch and dinner. At lunch, choose a starter, a dessert or both to accompany the cassoulet entrée. (Three courses for $30; two courses for $23; cassoulet only is $20.)  At dinner, cassoulet is offered as a special for $22. Suggested wine pairing: Paige 23 Syrah, Santa Barbara 2004 ($16 a glass; $64 for a bottle). Through Feb. 25. 8401 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (323) 785-6090. 

-- Betty Hallock

Photo: Chef Stephan Samson at Pizzeria Ortica. Credit: Christine Cotter / Christine Cotter

Chocolate-covered bacon, Zucchini Weenies and more join the fried fare at the O.C. Fair

Left: Zucchini Weenies. Right: Chocolate-covered bacon. Both will be sold at the 2009 O.C. Fair.

The O.C. "Super" Fair kicks off tomorrow. For some, that means Ferris wheels, pig races and chart-topping 1980s bands exploiting the power of nostalgia. For others -- you know who you are, fellow gluttons -- it's an annual pilgrimage to the mecca of deep-fried food.

Last year, I hardened my arteries by sampling nearly every fried food item at the O.C. Fair. (Make a beeline for deep-fried zucchini, apple sticks and Reese's Whips. Avoid deep-fried White Castle burgers, frog legs and Tootsie Rolls.)

This year, you can expect some brand new fried fare at the fair:

  • Zucchini Weenie: a hot dog inside a hollowed-out zucchini that's battered and deep-fried. ($5.75)
  • Pizza Bites: battered and deep-fried mini-pizza bagels. ($5.75)
  • Smores: graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate that's sandwiched together, battered and deep-fried. ($5.75)
  • Zucchini Nachos: battered and deep-fried zucchini curls that are covered in cheese, bacon and jalapenos. ($8.75)
  • Jumbo Mexican Funnel Cake: made with churro batter, this massive, ridged and coiled funnel cake is topped with whipped cream and strawberries. If you eat it by yourself in 20 minutes, you get it for free. ($9)
  • Chocolate-Covered Bacon: bacon is coated in semi-sweet chocolate, frozen, sliced into small strips and served in a Chinese food container. ($4.50)

The O.C. Fair runs July 10 through Aug. 9.

--Elina Shatkin

Photo credit: Orange County Fair

Sampler Platter: Inhalable chocolate, raccoon barbecue and deep-dish pizza

The Calabrese pizza topped with San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella, Chino Farms rapini, Calabrian chiles and bottarga at Pizza Ortica in Costa Mesa. Credit: Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times.

A special Tuesday mix of legitimate food news and random silliness...

  • Inhalable chocolate: Art project, hoax or humanity's greatest invention? FOX News
  • Chicagoans miffed, angered, brokenhearted that Obama orders a deep-dish pizza from St. Louis. Chicago Tribune
  • In a quick over-the-weekend sleight-of-hand, the Groundwork outpost in the arts district of downtown L.A. closed and re-emerged as the Novel Café. Downtown News
  • Man stabbed after he allegedly wouldn’t cough up $5 for beer run. Philadelphia Inquirer
  • Although Democratic Rep. Jimmy Naifeh's 18-year stint as speaker of the Tennessee House is over, his annual raccoon barbecue, the Coon Supper, will continue. Phew. WHNT
  • Burger King will scrap a controversial ad for the Texican Whopper, a Whopper topped with chili con carne, jalapeños and spicy mayo that's being sold in Europe. The ads, which Mexico had protested, feature a short Mexican luchador draped in his country's flag. Reuters
  • Hugo Molina (Parkway Grill) once again steps behind the stove with Seta, a "New American" restaurant that's "part steakhouse, part Latin, part Asian and all Hugo." Zagat
  • Fullerton-based chain the Flame Broiler will replace Wienerschnitzel‎ and Steak Escape at the Crossroads in Irvine. Stick A Fork In It

-- Elina Shatkin

Photo: The Calabrese pizza topped with San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella, Chino Farms rapini, Calabrian chiles and bottarga at Pizza Ortica in Costa Mesa. Credit: Brian VanderBrug / Los Angeles Times.

Bye bye, delivery guy -- we've turned our kitchen into a pizza parlor

We turned today's Food section over to one of our favorite foods: pizza. We've got everything you ever wanted to know, or needed to know, about pizza.

Seriously.

You probably think you cannot make good pizza at home because you lack a pizza oven. Well, think again. Times test kitchen manager Noelle Carter shows you how to line your oven with fireproof bricks*** so you can achieve that trademark crispy crust. (You can also watch her do it in the video.) All good pizzas start with homemade dough, so we've got a recipe for that as well as recipes for pizza Margherita (and a no-cook sauce) and potato pizza. We've also got a look at variations on that theme.

But let's say you're not the cook-at-home type, or you want your pizza, and you want it RIGHT NOW. Times restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila takes you on a tour of the best gourmet pizza spots in town and here's a list you'll definitely want to bookmark, as well as a locator map. (And by the way, did you ever wonder how we got from regular old-fashioned pizza to gourmet pizza? Check out this cool pizza chronology flash graphic.)

What's that? You say that you can't get good pizza west of Manhattan? Then check this out. And then check out this list of places were you can buy it by the slice.

Finally, here's a photo gallery look at testing out pizzas in The Times' test kitchen, from start to finish, and here's a recommended wine to wash down that slice of 'za.

(***Note that we said fireproof bricks. If you use the regular ol' bricks you've got piled up in the yard, they could explode. And that's not a good pizza topping.)

-- Rene Lynch

Datebook: Silverlake Wine launches a tasting at the Standard Downtown

ThestandardWEDNESDAY
Silverlake Wine launches the first in what is to become a weekly wine-tasting event at the Standard hotel in downtown L.A. The event takes place in the minimalist wonderland that is the hotel's lobby and includes three boutique wines paired with snacks from the Standard's Lobby Lounge kitchen. The Standard Downtown, 550 S. Flower St., Los Angeles, 5-8 p.m. $20. (213) 892-8080. www.silverlakewine.com.

FRIDAY
Like restaurant week but with shopping, South Coast Plaza celebrates the opening day of its third annual "Fashion Plates" promotion with 13 participating restaurants offering $20 three-course lunches and $40 four-course dinners. Nello Cucina and Royal Khyber include a glass of wine with dinner, and David Myers' Pizzeria Ortica participates for the first time. South Coast Plaza, 3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa. Through March 29. (800) 782-8888. www.southcoastplaza.com.

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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.