Not in a bad way, but the occasional change is completely welcome in my world. That was the case when I received an invitation to experience the music-themed dinner at Mesa Lounge in Costa Mesa. The unique dinner series titled, Chef’s Table, takes place on the final Wednesday of each month. Led by Chef Niki Starr, the dinner includes live music, cocktail pairings, and a four to six courses to guide guests into a unique dining experience that is sure to be worthwhile. Seeing a few reviews and photos of prior nights of the series, I was excited to finally step into the restaurant myself.
Walking into Mesa, it’s clear the restaurant is beautiful. From wall to wall there’s a gentle mysterious nature wrapped with a dark seduction. As I passed the outdoor fireplace and glided around the photographs it felt like the evening would be a sultry one. Listening to the sounds of the quirky Joshua Payne Orchestra play funk and electronic versions of some of today’s popular music allowed myself, my friend Lauren, and the others in attendance to easily settle into our seats and look over the prix-fixe menu. As we glanced between each course, Chef Niki stepped out of the kitchen to walk us through the plates each titled after songs by her loved musical group, Rufus du Sol. With the pleasant introduction to both the chef and the menu, the plates began to arrive.
To start the dinner, Chef Niki sent out the “Sundream”. The starter was no more than two to three sips of a sunchoke bisque topped with bacon and lightly scattered with truffle. The bisque held a delightful velvety texture that was heightened by the saltiness from the bacon. The balance of the two flavors was delicious together and the only unfortunate part about it was when it disappeared. Accompanied by a sweet and almost dessert-like glass of Pear & Champagne, the striking richness of the drink was a one that made me yearn for a second.
The second course was the “InnerBloom”. A plate of stone fruit, burrata, grapes, and flowers easily became one I loved. The bright taste of the citrus from the fruit against the milky burrata was perfect. Adding the sweet grapes and the almost tasteless flowers was a dish that looked like a painting until I stuck my fork into it. The cocktail alongside the InnerBloom was made of bourbon, peach jam, Chartreuse, and citrus. While I’m not the greatest fan of the roughness that can come with bourbon, it was well received here as the bourbon wasn’t too intense in the cocktail. Instead, it blended nicely with the peach and citrus.
The “Desert Night” was third and it took hamachi, jalapeno vinaigrette, blue corn, tortilla, and a napales salsa. While I liked the fresh taste of the delicate hamachi and the crunch from the tortilla against the fish, the jalapeno vinaigrette wasn’t something I favored as it’s not a preference of mine in many instances. With a cocktail made of mescal, pisco, peppercorn, citrus, and bitters this was a smooth drink with a deep flavor that was delicious to sip into the next course.
The fourth course was “This Summer” and it was my favorite. The course was comprised of a local halibut, a warm potato salad, bacon, arugula, and a red wine emulsion. While the fish in the description seemed like it would be the best part, it wasn’t. The halibut was lightweight and gently seasoned which made it great. But the best part was the potato salad! It’s hard to explain why a side dish was more exciting than the focus of the plate, but there’s no other way to describe it than it was delicious. The potatoes were soft and fluffy with a slight hint of saltiness, but there was an incredible seasoning within it that made it impossible to pause in between bites. I inhaled it along with the halibut and emulsion it came with. Three cocktails down, I could no longer have another drink but found the other guests eagerly enjoying each one that I declined.
At this rate, I found myself getting full quickly but looking at the “Like an Animal” I made space. A prime filet sat underneath whipped bacon fat, garlic bloomsdale spinach, and a pomme aligot. The medium-rare meat was incredibly deep and rich and being covered in the bacon fat only intensified the flavor. The cheesy potatoes were thick and only filled me up even faster.
The sixth, and last course of the evening, was the “You Were Right”. Strawberry champagne was placed alongside white chocolate, dark chocolate and red fruit. It was such a pretty combination of varying colors whose taste matched its appearance. It was sweet, flirty, and exciting and was the best way to close the dinner.
Six courses of delicious food, amazing music, great company, and a few hours gave me a dining experience that was different from those I go to regularly. It was so nice to have a themed dinner that was delicious from plate to plate. Having this experience I can say that it is one others should enjoy for themselves, at least just to have the potato salad.
Address: 725 Baker St, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Phone: (714) 557-6700
Hours: Tuesday to Saturday – 5:00pm to 2:00am and Sunday & Monday – Closed
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