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Mastro's Steakhouse - Costa Mesa - Review with Photos

Beneath the shadow of the elegant curved glass and chrome edifice of the Plaza Tower, sat Mastro's, a steakhouse by which to measure all others.

European autos lined the driveway, seemingly fresh from a run on the Autobahn and arranged by the valets so that the costlier models are nearest the entrance.

Walking inside, past a stretched entryway with walls of textured sandstone, the hostess -- a rail-thin twentysomething co-ed -- directed her colleague to escort us to our table, her voice icy and precise with a bit of put-on haughtiness. We were led to a table dressed in crisp white linen and plush high-backed chairs.

It was the early evening, but the sunlight could not reach into our seating area, even in that pre-sunset hour. The room's primary source of illumination came from vertical panels lined with a glimmering fabric, dramatically backlit to exude a honey-yellow glow. Dimly lit and sultry, the space was conducive for intimate conversation, but unfortunately not for food photos*.

In front of us, a glass wall with columns of wine bottles reached beyond the limits of the ceiling. They looked like jewels; a cascade of emeralds and onyx. In Vegas, this is the kind of sight which panders to the tourist hordes, in a showy display of one-upmanship over the last glitzy restaurant to open in town. But here, in Costa Mesa, it comes across as measured, dignified, even purposeful.

The servers, in starched white tuxedos, were models of efficiency and masters of prose, regaling us with pitch-perfect recitals of the night's specials. And as with any establishment where dinner for two easily reaches into triple digits, they used crumb scrapers.

We produced the crumbs to be scraped as we nibbled on crusty bread and crackers. Notable in the artfully arranged basket was the pretzel bread, a burnished mini-loaf with the dark color of pumpernickle and a crusting of salt. Yet another standout was the crispy planks of toast, which were tangy and bubbled with parmesan cheese.

But the point of the evening was steak, and lots of it, so we saved our appetites until our orders arrived.

The sixteen ounce New York Strip ($36.95), was not a strip of meat as much as it was a gold-brick-sized section of cattle. Served on a plate which was heated past the temperature of magma, the hunk of charred flesh sizzled and sputtered in melted butter. Slicing off the first chunk was an effortless task, with the meat offering little resistance to my blade. The core was cool crimson, surrounded by a perfect perimeter of pink and a seasoned outer crust of beautiful brown and black.

I pierced the cut piece with a fork, held it up, blew on it, and then ate it. It took no more than one chew for me to realize that this was the best steak I've ever had. There were no fibers to masticate, no connective tissue to gnaw. It wasn't just tender, it surrendered upon contact with my teeth, like Jell-O. The result was an unobstructed taste of red meat, of blood and of flesh. This was the purest essense of beef; a pristine core sample of the beast worth its weight in gold.

Twenty days of dry aging had done its duty, concentrating the flavor and tenderizing beyond where any mallet or marinade can take it.

The sides were offered a-la-carte and served in ample portions. Gorgonzola Mac & Cheese ($9.50) came highly recommended by Chowhounds who came before me and was deserving of the praise. It's heaped into a deep metal bowl -- enough to feed a family of three on its own -- and adorned with a burnt, bruleed top, which only added to its appeal. The heady concoction was redolent with the mild penicillin tang of bleu cheese and stretched-out in mozzarella-like webs as we brought it to our mouths.

The Sauteed Asparagus ($7.50) were green and crisp-tender, slicked with olive oil and flavored with minced garlic. Our choice functioned as a palate-cleanser against the heavier dishes, but the woody, fibrous stems of the asparagi should have been trimmed off prior to cooking.

As I looked around the room, I took stock of my fellow diners. Along with my lovely dining companion (who, by the way, treated me for this carnivorific feast) and I, there were women decked out in their newest South Coast Plaza couture and birthday celebrants with deep pockets. But because it was midweek, there were quite a few groups of young professionals on expense accounts and executives who've descended from their high-rise boardrooms to have supper.

Mastro's was a fitting refuge for these hungry lions of industry -- a place to toast the day's business conquest with glass of scotch and chomp on a bloody steak.

Mastro's Steakhouse
633 Anton Blvd.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626


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  1. great review as usual! however, can you comment on the service a little more?

    1 Reply
    1. re: wilafur

      The service was exceptional. Our server was a gentleman in his mid twenties with slicked back hair who looked like a combination of Josh Lucas and Paul Bettany. He was professional but warm and friendly with a ready smile. He seemed happy to be there, which is more than I can say for the server who waited on us at Morton's a few years ago.

      If I can describe the service at Mastro's in one phrase, it would be "white-gloved". Water glasses were refilled without asking. The manager came by twice to check on how we were doing. And although we didn't take our server up on any of his suggestion menu items, he still treated us like royalty.


    2. Okay, I am absolutely not trying to start a bi-coastal steak war, but I have not been to Mastro's yet and count Peter Luger's as my personal holy grail of (barely) cooked animal flesh. When I hear someone say Mastro's has the best steak they've ever eaten, I've just got to know: has anyone gone to both and liked Mastro's better? In which case, I'm going tomorrow.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Mrs Fang

        Well, it was the best steak I've ever eaten SO FAR! ;-)

        Peter Luger's has always been on my things-to-do-before-I-die list, but as of this writing, I've never been.

        I would *ALSO* be interested to know the opinion of someone who has tried both.


        1. re: Mrs Fang

          Being a born and raised New Yorker I will shed some light on the Peter Luger "mystique"... Yeah, they have a nice steak, but I've been to Ruth's Chris in Garden City, NY, and have had steaks that border on the supernatural. The other thing about Ruth's Chris is the staff has been outstanding each and everytime I went there. I love hearing people speak about the "gruff" attitude of the waiters at Luger's as being part of the "mystique". When I pay that kind of money to eat a piece of meat, I don't need an attitude from the staff. The experiences I have had at Ruth's Chris have been great. The waiter just knew his stuff hands down, and he did his job with a great attitude. The attitude made the dining experience that much better. I enjoyed that interaction of wine suggestions, and meal combination suggestions. In my opinion, for the money, Ruth's Chris puts Lugers to shame in quite a few catagories. Don't get me wrong, Lugers makes a nice steak, but it's not a holy grail. Part of the problem with being around a long time is you get complacent. Luger's should take that to heart. On Mastro's... I agree 100% with this review. It was indeed outstanding. One thing I will not call Mastro's is "A Peter Luger's of the West Coast". Thats because the steak I ate there was far and away better. Mastro's has a good thing going for it. Hope this helps.

          1. re: Mrs Fang

            I've had both, and Mastro's is hands down the best steak by a long shot.

            I do still love Peter Luger's steaks though, and it is one of my favorite restaurants. But it's a different experience, more of an old-school atmosphere. I had great service there, although I was dining with a very powerful NYer and Luger regular (he even had the Peter Luger credit card thing). And I love their sliced tomato & onion with their special sauce appetizer - I think Mastro's also has a version of this, but I haven't tried it, and they couldn't possibly have the Peter Luger sauce anyway.

          2. Elmo, after OD'ing on a massive rib chop in the Bay Area this past weekend, I know that if I clicked on the link to your blog today all I would be doing is succumbing to a misguided act of self inflicted maschoistic torture. I ain't gonna look at your pictures today... Maybe another day, when I am feeling beef deprived.

            2 Replies
            1. re: ChinoWayne

              What kind of torture might you succumb to?!

              1. re: ChinoWayne

                Wayne, you're in luck! Since the restaurant was so dark, most of my pictures didn't come out at all. Although there is that photo of the hunk of meat that I brought home that I had for a midnight snack, glistening and still drool-inducing (at least for me) on a fork. It'll be there for when you go through the red meat withdrawals later today!


              2. I've been to both many times. Peter Luger and Mastros are entirely different experiences -- neither is better than the other when you get down to it. But Mastros does make Luger look cheap, which is not easy to do. Not to mention that part of what makes Luger so great, like Musso and Franks, is the tradition that oozes from the room. And Mastros is the Disneyland version of that. But that said, as much as I love both PL and M&F, and really want to hate Mastros on some level, it's impossible. It's just that damn good.

                1. Bravo, Elmo. Your signature writing style celebrates both high-end steak and humble banh mi alike (and everything in between). As for the pictured fork-full of NY strip, was that ordered rare, and did you have to factor in the plate's heat in order to get that result? Might you opine as to whether the choice to not order wine with the meal in any way influences services rendered by the waitstaff? And lastly, how much in advance would you recommend securing reservations at Mastro's? Thank you in advance...

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: silence9

                    Silence, I ordered it medium and that was pretty much what I expected to get...although the plate did cook it a little more as the meal went on, but not by much.

                    As for wine, I told my server straight off that we would just be having iced water and I didn't get as much as a blink. They treated me just as well as everyone else. I think I must have given off the vibe straight off that I'm a tea-tottler or something.

                    For reservations, I made them the day before for a Thursday night. The room was probably at 1/2 capacity. Perhaps it might be busier on a Friday or a weekend.


                  2. Elmo,

                    Stellar review as always. I am so glad you finally got to Mastro's and had the same wonderful experience that J. and I did when I went there a few months ago. It really is an exceptional meal and experience.

                    I do hope that they continue being a - if not the - premier steakhouse in OC. I know that I would not hesitate to recommend Mastro's to anyone looking for an exceptional meal.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Seth Chadwick

                      Seth, I'll be waiting to see what you write about the original Mastro's in Scottsdale.


                    2. Great review! Have you been to Mastro's Ocean Club yet? I highly recommend it for your next Mastro's outing-the view is mind blowing, along with the food. Great combination of steak and seafood. And the clientele is even flashier than Mastro's Costa Mesa, which is a feat in and of itself. Oh, and you can get the seafood tower at the Ocean Club, so you won't be missing out.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Samantha

                        A view *ALONG* with the service and the meal??! Mastro's Ocean Club is definitely our next "special" occasion destination!


                      2. Elmo, great review as usual. One question, you mentioned dry aged? When we went there earlier in the year, the waiter told us the meat was wet aged.

                        Otherwise, agree about the exceptional service. They are attentive without being obtrusive. We lingered over cocktails for quite a while before ordering and never felt rushed.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Jase

                          Hmm, interesting, because our waiter said "dry aged"...but can someone else confirm? I'd be interested to know for sure.


                          1. re: elmomonster

                            I just called and the woman, Megan, who answered the phone told me that the steaks are wet aged. Bummer.

                            1. re: TomSwift

                              They were wet aged all right, confirmed by managers last Sunday. Nevertheless, these steaks in Costa Mesa were were among the finest - filet, bone-in filet and rib-eye that SoCal has to offer. Be aware of the "Ruth's Chris'" problem, the white-hot plates on which the steaks are served. Ask for your steak to be served on a room-temperature plate if you value your's charred rare or rare steak. One guest just had dental surgery and couldn't do beef so he opted for crab (King) legs on ice (pretty much of a scam for 3 half legs in one of the most impressive silver serving contraptions I've seen for seafood) for about $25, but then he had caviar (which he could chew) the real, cool, cliche deal for this (unanounced) caviar (domestic osetra) ($100/ounce) course is that they use they same gimmick for their seafood towers, whch, unless you choose carefully and ask prices, can top $150 pp. Even if you do ask for prices the result is the same. I'd rather spend the same money for better, live seafood in in the ESGV. It's presented in elaborate silver with dry ice hidden somewhere in water so that the entire presenation comes out in a cloud of white smoke. I expected Davis Gaines to energe from the smoke and burst into Music of the Night. Nope. Only a used waiter, waving the smoke from his eyes, trying to find a suitable spot on the table for the enormous platter. The service was top-notch, although uniformly young, quite professional.

                              One piece of advice, given by those long ago, is the mac and cheese. By far the best side,and at a reasonable price, it reheats wonderfully, which is a good quality for lunch the next day.

                            2. re: elmomonster

                              Mastros does not dry age their steaks; I called to confirm the last time I was there.

                          2. How's the wine selection here? Any recommendations?

                            1. I'm so sick and tired of hearing the word "Mastros" that I won't go there on principle, and now you hounds tell me that the food is transcendent? Thanks a lot.

                              1. Thanks elmomonster for your eloquent and comprehensive review--now I know where to go for my b-day dinner...

                                1. I just visited Mastro's on Wednesday 1-10-07. Same day reservation for 7:45 was not a problem. My party of five arrived five minutes past our time. We were asked to wait - apparently the table was not ready - and we did for about 5 minutes. I was not very happy with that since at other restaurants of this level one is shown to the table right away.

                                  The restaurant was at 3/4 of capacity. For some reason, we had to wait another few minutes before we were finally greeted by our very cordial and pleasant server. Catherine apologize for the wait and introduced us to the menu and the suggestions for the night.

                                  We sampled five appetizers. The crab cakes were very good and the scallops were just wonderful. The tuna and the lobster cocktail were about average. The beef sashimi was not as good as all the other plates.

                                  I had a bone-in filet. I must say, it was just the way el monster described it. Not sure is the best ever, but one of the best; just as good as Prime, and definitely no comparison with Ruth's Chris, which turned out to be a disappointment for me.

                                  My wife had the chilean sea bass - the biggest piece of that fish I have ever seen. "Awesome" would describe the flavor and the tender texture that characterizes it.

                                  We all shared a side order of lobster mash potatoes. It was so good that I requested a separate order to go.

                                  The desserts were good but right about what I expected.

                                  Overall, Mastro's turned out to be a very good experience, much better than expected, with good service and excellent food. I have already recommended it to friends and look forward to returning soon.

                                  1. 4 of us dined at Mastro's last night. Loved the ambiance. Loved the drinks (my wife had the sparkling framboise with fresh raspberries and I tried a mojito which was kinda fun). Between us, we tried lots of sides: Lobster mashed potatoes, Mastro's Mashed Potatoes (a little tater fetish going on here), asparagus, sauteed mushrooms and finally the mac cheese. As far as sides go, the mac cheese definitely won out. The other sides were pretty ordinary or somewhat bland.
                                    None of us were blown away by the meat. I had the porterhouse, everyone else had the bone in fillet. I wanted to love it, I really really did. To me the steaks I've had at Ruth's were definitely better. I don't know why, just a cleaner taste (amidst all of the butter at both places).
                                    Don't get me wrong. By no means do I consider it bad. The service was impeccable, as was the atmosphere. We just weren't transported to "Never, Never Carnivoreland". (maybe that should be .."Always, Always Carnivoreland.")

                                    1. Super review and post! Any current experiences?

                                      1. It was a Saturday evening. Eight of us foodies went to Mastro's for what we thought would be a fine carnivore dining experience. Our evening began with all of us being seated at a lovely square table for 8. The chair seats were very comfortable. The ambience is clubby but also comfortable.
                                        Our waitress greeted us with a charmingly overtly bubbliness. She appeared to be enthusiastic and excited to be our server for the evening. All of that changed as quickly as it began.
                                        Seven of us ordered salads and one diner ordered the onion soup. The salads were brought to us but our friend's soup never arrived. At this point we realized that our server had gone AWOL and her bubbly attitude was simply a cover-up for inept service.
                                        After an interminable amount of time spent tracking down the where abouts of the missing soup we were told a very big fib. Yes, instead of the truth that it was never ordered we were informed the soup was "burnt" and a new bowl had to be prepared. Of course this was about 30 minutes later and by the time the soup was served our very ordinary house salad and tomato mozzerala salad were finished.
                                        By the way, at this point and throughout the rest of the evening we poured our own wine. Yes, no one ever refilled our glasses or offered any other beverage. Ms. Bubbly still remained out of sight as we sat and waited for our fatty, tough, ill prepared and unenjoyable steaks to arrive. The creamed spinach could have been Stouffers, the lyonaise potatoes were dry and uninteresting. And the onion rings were a big "don't bother". Our final disappointment was the extremely dry bread pudding and the store bought tasting chocolate cake. This place is BAD. If you want good steaks go to professionals like Mortons or Ruth Cris. Mastro's needs to bring in some help to train their servers and chefs. Don't waste your time, money and especially your calories.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: Winmax

                                          must be contagious...it sounds like the costa mesa location is now suffering from the same ailment that plagued the BH location when i was there...


                                          1. re: Winmax

                                            Winmax, I am sorry to hear your experience was a bad one. I have been to Mastro's several times and, although service varies, the food is always excellent. I may agree with you as far as Morton's being a good choice as well, but Ruth's Chris??? It felt like a luxurious Carl's Jr. Ruth's Chris has been my biggest disappointment so far.

                                            1. re: Ademius

                                              We had a wonderful dinner at Mastro's in Costa Mesa last evening. I was taken there by three friends for a birthday celebration and pretty much everything was terrific. The atmosphere is clubby and attractive. The martinis we had were excellent and very big! The steaks were top-notch and perfectly prepared to our exact specifications. The sides and desserts were also very good. The wine list is pretty well thought out and generally fairly priced. Our server could not have been better. She was pleasant, professional, very knowledgeable and was extremely competent.

                                              The two complaints which I have are: 1) the restaurant is very dark, really way too dark in my opinion, and 2) the restaurant is extremely noisy. As it got later in the evening, it quieted down and was much more pleasant.

                                              Although I have had good steak dinners at Fleming's (Newport), Ruth's Chris (Irvine), and Morton's (Costa Mesa), I think that Mastro's sets a higher standard of food and service that the others do not currently reach. It must be noted however that the excellence at Mastro's does not come cheap. This is one expensive restaurant, and I was glad that I was treated!

                                          2. Great review. I love a great steak as well. And, Mastros in Costa Mesa is my second favorite steakhouse in the world (thus far). This Summer I stumbled onto a killer steakhouse in Florence, Italy - the only place I have ever found that "soundly beats" Mastros. I am going back to Mastros tomorrow night. Our favorite foods there include their Shrimp Cocktail, French Onion soup. bone in Filet and fresh berries (what a portion!!) . And, of course, their Pretzel Bread - my mouth waters just writing this line! Don't hesitate to give this place a try, although do be careful ordering those appetizer seafood plates as someone else mentioned. I had quite a bill that night!! Dad.