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Mesa Restaurant (Costa Mesa at The Camp)

I did a quick search on the boards to find a topic already in progress but I came up empty-handed. Has anybody been to Mesa in Costa Mesa (at The Camp on Bristol and Baker). There are only a couple of mentions of this restaurant in a thread on Newport Beach/Irvine area high-end dining.

I'm looking for more specific information that is up to date. For example, can anybody confirm a switch in their chefs? I heard the original chef that opened the joint left and his replacement is one of Suzanne Goin's guys from her kitchen at Lucques. Is that a totally false rumor? Can anybody comment on significant menu changes as of late? Or better yet, can anybody offer a recent review . . . possibly with pics?

We've got guests coming into town this weekend and I was considering Mesa as a dinner spot for our small group.


R. Jason Coulston

725 Baker St, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

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  1. Last I heard the chef was the former chef de cuisine at AOC. If it's still him (John, I believe) then it's worth a visit. He's a good chef.

    1. The only thing I've seen is the LA Times review, but that was several weeks ago.

      6 Replies
      1. re: teach

        That LA Times review, if it's the same one I'm thinking of, was right when the restaurant opened. I don't think they've been reviewed twice, although I may be wrong.

        R. Jason Coulston

        1. re: Jason_Coulston

          There was another thread here that said the chef is now gone.. try the search function..

          1. re: Foodandwine

            "There was another thread here that said the chef is now gone.. try the search function.."

            Fair enough, but the only other thread with any reference to Mesa (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/491685) doesn't contain any actual recent reviews, but rather just a few recommendations for somebody that was looking for a hip place to go in the Newport or Irvine area.

            Has anybody actually gone that would care to write a review? The calenderlive review from January 2008 is a nice read, but I always trust first-hand accounts by non-food writers first.

            R. Jason Coulston

              1. re: I got nothin

                Interesting. I didn't see that alternate discussion at all in my searches. I'm surprised the chef de cuisine from AOC can't hack it in Costa Mesa? That seems an unlikely assessment for somebody with, presumably, solid LA chops. Maybe he just doesn't cater to the fake breasted martini crowd? I guess I'm going to have to just get over there myself and come back with my own review. Information still seems sparse at best.

                R. Jason Coulston

                1. re: Jason_Coulston

                  Jason, glad to see that you had read the reveiw that I thought you would find under the search function ( I got nothin actually had somethin...) I was planning to go then became ill and had to cancel my reservation.. Russ gets my kudos to his keen sense on places. So I would say pass based on his word only!. However in the spirit that you have. Please write back and tell us of your experience. Thanks for the courtesy..

      2. We were here before and after the switch in chef. I believe you are correct in your original findings. Do not know how things have been since the switch, though. We've always had a good time when dining. More than 4 to a booth does get rather cozy after a while. Desserts are fab. Lindy is the best server.

        If your guests happen to be smokers, they will find this place rather surprising for OC. Oh, and I think the atmosphere (bar, restrooms) are so LA - in a good way. Quality selection with non-LA pricing.

        Actually, my yoga partner went last month with his mom and partner, and they all enjoyed themselves. Don't know if the bar menu is still different from the main dining room.

        1. The chef de cuisine is John Sadao, formerly Chef de Cuisine at AOC. He hasn't left Mesa. He's always at the wed. market in SM if you want to ask him yourselves!

          1. We were at Mesa Restaurant last evening and asked about the chef. We were told that the original chef from AOC is still very much in charge, and that he was in the kitchen last night. We have been there twice and had a delightful experience both times. The atmosphere is smashing; the service is warm, intelligent and very professional; the menu interesting and well-executed with essentially all dishes we've tried quite excellent; the wine list is well thought out and Andrew the sommelier is very helpful; and lastly the prices are quite fair. This is definitely a winner and the best kept secret in Orange County!

            18 Replies
              1. re: josephnl

                We had the opposite experience at Mesa, not good on all fronts. The gifted Sous Chef that left was from Melisse when it was originally reviewed.
                The best kept secret in OC is Marche Moderne which I try to dine at a few times a month in the same vicinity.
                I also noticed that your a fan of Sona and I wouldn't return there after 3 visits for FREE!

                1. re: russkar

                  How have your Marche Moderne visits been? We haven't been for several months but when Florent was at Pinot, that was one of our favorite spots.

                  R. Jason Coulston

                  1. re: Jason_Coulston

                    Marche Moderne is absolutely fantastic!
                    Florent is manning the Stoves regularly and the Lunch Spontanee' for $20- is a great deal! (3 course) Five times in the last 6 weeks.
                    $10- corkage

                  2. re: russkar

                    Don't know what to say! We totally disagree on experiences at Mesa and
                    Sona which although totally different in concept, are in my opinion, good restaurants. We definitely do agree on Marche Moderne which is clearly one of the best restaurants in southern CA. Everything about MM is terrific. Although clearly not on the same level as MM, we also enjoy Bistango and Sage in Eastbluff very much. What do you think?

                    1. re: josephnl

                      Sorry to say that Bistango & Sage have been off our radar for years,used to go all the time.
                      We thought Stonehill Tavern has improved based on our last visit a month ago. Studio at Montage has declined foodwise. One of the sleepers in Newport is The Cannery. Decent food and deals on wine. Also Basilic on the Island is pretty good.

                      1. re: russkar

                        Personally I love MM, and go there as often as possible (which is not that often with the cost of babysitting at all). What do you guys think of Leatherby's Cafe Rouge in comparison. I had a great meal there but there were only 2 tables occupied so the ambiance was a little blah. I guess I'll have to try it again along with Mesa.

                        1. re: ausfrench

                          Although Leatherby's is very nice, it's not in the same league as MM.

                          1. re: josephnl

                            "What do you guys think of Leatherby's Cafe Rouge in comparison. I had a great meal there but there were only 2 tables occupied so the ambiance was a little blah. I guess I'll have to try it again along with Mesa."

                            Our experience was precisely the same. The hush dining room was more like a library than a lively restaurant. I knew we were in trouble when my wife poked fun at me for chewing too loudly. Here's a review from our experience some months back:

                            Letherby's Cafe Rouge is clearly a restaurant for theater-goers. On nights without concerts or shows, it's a ghost town in there. I think they have a much quicker "turn and burn" style of service because the vast majority of diners there on busy nights have a deadline with the start of the show. Everybody sits at once, cranks through their meal, and then they're off. It doesn't give one much of a chance to pace their dinner leisurely nor to choose the multi-coursed tasting menu. We dined there on a non-show night and, with the exception of one other table of six, we were the only souls in the restaurant. Staff outnumbered us 3 to 1. They did have a great deal on Krug splits though and I was happy to pay retail price for the best bubbly in the world. Our dinner was good, the food solid, but eating in such deadly silence with no hustle and bustle of a busy restaurant is disconcerting to me on some level. I also felt the restaurant was overly lit and they needed to dim the lights by at least 33%. If the restaurant had a bigger crowd on non-theater nights I would be inclined to go back, but the silence was too deafening on our last trip so I think I’d take a pass on that one.

                            R. Jason Coulston

                        2. re: russkar

                          One of these things is not like the other: Stonehill, Basilic, Studio and the Cannery. Seriously, how does Bistango drop off the radar and the Cannery stay on it (or even get on it?). I'd never point to Bistango as a foodie haven, but it still has solid food and great atmosphere. As far as MM goes, do you see the same upward trend that I do, or have your experiences always been uniformly excellent?

                        3. re: josephnl

                          We've been to MM three times for dinner in the past 9 months. I don't agree that everything about it is terrific. In our first two visits, the desserts were subpar, and there was always at least one item that was a complete miss. The last time we were there was at the end of Jan./beginning of Feb., and found the food greatly improved and uniformly excellent. Still have a problem with the tables near the kitchen -- there just isn't enough space for them. I've been seated there twice and each time have been jostled by patrons, shopping bags and wait staff. It is so cramped the wait staff will lean over the halfwall that separates that area from the kitchen. They shouldn't have those tables, and I will refuse to sit there in the future...

                          1. re: lawdog262

                            We normally go for lunch and MM does an above average job.

                            Amazingly, Cannery is capable of putting out above average food.

                            1. re: lawdog262

                              You are right. Although I said that everything at MM is terrific, that obviously is not so. Nevertheless, it is really one of the nicest French bistros in southern CA, and most of what they do is quite good.

                              I absolutely agree that although Bistango is not outstanding, it is a very solid and dependable restaurant with wonderful atmosphere.

                              1. re: josephnl

                                Bistango is a classic OC restaurant. It's almost an institution. I remember working at restaurants in the early 90's and I'm pretty sure it was already cranking back then. The chef's heritage and influence can be seen in the inclusion of such menu items as spaetzle and wienerschnitzel. My wife worked in that Atrium building in Irvine and Bistango was a fixture for business lunches with important clients.

                                The old Bayside (same owner) price-fixed Friday lunch (which many still be running) was a great bargain if you could sneak away from work for a long lunch.

                                Has anybody been to that newer restaurant in Irvine?

                                R. Jason Coulston

                                1. re: Jason_Coulston

                                  Yes, the new restaurant Kimera (?sp) is just ok, definitely a big step down from Bistango or Bayside. It is more casual, no tablecloths and just so-so food. It is not cheap, and I think it's trying to compete with Houston's, Bandera and Gulfstream...and it's not as good as any of them.

                        4. re: josephnl

                          We were just in Mesa this evening. Not a lot of people and we did not eat this time, but one of the principals was there and spoke at length to us. Chef is John Sadao from AOC. This is a pretty unique looking restaurant...very San Francisco or NY...and they are courting a sophisticated clientele, according to what we are told. The same investors own Firefly in Studio City and Habana across the street in the Lab Anti-Mall.

                          1. re: starwalker

                            Has anyone been to Mesa recently? We are planning on going in a few weeks...

                            1. re: lawdog262

                              We went a couple of weeks ago. It is pretty much a hip "look how cool I am" scene. The restaurant design is very beautiful. The roof is retractable which is very cool, but they do allow smoking so even if you are on the other side you can smell smoke.

                              The menu seemed promising but everything was soooo salty. They even managed to mess up the pork belly.

                        5. Just had dinner here and the food was basically disappointing. Mostly tapas and excepting the seared yellowtail I did not enjoy the food. Service was mediocre but there is a wonderful, affordable wine list with a very loving and attentive sommelier. Cool atmosphere except for the smoke! Still looking for a great place in the Newport area...

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: lilibel

                            Have you been to Crow Bar, Blanca or A Restaurant?

                            1. re: cdmedici

                              Agree that the sommelier (Andrew) at Mesa is excellent and has put together a terrific and affordable wine list. The ambiance of the restaurant is great, but unfortunately the food (tapas style) is just ok

                              I have been a big fan of Crow Bar since they opened last year...but...I had one very disappointing experience there last week. I ordered the Spanish charcuterie plate which I have previously had many times and loved, but this time it was extremely dried out...essentially inedible. I questioned the manager, and was told that it had been presliced earlier in the day, and therefore dried out. Not a good way to handle what are obviously high quality ingredients. Since this is the first bad experience I have had there, I wonder if they have had a change in kitchen staff. Will wait/see!

                              I tried to stop by A Restaurant the other night to have a look and a drink and was met by a huge noisy crowd and was unable to get past the door. This is apparently the latest in cocktail place in Newport, and although newly refurbished appeared from the door did not look particularly fresh, or inviting. Like to hear others experiences here.

                              What/where is Blanca?

                              1. re: josephnl

                                It is in Lido Village. It used to be George's Camelot. It is a Orange County first crudo bar. I have yet to go but I plan on it very soon.

                                OC Weekly just did a review.


                                1. re: josephnl

                                  I commented on thinking Crowbar had gone downhill on another thread. Your's is the 4th or so complaint I've heard recently - too bad, as it sure USED to be good! I wonder if new chef or what.

                            2. I frequent MESA quite a bit and all of my food snob friends are quite impressed. Not only is the restaurant attractively modern and made of recycled materials, we LOVE the tapas-style menu. All of the food is so tasty it would be a shame to be limited to just one dish. That said, it is an 'exotic' menu for OC (think Duck Sausage) and one must be open to trying new foods. This is not Macaroni Grill or Cheesecake Factory and thank goodness for that. MESA is a rare find in O.C. Embrace it! And yes, Andrew the sommerlier is wonderful, he knows his stuff in a non-threatening way. Their desserts are tasty too. If big dishes are what you want, they do have a hamburger and a hanger steak and some other choices but those small plates keep me coming back for more. And I am a NY and San Fran raised foodie.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: sebaceous

                                What other Restaurants do you like in the Area?

                                1. re: russkar

                                  MESA was pretty good when we went. We happened upon this place by accident when we were shopping at the anit-mall one day and was fairly surprised to find this place in OC. True, it's extremely hip in a sort of "hey, look at me" sort of fashion but the food wasn't too bad. The food is basically AOC-eqsue with more of a modern/urban twist. I personally am quite disappointed with AOC now and haven't gone back for almost a year. We had the tasting with pairings of wine and everything was fairly decent. The wine complimented the food extremely well and our server was extremely knowledgeable. I wouldn't necessarily say this place was amazing , but I think most people would find the overall experience quite pleasant. The ambiance and the excellent service is really what you're paying for at this place. If nothing else, it's worth it just to check it out. The bougie side of you won't be disappointed.

                                  1. re: russkar

                                    Chakra Indian Cuisine in Irvine near UCI was a treat for the tastebuds. I find myself consuming so many really boring meals and this was a standout! Everything was properly spiced and just delicious. I paired the meal with an spicy chili pepper martini and it just hit the spot. Their chicken masala is a standout as is nearly everything else.