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Feb 17, 2011 02:53 PM

Taco Asylum - Costa Mesa - Unreal Sounding Tacos

So, no one caught the review in today's LA Times by Linda Burum (thanks again, Linda!) on Taco Asylum? Worse yet, no hounds reporting on this place yet?

I was drooling so bad by the time I finished the story that my keyboard shorted out. And just to gild the lily they have craft lager or microbrew IPA to wash these little beauties down.

Anyone for curried paneer with raita and tomato chutney tacos? No? Then how about grilled baby octopus with a bit of feta and Kalamata olives? Or perhaps ghost chili pork tacos? Or what about pork belly garnished Vietnamese banh mi style with crunchy-sweet pickled daikon, carrot and cilantro.

Gotta try this place.

2937 S Bristol St. B102
Costa Mesa, CA
714 922 6010
11 AM to 11 PM daily

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  1. My boyfriend and his coworker didn't like it. They work around the corner and it is not going into their lunch rotation. Their opinion was the lamb was tough, too much olive paste. Grilled octopus was just ok.

    1 Reply
    1. re: jaykayen

      Which tacos did they eat? (if you know)

    2. I'll scope it out this weekend if I can find parking. The parking at Camp was impossible before this place opened. I can't imagine what it'll be like if this place is good.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Porthos

        Yelp photos including the "flight of 8 tacos for $18" - that would be "will be!" the way I'd go

        Look forward to reading your take.

        1. re: Servorg

          Stopped by yesterday and got 1 of each of the regular sized tacos for you Servorg.

          First of all, the wrapper is less tortilla and more flatbread than anything else, in particular, a bit like naan. That explains the chewy comments. And I see how it would have to be a flatbread type wrapper since some of the fillings are so wet and heavy they would break through standard tortillas.

          Second, it's a pretty big sized taco. About twice the size of your standard gourmet taco. Yeah, $5/taco is steep but 3 will easily fill a decent appetite where I can usually down 6-9 regular sized tacos.

          Here's my rankings of the tacos in order of my preference:

          1. Ghost Chile Pork with cracklings. This was easily the winner. Pretty spicy but not insanely so as to become prohibitive to some. The pork was extrememly juicy and tender. Cracklings added a nice textural component.

          2. Duck with camembert, dijon creme fraiche, and purple fingerling potato chips. Excellent, a bit more refined and less in your face than the ghost chile pork but equally impressive and well thought out. Duck was also very tender and juicy.

          3. Curried Paneer, raita, tomato chutney. I was surprised I liked this one so much since frankly, I've never had anything but a meat filling in a taco. But the flavors of the curried paneer were spot on and the raita was the perfect creamy refreshing component. Actually, some of the other tacos could have used something like this (beef short ribs and lamb in particular)

          4. Wild mushroom with chickpea puree, parsley salad, and fried chickpeas. Again, surprised that I would like this more than the corazon or pork belly but the mushroom was flavorful and the fried chickpeas were crunchy and full of a flavor. Vegetarian cracklings and almost just as good...almost.

          5. Pork belly with pickled carrots and daikon. Not nearly as flavorful as the ghost chile pork. The pork belly was tender but there was no crackling component that could have made this.

          6. Short rib, pickled red onion, salsa verde. Surprisingly bland! Or maybe bland compared to the first 4. Tender beef but that was it. Would have been better with some raita or something.

          7. Lamb with olive tapenade and ratatouille. Basically tied with the short rib. Also very tender braised lamb but needed a citrus component or yogurt based sauce. Stuffed very full with lamb though. Also surprisingly one dimentional despite the tapenade and ratatouille.

          8. Corazon with pickled turnips. Breaks my heart to say this but this was perhaps one of the least flavorful heart dishes I've had. I expected grilled over charcoal or something but this was pretty flavorless sliced beef heart. Pickled turnips were good.

          9. Grilled octopus with kalamata olives, feta, and tomatoes. Sounds so good but an utter flop IMO. Olives were strong and overpowered the octopus. When I tried the octopus alone, they were slightly fishy tasting. Not one of the better octopus preps out there.

          I would return for tacos/flatbreads 1-4 but everything else, I wouldn't bother trying again in its current incarnation. I was impressed with the ommegang on tap.

          1. re: Porthos

            Nice job on the review, and what I would judge as a very discerning and fair assessment. I find that I enjoy creative efforts to push the envelop when it comes to food. But many do not. I think what makes California such a hotbed of "flavor entrepenuers" is our history of not worrying about what historical toes get stepped on in coming up with innovative ideas.

            I still have this on my "to go" list and your review did nothing to alter my planning.

            1. re: Porthos

              Thanks for the review - flatbread is exactly what I was thinking when I tried this place. I will be back to try out tacos 1-3 based on your review.

              1. re: Searching4Dunny

                Yeah! The flatbread comparison is a good one because it helps with expectations... Really, a tortilla can make or break any taco...


          2. re: Porthos

            Was at the Camp yesterday (wanted something more formal, so we went to Ecco... it was okay) and around 9p, plenty of parking and when we first swung by, Taco Asylum was empty (It had more folks in there aroun 10:30p) Plus, Taco Asyum is open until 11p and they have a weekday happy hour at 9p-11p, so it's worth waiting for quite literally...


          3. I stopped by here on Saturday after lunch (but still a little hungry) and had the wild mushroom taco with fried chickpeas and parsley salad washed down with a Racer5 IPA. The flavors were good but I felt the shell was over-chewy. The taco was a bit greasy but not overly so. I would go back to try out the octopus, pork belly, et al.

            1. I agree with Searching4Dunny on the shell. The tortilla is way too chewy and tastes undercooked. I thought it was a real turnoff. Also, I was looking forward to the same great chips I get Haven Gastropub, but I got chips that were overcooked to the point of being bitter.

              The taco fillings are another story. I had the pork belly, the short rib, and the ghost chili pork. All of them well prepared and excellent. My only complaint was that I was expecting some heat from the ghost chili pork and got none.

              I don't know if I'll be back or not. I understand the work that goes into making their fillings, but I have a really hard time paying $5 for a taco. Yes, they have a flight of eight for $18, but the tacos in the flight are really small.

              Haven Gastropub
              190 S Glassell St, Orange, CA 92866

              7 Replies
              1. re: OCSteve

                "Yes, they have a flight of eight for $18, but the tacos in the flight are really small."

                But that seems like a good way to sample the various flavor combinations, at least to me?

                1. re: Servorg

                  I agree. I probably would do that if I had it to do over again.

                  1. re: OCSteve

                    Haven't been, but any place offering a "flight" of tacos sounds eminently skip-able. Gross.

                    1. re: thestratbrat

                      Would it be more acceptable (less gross) if they termed it a "sampler platter?"

                      1. re: thestratbrat

                        I wouldn't say gross. A bit pretentious maybe, but not gross.