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Mar 4, 2013 09:11 PM

Mesa in Costa Mesa, all by myself, mid-week without a reservation


I'll be staying at the Hilton in Costa Mesa mid-week, without a car, and noticed that Mesa is within easy walking distance of the hotel. As a solo woman with work to do at my table, will I feel comfortable eating there, probably after happy hour, and will I need a reservation?

I've read the negative reports on the food and the mood, but it stil looks like a better bet than the Hilton hotel restaurant (correct me if I'm wrong!).

If anyone has a better suggestion than Mesa, I'm up for it (although I don't want steak or burgers). I won't have a car, and don't really feel like investing in a taxi.

Thanks mucho....

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  1. I'd go to Ikko if you like sushi

    Too bad you don't want steak or burgers because Anjin and Umami burger are both great, in case you change your mind.

    1. In the same complex as Mesa, I prefer Ecco (Italian) and Old Vine Cafe (American but only serves 'til 7). Across, the Street (same side of Bristol as your hotel) there are Habana (Cuban) in the Lab and Memphis (Southern) next door. Heading in the other direction, in South Coast Plaza Anqi (modern Vietnamese) and Charlie Palmer (American)--also home to the wonderful Marche Moderne but no really a suitable place if you want to work over dinner. Across Bristol from there is Pizzeria Ortica. Reservations couldn't hurt but are probably only necessary mid-week for Anqi and Charlie Palmer.

      13 Replies
      1. re: New Trial

        Thanks to both of you for these pointers. I looked at all the menus and reviews, and I may try to get into Anqi's Tuesday night crab dinner, but if that doesn't work, I might try Ikko -- although some of the reviews make it sound like the sushi is fairly pedestrian. Which dishes do people think are outstanding?

        I won't arrive in time for Old Vine Cafe. Although I quite like Cuban food, Habana's menu wanders pretty far from real deal Cuban, and likewise Ecco (I live in Italy) and I don't feel like eating pizza. No Memphis for me.

        What is it that people don't like about Mesa? The menu is the most interesting of all and the place looks pretty relaxed for a solo diner.

        1. re: barberinibee

          Mesa is more for the scene. Food is average.

          The sushi at Ikko is more California style. Lots of sauce and toppings. That is probably your best bet. Sit at the bar and ask for omakase (chef's choice). The best for a solo diner.

          If you have lunch free, walk over to the Mitsuwa market just across from your hotel and try Santouka for ramen.

          1. re: Porthos

            Thanks for the elaborations. Sorry to sound so picky about food -- except, this is Chowhound, right? -- but I actually don't like lots of sauce and toppings when it comes to sushi. To me the whole point of paying the prices of good sushi is that the raw fish is supremely fresh, and you don't mess with that. But I do agree that sitting at a sushi bar is comfy for a solo diner.

            Hmmmm. I have a long drive through the desert to think about dinner. (Will be gone by lunch tomorrow.)

            Thanks again!

            1. re: barberinibee

              You can also request more traditional if you like it pure.

              Or invest in a cab and go to Kasen if you have a sushi itch

              If not sushi, I also second the Bella Cuba recommendation (about 2-3x the distance of Mesa). Try the rabo (oxtail)...coda alla vaccinara Cuban style!

              1. re: Porthos


                I have gone to Bella Cuba twice and had two ompletley different expriences. The frst time I got the oxtail and it was EXCELLENT. The last time I went, my wife and I got the order ahead paella for two and it was extrmely disappointing. The seafood / meats were all dry (except for the crab which was protected by its shell). Very little flavor to the dish as well. We were really disappointed.
                I don't know if this was an off night, or this is just an off dish. The oxtail was great but this last experience really soured me on the restaurant.


                1. re: HB_Jeff

                  I think it's the dish.

                  I've had the oxtail, ropa vieja, roasted chicken, and the roasted pork multiple times and they are all great. The arroz con pollo is pretty good too. Not great, but good.

                  Never tried the paella and fish dishes since that's not the strength of a cuban restaurant.

                  1. re: Porthos

                    Just got back from Bella Cuba for lunch.

                    Arroz con pollo was pretty great today. Just the right amount of soupiness at the bottom. I got the leg this time which makes a difference to me since the breast quarter can be dry.

                    Also tried the platano relleno which isn't the entire plantain fried and stuffed but 4 little plantain cups, 2 filled with the roasted pork and 2 filled with the ground beef mixture you would see in picadillo. Both excellent, I think I prefer the ground beef mixture a bit more. Would also put this on the things to try list here.

                    1. re: Porthos

                      dang, i was really looking forward to a ground beef picaddilo.

                  2. re: HB_Jeff

                    As an aside, authenticity notwithstanding, I really like the paella at nearby Habana.

                2. re: barberinibee

                  I would have to strongly disagree with the impression that Porthos gives regarding Ikko. While Ikko does do less traditional sushi, what that means is not "lots of sauce and toppings" or California style. Instead, you might get an Iberico pork nigiri (with no sauce), some ultra fresh uni with a single slice of truffle, or an unsauced Kobe beef nigiri. What you will not get is rolls, wasabi paste, krab, cream cheese, etc. A quick perusal of Yelp photos will show that saucing and toppings are not a problem here. Nor is the sushi pedestrian; it fact, it's excellent (or has been the few times I've been there) and they have some of the best fish around.

                  It's my view as an O.C. resident that Ikko is one of best restaurants we have of any kind. To be so close and to go to Mesa or Ecco or Anqi instead, all of which are pedestrian at best, is a real shame.

                  1. re: dieziege

                    Kobe beef nigiri, uni with truffle, iberico pork nigiri is exactly the California style sushi I am talking about. It certainly isn't traditional edomae sushi. Not to say it doesn't taste good, but that is the definiton of LA style sushi.

                    Do look at yelp photos. Note the number of pieces of nigiri with onions and daikon on it. Note the sauce when it puddles. The first photo is seared hamachi with scallions. A couple photos later salmon with tortilla chips and wasabi tartare sauce...

              2. re: barberinibee

                Just a little bit further up from South Coast (right across the street), there is Bella Cuba if you like Cuban food. Atmosphere is casual. I wouldn't feel at all uncomfortable dining alone there.

                1. re: barberinibee

                  A few years back, Mesa had (and wasted) an excellent chef but the focus there was never really on the food so the chef moved on and Mesa was happy to return to middling fare for the drinking crowd. I concur with those who recommend Bella Cuba but was not sure how late they were open (I checked, 9pm) and thought it might be just past walkable; however, I have since noted that the Hilton offers a free shuttle to South Coast Plaza (not sure of the hours it runs) and Bella Cuba is across the street from the far end of the Plaza. If sushi appeals, in the South Coast Plaza annex is Hamamori, which is quite good and very attractive.

              3. If you like Japanese I would recommend walking to Mitsuwa to grab some excellent ramen at Santouka. They have a big food court in the back right corner of the market with a lot of options - udon, tempura, donburi, chinese food and some other stalls.

                Santouka is the best of the lot. They have an excellent porky broth, good firm ramen noodles and their special pork is buttery melty deliciousness. It's a good choice given the weather the next couple of days.

                Cash only.

                1. The food and mood can be very good, but it is a hip place and gets very busy on weekends. You should be comfortable, but make a reservation. They have nice booths. It is mostly a lounge feel, so I don't know if you will get any work done.

                  I like PIzzeria Ortica a lot. They are not busy mid-week, and I assume most of the restaurants in that area aren't.

                  1. So why Mesa ? Is this joint within walking distance from your hotel ?