I’m not afraid to drive far for good food, and when I live in between LA and OC good food isn’t hard to come by. However, there are too many places on my ever growing list, especially when it comes to newer openings. I am a huge fan of Arc in Costa Mesa, so when I heard that the owners were opening a modern-day diner right next door, I was counting down the days until they opened. I was lucky enough to try Restaurant Marin for an early Mother’s Day lunch with my parents a few weeks in to their opening. Read on for the many highlights:
First off, this place is teeny tiny in the best way possible. The decor is clean and modern while still evoking the cozy diner feel. Breakfast is served all day, but they also offer unique Lunch and Dinner menus. They have a no-tipping policy, but hospitality is included in their pricing, which is on the higher end. Don’t let that deter you. The service is personable and top-notch and the quality and portion sizes of the dishes won’t make you think twice when the bill comes. Now, for the most important part, THE FOOD.
First of all, you can order this breakfast sandwich at all hours (7AM-12AM) since breakfast is served all day. Appropriately names, The Muffin, this breakfast sandwich is a force to be reckoned with. A fried egg, aged cheddar, heaps of shaved bacon, and spinach are served in between a freshly baked muffin bun. If you are a follower of the blog, you know that I am a breakfast sandwich addict and aficionado, and I have to overwrite any previous statements that I have made about having had the perfect breakfast sandwich. This tops them all. Even better, you can remove the top muffin and ask for a side of fresh jam and save that for ‘dessert.’ Worth it.
I ordered the Fried Chicken sandwich filled with warm brie, peppers, red cabbage, and fried lemon. The chicken was perfectly crunchy, not overwhelming in size, and the juiciest chicken I have ever had. Seriously. It will be difficult not to order this again and again.
On the healthier side (since this picture doesn’t do the sizable portion justice), this Grilled Steak salad was heavenly. Served with farro, arugula, blue cheese, roasted sweet peppers, parmesan, and flavorful grilled steak, this dish was also a winner. They also have 4 other salads on their lunch menu, one of which is protein-less for any vegetarian friends you may have.
Did you really think we were going to leave without having dessert? Our table happened to be very close to the counter where they display some of the cakes and pies that they are serving that day, so it was inevitable that we were going to indulge. After careful consideration, we settled on the Apple Pie. It was served hot with fresh whipped cream and was packed with sweet apples and cinnamon. The crust to filling ratio was spot on. We were unable to finish the whole pie between the 3 of us.
Before we left, we made reservations for an early Father’s Day dinner in June, because their dinner menu looks just as amazing, if not better, than their lunch and breakfast options. Let me reiterate, for some, the prices come with a bit of sticker shock to those expecting a ‘diner’ experience, but if you are level-headed and appreciate UH-MAZING, fresh, carefully crafted dishes, you won’t bat an eyelash at the bill. Soon, this will be a difficult reservation to nail down, I feel it. Go now, before the masses discover the experience that Chef Noah Blom and his wife, Marin, have created.
Vitaly is a wonderful cafe located inside The Camp in Costa Mesa. I was lucky enough to dine here with some co-workers for our quarterly meeting. The space is awesome! There is a cute espresso bar on the inside directly next to the gelato counter (which I was too full to indulge in…don’t hate me). Then, the kitchen is toward the back. In the middle of it all is a few tables for larger groups. Directly outside, guests can enjoy more patio seating, including seats around a fire pit, which I would love to revisit at dinnertime!
First, I ordered a Chococino-nutella and chocolate cappuccino because it just sounded too good and dessert before lunch is always a good idea! This drink was extremely rich and had a little less kick and a lot more chocolate than I’m used to, but it was delicious! I would definitely recommend waiting until the end of your meal to indulge in one of their specialty espresso drinks that way you won’t fill up before your meal.
We ordered the Cutting Board Delights tray for the table, and my was it BEAUTIFUL! Who knew salumi and cheese could look like art? Well, I did, but my dining companions were very impressed! The selection of meats and cheeses was perfectly diverse and just the right amount for the five of us to share before our meal.
We also shared the Capri-sliced Roma tomato, basil, Italian Buffalo Mozzarella salad. This has to be my favorite Italian salad of all time. The tomatoes were so fresh and the cheese was so creamy!
Almost all of us ordered the same pasta because it just sounded so good. The Porcini Mushroom and white Truffle Oil Fettuccine had the perfect ratio of parmesan to mushrooms to truffle oil.
I can’t wait to go back to try more pastas and the gelato flight! Next time, you are in Costa Mesa, take a detour from The OC Mix and visit The Camp!
For more information, visit http://www.vitaly.net/
Pastrami Sweetbreads, Duck-Fat Doughnuts, and Rabbit Liver Mousse? These sound like typical courses at an Indie Chefs Week dinner series. I was lucky enough to attend the SoCal edition last weekend at Taco Maria in Costa Mesa, and it was nothing short of extraordinary! Foreign & Domestic’s chef and owner, Ned Elliott, wanted to provide an outlet for the country’s up-and-coming indie chefs to showcase their innovative work, and that is where Indie Chefs Week was born. Up until now, the exclusive dinner series was based in Austin. I feel so lucky to have been at the first Southern California Indie Chefs Week dinner series. Now, take a deep breath. I’m about to take you on my 13-course journey…are you ready?
First Course: Lamb with Fermented Lentils, Tomato Jam, Fennel and Harissa by Chef Jason Greene – The Grove Cafe & Market in Albuquerque, NM
The Lamb and Lentils were cooked perfectly. The combination of Tomato Jam, Fennel, and Harissa provided a Mediterranean flavor that complimented the lamb perfectly. Also, his legitimacy is further confirmed because his restaurant appeared in a Breaking Bad episode.
Second Course: Umi Masu Iridashi which is Ocean Trout in a Dashi Soy Broth, with Grated Daikon, Fresh Ginger and Scallions by Chef Tim Archuleta – Ichi Sushi + Ni Bar in San Francisco, CA
His restaurant was on my long list of restaurants to try, that I wasn’t able to check off during my time in the city, so I was so excited he was a featured chef during the Friday night dinner. Chef Archuleta puts a lot of value in cooking with sustainable ingredients, most importantly, the fish. This was my first bout with pink Ocean Trout due to how it was raised, and I must say that flavor was not sacrificed. The Soy Broth provided a great flavor without being overly salty. I can’t wait to go back up to his restaurant to see what else he has to offer!
Third Course: Squash Salad with Hamachi, Fermented Vinaigrette, Herbs, and Tempura Seaweed by Chef David Santos – Louro in New York City
This dish was definitely in my top 5 of the night, if not top 3. The Squash and Hamachi was a wonderful combination. This course was extremely light and refreshing.
Fourth Course: Smoked Red Curry with Cured Beef Tongue and Octopus by Chef Adam Kaplan – Bang Bang PDX in Portland, OR
This was also a favorite of mine because I LOVE curry and I LOVE lengua! The curry had a subtle smokey flavor and I never would have thought to put tongue and octopus together, but the combo was sensational! I will purposely plan a future trip up to Portland AFTER Chef Kaplan opens his new venture! I can’t wait!
Fifth Course: Curried Cauliflower with Raisins, Capers, Fenugreek, Ghee, and Black Mustard from Chef Michael Thiemann and Chef Matt Masera – Mother in Sacramento, CA
This course made me completely rethink my view on cauliflower. The Raisins and Capers furthered the earthy flavor, but provided a level of depth that made me want to try more of the transformative veggies from these chefs. I only wish that this restaurant was open while I lived in Northern California. These guys are definitely changing the food scene in Sacramento.
Sixth Course: Farro Verde with Rabbit Mousse, Local Onions, and Brassica by Chef Justin Holt – Lucia in Dallas, TX
Scooping up some of the Mousse, then scooping up the Farro, made a party in my mouth. I have never tried Rabbit Liver Mousse, and I was reluctant don’t get me wrong, but after tasting this dish, I am much more open-minded. I almost licked the plate. The Farro was cooked perfectly and the Mousse was a great salty protein to match.
Seventh Course: Caramelized Sunchokes with Smoked Egg Yolk, Chicken Skin, Apple, Sorrel, and Fermented Chili by Chef Brett Cooper – San Francisco, CA
Chef Brett Cooper’s creation is another reason I can’t wait to visit SF! He will soon be opening a restaurant in the Mission District, and if this dish is any indication of what is to come, I am very impressed! The chicken skin was crispy and the perfect protein to the Egg Yolk that lined the bottom of the bowl. The finely chopped Apple provided a nice crispness and sweetness to the dish.
Eighth Course: Broccoli with Petite Burgundy Snails by Chef Matthew Gaudet – West Bridge in Boston, MA
I’m not the biggest fan of escargot due to it’s consistency, but I am more than willing to give it a try. Every time I do, I find that the chef finds new and innovative ways to prepare and serve the dish in order to set his/hers apart from the rest. Chef Matthew Gaudet’s preparation was different than what I have had before. The sauce and Broccoli provided a nice break between the consistency of the Snails.
Ninth Course: Pastrami Sweetbreads with Yellow Mustard, Beet & Horseradish Hush Puppy Chip, and Golden Beet Dill Pickles by Chef Ian Boden – The Shack in Staunton, VA
This wins the MVP award for the evening. Why? It surprised and satisfied me the most. Just in case, you don’t know what Sweetbreads are, let me help. I ate veal brains. Yes. Veal Brains. The combination or Sweetbreads with the Pastrami Dusting, Mustard, and the Hush Puppy Chip, this tasted like a deconstructed Pastrami Sandwich. No joke. I licked my plate and took a bite from my dining companion’s.
Tenth Course: Potato Gnocchi with Cauliflower, Bottarga, and Fresh Herbs by Chef Anthony Fusco – New York, NY
This Gnocchi was so rich and creamy, I didn’t know what to do with myself. Easily, the best Gnocchi I have ever had. If only I lived closer to NYC!
Eleventh Course: Ramen Braised & Glazed Pork Jowls with Egg Yolk, Nori Crumble, Black Garlic Sriracha, Alkaline Cavatelli, and Scallions by Chef Jason Neroni – Culver City, CA
I am so glad this was the last savory course. For one thing, I was stuffed, but I can confidently say that this was my favorite course. He braised the Pork Jowl in Ramen for hours on end, and you could tell. The Ramen flavors were the heart and soul of the Pork pieces while the Egg Yolk and Cavatelli served as understated garnishes. Even though he omitted a heavy noodle component, the Ramen flavor and feel was not at all lost.
Twelfth Course: Salt N’ Pepper Doughnut with Duck Fat Apples, Roasted Grapes, Sweet-Pickled Cherry by Chef Brooke Mosley – Outerlands in San Francisco, CA
Duck Fat Doughnuts. Are you kidding me? Excuse me while I go on a brief tirade. I spent a couple of years in San Francisco wanting to go to this restaurant for brunch every weekend. If you don’t get there early, you won’t be seated. It is THAT popular. And, let’s just say that my boyfriend is NOT a morning person, so we never went. I am glad he was with me to experience this course and realize the error of his ways. Almost everything on the plate was cooked in Duck Fat, and yet it didn’t at all overpower any of their natural flavors. That Doughnut though. I don’t get excited about doughnuts. That Doughnut was beyond words!
Thirteenth Course: Milk Chocolate Cremeux with Passion Fruit, Hazelnut, and White Fungus by Chef Rebecca Masson – Fluff Bake Bar in Houston, TX Cremeux is my new favorite dessert. Word on the street is that it is the new obsession for American chefs. This French classic is dense, but creamy like pudding. Chef Rebecca Masson procured the chocolate from the Dominican Republic and immediately found the perfect marriage with Passion Fruit. While I will say that the dessert courses were a tie, this one was equally amazing and unique. I ate all of my Cremeux, in addition to my boyfriend’s share. He claimed it was “too rich.” His palate is still developing, obviously. The chunks on the side were condensed hazelnut, nutmeg, and coconut. What? The closest thing I can compare it to was granola, but just so much better.
I can’t rave enough about my experience at the Friday night dinner for SoCal’s Indie Chefs Week. The service at the host restaurant, Taco Maria, was impeccable, and seeing all of these artists in one place was astounding. I hope to attend more events like these in the future. If you made it through this whole post, I commend you.
For more information on Indie Chefs Week, visit http://indiechefsweek.com/
For more information on Foreign & Domestic, visit http://fndaustin.com/
For more information on the amazing event photographer, visit http://annewatsonphoto.com/