Monday, July 17, 2006

Mastro's Steakhouse - Costa Mesa



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 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.

As I left the restaurant with beef oozing out of my pores, I saw how right my observation was when I walked past my company's CEO who was enjoying his own Mastro's meal.

Mastro's Steakhouse
(714)546-7405
633 Anton Blvd.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

*Note: To see photos and read the review which spurred me to action in trying Mastro's, check out Seth Chadwick's report here.

27 Comments:

At 8:00 AM, Blogger Juliet said...

Now that is what Dave and I call a once a year, for our anniversary type of place!

 
At 2:26 PM, Blogger BoLA said...

Whoa. That place looks extra fancy and the steak sounds absolutely delicious! Mmm.....getting hungry and it's only 2:30pm. muhahah

 
At 2:42 PM, Blogger Law said...

How funny. I ate there last night with a group of friends for my 27th birthday. We were treated to the private "Red Room" with the window into the kitchen and our experience was perfect. We know the chef there and he gave us complimentary Seafood Towers.

I had the New York Strip cooked Medium and it was exactly as you described. The sides that I partook in were the crab gnocchi in white truffle oil, creamed corn, lobster mashed potatoes, and mac and cheese. Needless to say the sides are some of the best available anywhere. I recommend the gnocchi as it is something phenomenal.

The service there is impeccable, our server was a very pleasant Japanese gentleman named Toshiro.

It was a wonderful birthday experience spent with great friends enjoying great food.

I can't imagine a place better to visit for a special occasion or to celebrate an achievement.

 
At 8:16 PM, Blogger Passionate Eater said...

Dang, if you're a vegetarian before you read this post, you will become a carnivore afterwards! I could taste the meat in my mouth after reading this Elmo. Sounds incredible. You've described every detail perfectly. Also, I love your mention of (and link to) the "crumb scrapers"! I agree with you entirely. I should open a restaurant and just by using "crumb scrapers," I could definitely charge a premium on the food I serve--even if it is just instant ramen!

 
At 11:09 PM, Anonymous Seth Chadwick said...

Elmo,

Excellent! You finally made it to Mastro's and I am glad it didn't disappoint. It really is an exceptional experience and one that J. and I will remember over and over.

However, it is funny that you would post your review on Mastro's in Costa Mesa because I had the honor of taking Madge out to dinner for her birthday to Mastro's in Scottsdale. It was quite grand (review upcoming), so I am now one meal at Mastro's up on you.

I am so glad you had a great time and a great steak.

And thanks for the hat tip.

Best wishes.

 
At 9:24 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Juliet,

Definitely one of those kinds of places for sure. Not an everyday thing -- unless you have a generous company expense account and a forgiving boss.

BoLA,

One of the best in Orange County! Actually there's a Morton's just down the street from this Mastro's. Just a few blocks, but world's apart.

Law,

Dang! I wanted to try that Seafood Tower but chickened out because I was worried I wouldn't have room in my belly to enjoy the main attraction. I'll have to check it out next time when there's a birthday or celebration. Maybe I can just order it and then share a steak with someone.

BTW, we had pounds of food leftover!

PE,

Thank you always for your kind words! I like it when you come to visit!

But, why am I such a sucker for those crumb scrapers, gosh darn it! I see them and then immediately I'm impressed. It's like I'm a five year old who just saw his first magic trick. "How did that coin come out of my ear!?!"

On a side note, I was at a restaurant supply store recently and they had the crumb scrapers for sale. I *almost* bought one.

Seth,

Come August, I hope to catch up to you. One more visit this year is imminent. Must try Seafood Tower! I'm looking forward to your trip to the original Mastro's!

 
At 9:07 AM, Blogger MzMaggie said...

Another fantastic review! I just ate breakfast, but now I'm starving.

 
At 12:59 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Thanks MzMaggie! Happy to make you hungry.

 
At 5:15 PM, Blogger Foodie Universe said...

Have I ever mentioned how excellent your writing is? I think I have, but it's worth repeating. Your fantastic descriptions make for some of the best food writing out there.

 
At 12:00 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Foodie Universe,

Thank you for that compliment! I'm really flattered that you think so!

 
At 11:29 PM, Anonymous eatdrinknbmerry said...

Elmo, immaculate description of the steak. My stomach seriously said "damn i'm hungry" as I stared at that photo. If i'm ever in OC again, I wanna try this place. Great review as usual, thanks.

 
At 1:02 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

EDBM,

Thanks! You gotta try this place out. Save a few bucks the week prior and your appetite the day of...this is splurge meal.

 
At 11:22 AM, Blogger Jeni said...

"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."

Your posting is nothing but poetic!

Great posting bro!

 
At 4:56 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Jeni,

Thanks! Glad you liked it. I'm not even sure if I captured how good the steak was...truly one of those epiphanic dining moments.

 
At 11:55 AM, Blogger Christine D. said...

Hey elmo,

I recommended this place to my sister for her date, and they loved it!

They had leftovers, and i took a bite of each dish and they were yummmmmmy!!

I think she had the NY strip steak too, and they got some potato dishes. I'm gonna haul my ass over there one of these days! Thanks for the review!

 
At 3:11 PM, Blogger Beach said...

Elmo,
You are sick. If you guys are not coming to 7 courses of beef this weekend then I will give Mastro a go. My wife work near there but she never mention it.

 
At 8:59 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Christine and Beach,

I hope when you guys go you let me know what you think. I'm going next week also. I'm quite excited and am looking forward to another bloody hunk of cow.

 
At 10:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Clarification: Mastro's uses "wet" ageing, not dry. And their ageing period is 24-days.

 
At 4:25 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Anon,

Thanks for the correction. I made the change in the post so that there's no confusion.

 
At 11:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

just dont valet park your car here. They locked our keys in the car, killed the battery which missed up the electrical part of the car (a hybrid) and on top of it stole our house key!!!

 
At 1:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Took our son to celebrate his 30th birthday and was disappointed in the steaks and offended by the constant pushes by our waitress to upgrade to more expensive wine, larger steaks and finally, to take a dessert home. Called to complain and was told that the general manager would call us. Never happened and we will never return.

 
At 9:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had one of the most uncomfortable meals in life at Mastro's. My waitress was very pushing and inconsiderate. She kept on pushing us order things that we didn't even want. The food was not even that great. Because of her,I will never go there again. I would rather sacrifice the taste of food if I could get better service.

 
At 5:16 PM, Anonymous +1 said...

scallop appitizer was nice. the steak however... soso.. could've just get Friday's Jack Daniel near by. Ruth's Chris is better and the price is about the same.

 
At 12:09 PM, Blogger vi6kee said...

I definitely enjoy reading your posts. I've never been to this restaurant and your posting makes me tempted to eat out again this week! This place sounds a little like how Ruth's Chris prepare their dishes. If you've been there...how would you compare the two?

 
At 12:19 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

vi6kee,

Thanks for dropping by! Ruth Chris vs. Mastros...hmm...I've been to both now probably an equal number of times. And I find good things and bad things about both. Ruth Chris has a few bad sides, and their steaks, sometimes, just doesn't have the same personality as Mastros. But then they are more consistent. Mastros on the other hand, has good steaks, and fewer bad sides, but their service can be spotty. We were coddled one night, and ignored the next.

So it's up to you to decide! Happy eating, wherever you may end up.

 
At 11:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We had dinner at the Costa Mesa Mastro's last night.

The low life valet stole my mothers handicap tag. Her life will be misery until we replace it which takes weeks. She is 88 and will be house bound until we get another. How many days will it cost her?

If any of you really care about people you will never spend another dime in the shit hole.

 
At 11:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon,

If you hadn't already, you should call their management. File a police report too. I'm sure you have proof that the valet stole it.

 

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