Chicken Salad at Chaya - Costa Mesa
But occasionally, there's a Punch Drunk Love, which bucks the genre. Much like that movie, Pizzeria Mozza's tricolore salad looked at first to be like the rest; but then BAM!, your expectations are upended by the depth and the thought that went into it. In that movie, Sandler's usual, simmering under-the-surface rage was finally capitalized for a major plot point. In the same way, Mozza's salad had greens that weren't just there for roughage. You actually cherished every single, wonderfully-dressed frilly leaf. The whole thing stood on its own without any crouton distractions, which in a Sandler movie equates to the obligatory Rob Schneider running gag where he says "youcundoooeeet!"
No salad since then has compared, but then I went to Chaya. I ordered the chicken salad not because I thought it was going to be good; I ordered it because I needed something to balance the fried gyoza and the fried tofu I intended to make as my meal.
The gyoza turned out to be a bust, literally. A few were already torn open, and the rest tasted as if it were just cooked from frozen, with the lacy browned crisped bottoms coming from added flour--an obvious shortcut. The agedashi tofu? Well, it was just as it was--good but not memorable.
Then came the dressing. This was a miso and sesame magic blend poured from a maple syrup pitcher that did the impossible: transforming what at first appeared to be as insipid as The Waterboy into something unexpectedly great, like 50 First Dates, where the ensemble cast was predictable, but the results were surprisingly charming. Like a good director, the dressing made every single ingredient be the best version of themselves. I wanted to lick that bowl clean the same way I wanted to buy the DVD for 50 First Dates after I saw it in the theater.
The question remains: does this review want to make you rent Punch Drunk Love and 50 First Dates or eat Mozza's tricolore and Chaya's chicken salad?
Chaya Japanese Grill
3030 Bristol St
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
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