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Restaurants & Bars 5

Mastro's Costa Mesa

Jase | Mar 31, 2006 02:41 PM

After all the rave notices I was really looking forward to visiting this place. A friend who likes big meat came into town and offered to treat. She asked me to pick a nice place and this was a no brainer. After I sent her the link, she couldn’t wait.

Walking in I was impressed with the décor and ambiance of the place. I liked the wood although it seemed like the noise bounced around more than I would care for when I was in the hostess area. Other things I liked about the place were the bathroom sinks. A little thing you say? Too often I’ve gone to nice restaurants where the sink is really shallow and the spout is jammed too close to the lip. Inevitably you’re fighting to get your hand under the faucet while the water is splashing up and soaking the front of your clothes. Maybe I’m a klutz, but this klutz appreciates the deep sinks and long necked faucets that kept my clothes dry.

After avoiding an impromptu shower while washing my hands, we started off with some martinis. The lethalness of the martinis has not been exaggerated. At first I was wondering about the origins of the warnings regarding the size of their drinks. The martinis came in a regular sized glass. Then I realized, they leave the shaker with you, it’s like you’re getting two martinis. Good flavor and the alcohol sneaks up on you while you’re innocently topping off your glass from the shaker.

We passed on appetizers and munched on the bread basket instead. I liked the garlic cheese toast crisp the best. What I didn’t like was the pats of butter that came with the bread. They were ice cold squares that were very difficult to spread.

Rib eye is my absolute favorite cut and I got the chef’s cut 33 ounce. My dining companion had the 18 ounce bone in filet. She wanted the lobster mashed potatoes that was on special and creamed spinach as sides. I being a gracious guest was more than happy to let her order what she wanted. We talked about getting a third side but the waiter dissuaded us pointing out the large portion sizes.

I’m wine ignorant and friend has been trying to educate me with snail like progress. She ordered a French pinot noir that I found went well with the meal. But I couldn’t describe why it was good or what it was even if you offered me a lifetime of free meals to Mastro’s.

Her steak was ordered medium rare, mine rare. Both were cooked perfectly. Mine had a nice sear on the outside and not just pale as sometimes happens when you order rare. Good flavor on the meat without excess outside fat even for a rib eye. When we had ordered, I was surprised to find out their meat is wet aged. I had thought it would be dry aged after the many raves I had heard.

I found the lobster in the mashed potatoes a bit on the salty side. Eating the potatoes by themselves with the hint of lobster essence was much better. The creamed spinach was not heavy or gloppy, although I thought it could have used a bit more nutmeg and pepper. Strange that the seasoning was a bit off in both dishes.

We passed on dessert and just lingered over our drinks. Overall our dinner took close to three hours. We took our time ordering and finishing our cocktails and wine. The entire time the service was very attentive without being overbearing. Never once did we feel rushed even though we saw half the tables around us being turned.

We were in a two top in the middle string bracketed by booths. Although the noise level seemed a little high, we had no problem conversing in normal tones. We also felt we had some privacy since we could not clearly hear conversation in other tables.

As an overall experience I would rank Mastro’s above my previous visits to Ruth’s Chris’, Morton’s, Pacific Dining Car, etc. The combination of service, ambiance and food was just superlative. I’m already planning my next visit since my wife was completely jealous to hear about my meal.

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