Holy Guacamole, did we have an unexpectedly awesome meal at Taco Maria in the OC Mart Mix last week or what?!?
As a residents of L.A., we don't have much purpose to make OC a culinary destination, but a day chock full of appointments left us hungry, wanting, and behind the orange curtain. This used to be a dilemma, but lately, not so much. With the addition of Nick Weber at The Cannery, some decent Asian fare in the north county and Irvine, and some of the best donuts in the U.S. at Sidecar, we actually look forward to our forays down south nowadays.
And now, with Carlos Salgado (Coi, Commis) opening his brick+mortar offshoot of his truck Taco Maria, we have even more reason to shoot down the 405 for something other than Manpuku.
Housed in the OC Mart Mix which is possibly cooler than anything we have going in LA (sorry Helms Bakery), OC Mart Mix houses Portola Coffee Lab, a nice little cheese shop, a wine and olive oil tasting bar, Shuck Oyster Bar, ARC Wood Oven Restaurant, Greenfield's, a rad climbing coop, and a handful of fun, well merchandised non-chain boutique stores - all dropped in the middle of SOCO - essentially OC's design center...oh, and they have an awesome Surfas Restaurant Supply.
We had eaten at the truck once before early last year and were frankly underwhelmed. Maybe because we were eating in a parking lot on a cold January evening. Maybe it was an off night. But the food we had at the restaurant is very different indeed.
The wine pairing by Thomas (Coi, Central Kitchen) was stellar. Leave the wine bags at home fellas. You don't even want to attempt pair-your-own here.
On the one hand, it makes sense to carryover the Taco Maria name, but it might be confusing to those expecting a tacqueria. This is high chicano cuisine hecho in Orange County, my friends. Think of it as Cocina Maria. Not a mediocre dish in the bunch. Always impressed when a chef can pull off every dish. The tasting menu is four courses with a choice of two, so we managed to order the entire menu.
The quality of the food was superb, the execution near perfect. It was akin to some of our best haute cuisine meals in Mexico City. Service was spot on. Come on...guacamole with figs and pistachio. Ah hem, rice and beans not included.
cucumber, cilantro, acid
Wish I knew all of what was in this, but it was light, awakening, herbaceous.
cherry tomato, butterfly herb, queso fresco, radish, avocado, baby watermelon cucumber
2011 Eola Hills Pinot Gris Willamette Valley Oregon
crushed avocado, figs, pistachio, flax chips
2011 Cachett Grenache Rosé Gard Languedoc -Roussillon France
quinoa fritters, goosefoot herb, ricotta, green tomato
2007 Damien Lareau Chenin Blanc 'Les Genet' Savennieres France
corn soup with huitlacoche
2008 August Kesseler Riesling-Silvaner Halbtrocken Rheingau Germany
shiitake, rajas, queso Oaxaca, epazote
2010 Marcheti Verdicchio di Castelli di Jesi Marche Italy
PESCADO AL PASTOR
pacific ling cod, achiote, pineapple, cabbage
Vinho Verde, can't remember producer, slightly effervescent, we actually could have gone dyslexic with one or two of these tastings
mary’s chicken, cocoa bean, chile, date, almond
1994 Blandy’s Malsmey Madeira Spain
wood-grilled hanger steak, nopalitos, corn, bacon
2007 Henry’s Drive Shiraz Padthaway Australia
$42 Four Course Tasting Menu
$24 Beverage Pairing
We'll be back before he changes to the Fall Menu.