Food Porn Friday | Vaca | Costa Mesa

Friday, February 19, 2016


Happy Friday guys and dolls!

Who’s ready for some sumptuous Spanish tapas from the hottest new restaurant in OC?  From the famed and talented mind of Amar Santana, currently a leading competitor on Bravo’s Top Chef Season 13, Vaca in Costa Mesa is quickly climbing up every foodie’s radar and here’s why!



You’d think Amar was cooking up some fancy schmancy dishes nestled right smack dab in the middle of our fine arts district but what you’re met with is an entirely local bar feel.  Like I was back in Barcelona and meeting up with my party posse before a night of drinking and debauchery.  A girl’s gotta eat right? And what better way to soak up all the impending alkie than with shared tapas, my absolute FAVE cuisine when dining out.  Who doesn’t love the idea of family-style dining, passed dishes allowing a sampling of everything Chef’s got on the menu?


Let’s see what Amar’s cooking up these days, shall we?

Erizos Con Huevo: Fresh sea urchin scramble eggs, miso butter toast with caviar.  I LOVED this dish. Easily one of the most beautifully plated (every other Yelp review has this shot) and features all the ingredients I love to eat on the daily.  Velvety eggs (yes!), creamy uni (yaaaasss!), and miso butter (whaaaaaatttt?!!!!) spread on a crunchy, toasty, carb!! Holy moly it’s like dessert as a starter!

Rabo de Toro: Red wine braised beef oxtail, wild mushrooms.  Ok, I’ll admit that the oxtail was not nearly as tender/ fall off the bone/ forkable as it ought to be, but the flavor’s all there.  Typical braised beef dishes tend to veer off into salt lake city when stewed for too long but Amar’s braise emphasizes the red wine reduction and the depth of flavor from bite to bite.

Datile con Jamon Serrano: Dates with bleu cheese, serrano ham, and local honey.  This once trendy dish has now gone passé but le hubs wanted to order it thinking there might be a little something special to everyone’s staple tapas fave.  Sadly, there’s not.  You lose the delicate flavor of the dried serrano ham when fried, so I half-preferred we ordered the charcuterie instead to really allow the bite to permeate. Eh, skip for now.

Higado de pato: Seared foie gras, vanilla apple compote, toasted pistachio.
Pillowy bites of pure heaven.

 Fideuá: Toasted noodle paella, squid ink, calamari, scallions, toasted marcona almonds, ginger lime aioli. I absolutely LOVE Pueblo’s squid ink and salmon rice paella so I ordered Amar’s Fideuá with biased reservation and clear intention to compare the two.  I have NEVER eaten noodle paella before and now I’m a convert!  The squid ink noodle itself is a cross between Vietnamese bún (thin rice noodle) and angel hair pasta in terms of texture and buoyancy.  The half creamy/ half tangy dressing drizzled the noodles and calamari perfectly, not too much, not too little, simply delightful! Especially when the heavy skillet seemed daunting when presented to the table, the noodles (instead of rice) made the dish very easy on the palate.  I really wished there was a better char on the bottom for some crispy noodles thrown into the mix, but no points deducted for my singular preference, lol. Easily the most crave-worthy dish from what we sampled so far.  MUST-GET!

Brussels sprouts with chorizo, sherry gastrique.  Chorizo was too thick dude…they need to call it what it is.  Chorizo chunks with a side of Brussel sprouts.  Good, but wished the sausage was sliced in half then it would have been perf.

 Claim-to-fame Beef Rib Steak, their house specialty, aged 50+ days, priced at $55 per lb.  Ok guys, I have a confession.  I do NOT desire red meat, ever.  I’ll order it, eat it, love it, and never think about it again.  My palate prefers sauces, creams, reductions, and glazes.  The protein is the variable.  However, when in Rome!  I mean they did name the place after a cow, mind you.  So we ordered 2.7 glorious pounds of this honkin’ steak, saving it for the main course after devouring everything else you see above.  6 starters, 12 cocktails, and over an hour later we finally get our steak brought out by Chef Amar himself with apologies for the wait and a bunch of freebie sides thrown in!  I love a man who knows immediately when he’s in the wrong and makes up for it without a fuss ;)

But back to the steak! Served with double dipping sauce of chimichurri and house-made “A2” (their version of A1), the meat is clearly the star here.  It was lightly seasoned, a little fatty, perfectly seared, and tastes like it should… BEEF!  I absolutely HATE it when I taste butter and herbed seasoning before anything else, like they forgot why I came all this way and paid good money for!  I’ll be honest, while I’m not the steak connoisseur, I’ve consumed plenty of steaks from Mastro’s, The Ranch, STK, CUT, Fleming’s, Ruth’s Chris, Morton’s, Capital Grille, BOA, El Gaucho, etc., I know what I like and salty steaks ain’t IT honey! They typically leave me feeling so dehydrated I’ll down a glass of wine and chase it with a shot of tequila for a compensating aftertaste.  But Vaca’s steak is just right and ALL about the cut.


 A spread of veggie sides compliments of the Chef for our steak snafu.
(Clockwise from upper left: Grilled asparagus, Roasted Cauliflower, Patatas Bravas Potatoes, Roasted Organic Carrots)


The designer in me loves a fabulous feature bar and the voyeur in me dies over an expansive expedition kitchen.  Luckily, Vaca has the best of both. All the better to experience the cuisine and not merely just taste the food.  For me, it’s ALL about the mood as Amar and the Vaca Group have done an excellent job in accomplishing a downtown street vibe set in a swanky shopping district with incredible eats to boot!


695 Town Center Dr. Ste. 170
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
714.463.6060
Book a reservation HERE

Additional complimentary desserts (flan/ churros)... Amar sure does know the way to my heart!

While Amar and I have many mutual friends and I’ve dined at Broadway and Charlie Palmer oh a dozen times (current and previous restaurants Amar has spearheaded), we only formally met when I visited Vaca just earlier this week.  A quickie conversation that led into a total Top Chef grill sesh (you can blame le hubs for that one, he’s a fan!) and what I’m left with is a super satiating impression not just for Amar’s food, but for the talented Chef himself. 


Full of passion, life, zest, and verve, I respect the creative who’s just bursting at the seams when discussing his art.  You really can taste the love and while I wasn’t going nutso over everything we tried that evening, you can bet your Iberian pork butt I’ll definitely be back to Comer> Beber> Jugar with the best of ‘em!  

Thank you Amar and the entire Vaca staff for your attentive hospitality!

Until next time, Bon Appétit mes amis!
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16 comments

  1. Love the new look of your blog dear! Great post, everything looks so delicious!! :)
    Vesna - Home Chic Club
    http://vesna-kreativnostidrugesitnice.blogspot.rs/

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  2. yummmmm! Those brussel sprouts and asparagus look AMAZING!

    XO Sahra
    Que Sera Sahra

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  3. Looks great this place!

    >> http://joandcompanystyle.blogspot.pt/ <<

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  4. Wow looks like my kind of place... The food looks amazing!!! =)

    - Cielo
    Mermaid in Heels

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  5. this. looks. amazing! looks like a great space too!
    www.samanthamariko.com

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  6. Awesome! I absolutely had fun reading this. Have a fun-filled day!

    xoxo;
    STYLEFORMANKIND.COM
    Facebook
    Bloglovin

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  7. this is making me hungry, and i just had brekkie! hehe

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  8. nice post :)
    Keep in touch, kisses :)

    http://itsmetijana.blogspot.rs/

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  9. I like your blog, its really dope.
    Do you want to follow each other?
    If you want, than follow me, and let me know in comments, so I can follow you back with pleasure.

    We can follow each other on Instagram @andjela.dujovic, let me know in the comments so I can follow you back.

    www.bekleveer.com
    xoxo

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  10. Ohhh my goodness, the food looks incredibly tasty! The restaurant seems awesome!

    xo
    http://thepinkporcelaindoll.blogspot.it

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  11. Todo tiene un aspecto delicioso!!!!!
    Un beso, Julie
    http://cocoolook.blogspot.com.es/

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  12. aahh amazing!! i've been watching top chef!! would totally love to try his restaurant if i get the chance to visit!

    Have a great week!
    Animated Confessions

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  13. Yummy.... i have nothing else to say!

    http://beautyfollower.blogspot.gr/

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  14. Oh god, you´ve made me hungry so much now, haha!
    Nice photos, your style is stunning! ♡

    ♡ Recent Beauty Loves ♡

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  15. Oh the food looked AMAZING dear! The braised beef, the foie gras and the sliced up steak...oh that crust looked amazing and I'm sure tasted so damn good. I've been eating more steak recently and I like mine chargrilled on the BBQ!

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Give it to me...gimme that funk, that sweet, that gushy stuff

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