Monday, February 25, 2008

Mastro's Steakhouse, Costa Mesa California

I had the pleasure of visiting this wonderful restaurant during a trip to California in Feb '08. While I think a 3.5 rating would be best, I'll bump up to 4.0 for the customer service and Buttercake.

First of all, everything was EXTREMELY professional and the food was excellent. The breadbasket was stellar with 4 wonderful types of bread including a flawless pretzle bread that topped anything in NYC.

Sides were a bit hit/or miss with the dugeness crab gnocchi and french onion soup shining, shoestring potatoes and tomatos with ranch average, and the lobster mashed potatoes okay but certainly not worth the pricetag.

For mains, while I'm not a beef eater, my aunt said her filet was the best she has ever had. My mother's porkchop was so think it didn't seem possible to cook it so perfectly without charring. My sister's salmon was flawless and fresh. My Ahi.....the best I've ever had in a non-sashimi form. Portions of everything were plentiful (almost too big, honestly) and we took home a little bit of everything.

For dessert we sampled the Creme Brulle which was pretty standard, Key Lime Pie which was the best I've tasted outside of Florida, and the famous Buttercake. While I'm still a firm believer that Tiramisu is the perfect dessert, I can honestly say that the Buttercake made me question this believe. Hefty, Fruity, Nutty, Buttery, yet airy and refreshing......I've not seen a recipe that can match this and in a way I feel lucky that I can't find Mastro's secret because it would lead to far too frequent endulgance. The Buttercake is a MUST.

My complaints about Mastro's are few. #1) it is simply too dark. I understand ambiance, but aside from Koi I've never been in a place so dim. #2) when serving my Ahi, the server (not our lovely waitress Erica) spilled some of the soy onto my Aunt's scalding hot plate and it splashed on her shirt, glasses, and tablecloth. The server did not apologize and attempted to cover up the incident. #3) we were promised more pretzle bread in our take-home box and this was not delivered. #4) we were seated by a relatively intoxicated individual who, although spending $1400 for a meal for 2, clearly did not feel the need to behave professionally....dropping the F-bomb nearly 75 times during the course of his meal.

I say the service was great because it was from start to finish and when I commented to the waitress regarding the soy incident our bill was comped very significantly (IE more than 1/2 of a $330 tab.) Additionally, as were were the last people in the restaurant, it never once seemed as though we were rushed or hasseled in any way.
All told, Mastro's is a great place to dine and aside form a couple missteps that were likely isolated incidents, I had a great meal on par with only the very best steakhouses. The buttercake, the pretzle bread, the Ahi, and the gnocchi are ALL worth a return visit.

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