Sunday, June 19, 2011

Taco Asylum - 04/25/2011

2937 S. Bristol Street, B102
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 922-6010

Taco Asylum is the newest restaurant by Chef Greg Daniels who also owns the popular Haven Gastropub. An intriguing concept, the Asylum specializes in "non-traditional" gourmet tacos, drawing influences from global cuisines.

grilled octopus - flour tortilla, kalamata olives, oregano, feta, tomatoes
First up was a very classic Mediterranean inspired taco. I thought the olives and feta were a bit overwhelming for my tastes, with the gamy piquancy of the duo overwhelming the flavor of the grilled octopus and reducing what should have been the star of the dish to a mere textural footnote.

pork belly - flour tortilla, carrots, daikon, onions, cilantro
Next up was a banh mi inspired pork belly taco. The meat itself was a touch dry but came covered in a glistening sheen of decadent pork fat. Like the Vietnamese, classic the pickled vegetables provide a crucial levity to balance the heft of the meat.

short rib - flour tortilla, pickled red onion, salsa verde, cotija cheese, cilantro
This was probably the most traditional taco of the lot. The tender braised beef possesses a clean beefy goodness that pairs nicely with the tangy red onion and robust flavor of the cotija.

curried paneer - naan tortilla, raita, tomato chutney
Onto India, which Taco Asylum delivers a fairly faithful rendition of paneer and tomato curry. While I enjoyed the interplay between the spice of the curry and the bright raita, I found the cuboids of cheese are a bit dense.

wild mushroom - herbed tortilla, mushrooms, garbanzo puree, parsley salad, fried chickpeas
This was one of the best tacos of the set, the mushrooms are suitably earthy while the parsley salad adds the perfect vegetal temper. Round the dish out were two presentation of chickepea, first a puree to add substance and a fried variety that provided a wonderful airy crunch.

lamb - flour tortilla, olive tapenade, ratatouille, mâché
Despite my aversion towards olives I thought they worked well in conjunction with the gamy lamb and ratatouille, giving this taco a pronounced rustic feel.

duck - flour tortilla, camembert, dijon crème fraîche
Another of the stronger tacos, the moist flavorful duck comes smothered with a rich Camembert sauce. The combination of the two had a homey savory flavor reminiscent of a duck pot pie.

corazon - flour tortilla, confit beef heart, pickled turnips and peppers, harissa
I was hoping for a bit more flavor from this taco, though the meat has some nice bite to it, any offaly flavor is largely masked by the heat of the harissa and tang of the turnips.

ghost chili pork - flour tortilla, chili threads, pork cracklins
Though not for everyone, people who can handle spice will be richly rewarded by this taco. The ghost chili seasoned pork lived up to its name pairing a lingering potent burn with the porky richness of the meat. The cracklins were a superb addition, heightening the flavor of the tender braised pork with an burst of unbridled richness.

While the idea of gourmet fusion tacos is certainly interesting, the execution at Taco Asylum falls flat. By and large the fillings are effective albeit a bit clumsy, but the tortillas fall abysmally short. Dry and flavorless, they feel like an afterthought tacked on simply so the dishes can be called "tacos." Personally if I were looking for tacos, I'd rather fill up on a plate of $.85 cabeza or lengua tacos from the taqueria outside my house.


Sam C. said...

Did you get all of these in full size? I know they have a mini size now which you get to sample everyone of them (except the ghost chili). But if you get the full size....good for you!!! haha. These tacos are filling!

Epicuryan said...

Haha naw... I couldn't handle that, but I know Kevin did when he went.