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Mastro's Steakhouse - Costa Mesa

633 Anton Blvd.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Phone: 714.546.7405
Date of Visit: 30 September 2006


Any evening that starts with engaging company, an unobstructed view of south Orange County, and an excellent bottle of 2000 Trinchero Merlot, served in a suite at the Westin South Coast Plaza hotel, can't be too bad. And it wasn't. I was joined on Saturday evening, 30 September, by the ChiefMeatInspector and his lady, Debbie, who was our first official, non-voting guest of deadcowsociety.com, for pre-dinner wine at the Westin. We had 6:30 pm reservations at Mastro's Steakhouse, which is across the street from the hotel. The photo below was taken from the hotel suite of the restaurant:


The three of us were ravenous as we walked across the street, successfully avoiding being hit by the parade of new Mercedes' [What's the plural of Mercedes? Is it Mercedi?? Who cares; I drive a Toyota.] and Beemers parading around the streets of south Orange County.

As we entered the restaurant, you could hear the buzz and noises of diners and staff hurrying about their respective activities. Announcing ourselves at the reception desk, we were seated just around the corner and to the left of reception. We all thought this table was right in the middle of all the traffic, and it was. If you visit Mastro's, do not let then seat you at table #1. The ChiefMeatInspector commented that the design of the room and the furnishing reduced the noise level but that we were still sitting at a high traffic table. Debbie did not like the table from the beginning...and still doesn't! Mastro's would be better served if they replaced this four-top table with a two-top, which would reduce the propensity of being bumped by passing guests.

The ChiefMeatInspector and I always have the same conversation shortly after being seated in almost every restaurant. The conversation begins when he says he feels rushed ("They really want to turn this table", he says) when menus are immediately presented when you sit down. I, on the other hand, usually do not feel this way. However, we actually came to a collective conclusion (including the lovely Ms. Debbie!) that tonight we ALL felt rushed. As soon as we were seated, menus were set down but no drink orders taken. The waiter, who will remain nameless, come over and was ready to take our order when we said that we would order some wine first. We spent some time reviewing the wine list and then ordered a bottle of wine. (More on the wine later.) When the waiter brought the wine, an incident happened that totally reinforced our feeling of being rushed. As the waiter presented the wine to me and said, "Here is your 2000 Heitz cabernet...", without missing a breath, he immediately started talking about the restaurant, their specials, and sides orders, all while he is still holding the bottle of wine in front of me. This went on for quite a while, and when he finished discussing the food, he, literally in his next sentence, said, "I'll open the wine." He did so and poured the three glasses. We told him that we would enjoy our wine first and order later and he left. What a bizarre experience. But I am sure I upset him when he returned a few minutes later, grabbed the bottle of wine, and started to pour more wine into glasses that were already filled with the proper amount of wine for tasting and evaluating. I put my hand out and stopped him, saying that the glasses were fine and that we would pour more later. He set down the bottle and left in a huff. (When he returned later, he sarcastically asked if he could pour more wine as he grabbed the wine bottle.)

So enough of this rant for now. Let's talk about the good stuff: food!

Mastro's has a very focused menu, with an emphasis on exceptional cuts of Dead Cow (Pig and Lamb, too) and things that live in the sea. (You can review their offerings in detail by visiting their web site.) Since this was an official third-quarter 2006 meeting of the Deadcowsociety.com management team, we immediately headed for the Dead Cow section on the menu. Ms. Debbie decided on the 8-ounce petite filet ($29.50), the ChiefMeatInspector wanted the 24-ounce porterhouse ($39.95), and I stuck to my norm of the 16-ounce New York strip ($36.95). (They had a 48-ounce porterhouse on the menu for around $76, but we couldn't come up with a volunteer at our table.) We pooled our thoughts on side dishes and ordered the shoestring potatoes ($7.50), steamed asparagus ($7.50), and Gorgonzola "Mack & Cheese" ($9.50). We chose to stay with the same wine as before dinner: 2000 Heitz Cellars cabernet sauvignon ($78.00).

The beef at Mastro's is U.S.D.A. hand-cut Prime, and is wet-aged for over twenty days. It is rubbed with a special blend of fifteen ingredients before being broiled to order. With the service issues noted above fresh in our memory, we were all a bit skeptical of the finished product. But once the sizzling plates (and I really mean sizzling!) of beautiful Dead Cow were laid out before our eyes (and ears and noses), our concerns began to subside. And when we each took our first bite of steak, those concerns vanished. My New York strip steak was cooked to perfection, and hardly needed a knife to cut. It practically melted in my mouth, and had a rich, buttery flavor. It was superb. The ChiefMeatInspector, having the foresight to order the porterhouse, relished in both delights. He enjoyed the sumptuous pleasure of the bigger flavor and texture of the strip steak and the subtle, delicate presentation of the filet. The side dishes were also excellent. The steamed asparagus retained a light crunch and was served with a subtle Hollandaise sauce on the side. The shoestring potatoes were enough for several diners. They were hot, crunchy, and delicious. Ms. Debbie found an addition to the Gorgonzola "Mack & Cheese" that added to its already decadent flavor. She placed a handful of the shoestring potatoes on top of the macaroni and cheese. The added crunch and texture made the side dish burst with mouth appeal.

For desert, we celebrated the ChiefMeatInspector's birthday! Debbie, with incredible subtlety and stealth, motioned to the waiter and mouthed "Birthday!", while pointing to the ChiefMeatInspector. I did not notice this vital exchange at all. The waiter, however, decoded her message and brought us the Chocolate Chunk Cake ($11.50) for our surprise desert. It was delicious! Debbie and I had coffee ($2.75) with the desert. We both agreed that it was terrible. It was as many American Airlines flight attendants describe their coffee: brown-colored water. Very disappointing. Rant Coming: Restaurants must realize that coffee is not just a money-maker for them. It must be a fitting end to what would otherwise be a very delightful meal. This is not the place to cut corners. Fortunately we agreed that $2.75 was not as bad as it could have been. For a true coffee-ripoff, see my review of Shula's 347.

In breaking with this web site's policy of not posting photos of its management team, I could not resist posting the below photos of the ChiefMeatInspector and his lovely lady, Debbie, and the desert:



Here are some photos of the half-eaten NY strip steak, shoestring potatoes, and macaroni and cheese.




If you're in south Orange County and want a great steak, then take a trip to Mastro's. As mentioned, the Dead Cow is superb. But please be aware of the service issues mentioned, as well as the cost (it is not exactly an inexpensive experience). Because of the service issues, we cannot award Mastro's five Dead Cows.


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