Taco Maria is fast approaching as one of the best & most unique restaurants to hit OC. It originally started as a gourmet food truck back in 2011. Then after gaining a huge fan base, OC native chef Carlos Salgado, decided to open a restaurant last summer at hip SOCO Design & Culinary Mart in Costa Mesa.
Walk inside and the space is small, simple, and industrial with cement floors and scuffed white walls. It acts like a blank canvas for the art about to be served on your 'plato'. Chef Salgado describes the food as "Chicano Cuisine". It's a blend of Mexican and American culture, local produce, regional meats & seafoods, and recipes passed down from generation to generation.
Ordering from the menu at dinner time is a little different with a four-course prix-fixe dinner served nightly. They even do it on Valentine's Day – when the hand model and I decided to go – but with two extra dishes for the 'corazon' & soul.
- I could eat a dozen, floral, herbaceous, molecular gastronomy builds a bubble with a tender lining, Luna Miel with Raw New Jersey Cow Milk, Local Honey, Rosemary & Lavender
- bright buttery citrus, delicate seafood, creamy texture, however the tostada crunch was too hard, Tostada De Cangrejo with Dungeness Crab, Caviar, Kumquat, Avocado & Poppy Seed Tortilla
- mushrooms stole the show, earthy umami flavor, but a bit bland 'n starchy needing more broth, Pozole with Abalone, Hominy, Green Garlic & Toasted Seaweed
- best dish of the night, crispy skin, fatty, sweet crunch, wanted more thick 'n spicy sauce, Pollito Con Mole with Guinea Hen, Roasted Carrots, Spanish Peanuts, Medjool Dates & Mole Sauce
- ask for it medium because medium rare was too bloody & chewy, Arracherra Hanger Steak with crunchy dried Heirloom Spinach, murky Bone Marow 'Potato Chips' & plump Cumin Potatoes
- spongey, milky sweet with a delightful burst of citrus, Tres Leches Steamed Vanilla Cake with Goat's Milk, Caramel & Pink Guava Sauce
- soft 'n bouncy with spicy cinnamon, Mignardise Marshmallows with Mexican Chocolate
The service was sophisticated, attentive, and excellent – despite the overcharge flub, which they graciously apologized for by comping my wine.
And the food has that "wow factor" that'll awaken any palate to a new way to eat Mexican cuisine – it's no wonder they've intentionally chosen to NOT serve Tacos on the menu.
They don't serve Margaritas either, rather Beer, Wine, and Sangria.
3313 Hyland Ave, Costa Mesa, CA 92626. 714-538-8444.