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The Gossiping Gourmet:

Discover the secret inside Mesa

February 18, 2010|By Elle Harrow and Terry Markowitz

It was the preparation that made them extraordinary. They were roasted in sea salt, pepper and butter in a cast-iron skillet, and they had a unique slightly smoky taste as if they had been finished in the pizza oven. In any case, they left us punch drunk with pleasure as we soaked up the remaining juices with pieces of their very good sourdough French baguette.

These jaded food writers couldn’t imagine anything better after this, but we were mistaken.

Pizza mavens are divided into thin crust, thick crust and deep-dish camps. This evening we joined the first.

Mesa’s style is the thin-crust type, in fact the thinnest: it was actually translucent in places. We both had a moment of disconnect when we picked it up because it was so light and it didn’t bend. It was crispy, with an airy texture, and yet it had all the flavor of good dough, not cracker bread. The topping was mascarpone mixed with mozzarella, covered with crispy porcini mushrooms and seasoned with garlic, fleur de sel and truffle oil. Porcini mushrooms glossed with truffle oil made this pizza a little bit of heaven.


From the main menu, we selected prawns in paper. The portion was more like a large appetizer with five shrimp and about a cup of pasta. The shrimp was baked en papillote, which was broken open at the table and added to the bowl of papardelle and sauce. The wide pasta noodles were perfectly al dente, while the chili, garlic butter and white wine sauce was light and flavorful with just a bit of bite. The shrimp were just ordinary and a bit over-salted.

To accompany them, we ordered the tempura-style green beans from the appetizer menu rather than the side dish of healthier steamed ones; after all, there’s not much to say about plain green beans. The tempura batter was thin and light in the best Japanese manner, and the beans arrived piping hot and extra crunchy. The only disappointment was the dipping sauces. The soy was too strong for the delicate tempura, and the sweet hot one was a little too thin and acidic.

One of the desserts is called the “after-school special,” which is a peanut butter bread pudding with a malted milkshake. In keeping with the “kiddie” theme are the sugar doughnuts served with whipped cream, crème fraiche and fruit jam. We went for the chocolate pudding cake with a salted, chocolate crumb crust. Although exceedingly rich, it was not overly sweet, but the quality of the chocolate left something to be desired.

If you’re not here to “make the scene,” we would recommend you come on a weeknight or early in the evening on weekends. It would be a great place for pre-theater dining.


What: Mesa

Where: 725 Baker St., Costa Mesa

When: 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Regular menu from 6 to 11 p.m.; late-night menu until 1 a.m.

Prices: Appetizers $6 to $14, entrées $10 to $23, desserts $8 to $10

Wine: Bottles $28 to $130; by the glass $8 to $11; corkage fee $20

Contact: (714) 557-6700

ELLE HARROW and TERRY MARKOWITZ owned A La Carte for 20 years and can be reached at

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