What a year it’s been. Now that I’m fully vaccinated, I have a new found feeling of liberation. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still donning a mask and keeping socially distanced, but I feel comfortable enough to dine inside a restaurant, as long as covid-measures are being adhered to, and restaurant staff are wearing masks and being safe.
I attended my first media dinner this week, which turned out to be such a freeing experience. I’ve been to Descanso before, when they opened, not too long before the pandemic. Of course, we all know what happened after that.
Descanso offers Mexican style plancha cooking — think teppanyaki Mexican style. It is interactive and lots of fun because your meal is pretty much prepared in front of you. However, before you even get to that part, there’s a few things you shouldn’t miss out on.
To start, you must order one of the many cocktails on offer. Right now, blood oranges are in season, so I highly recommend you partake in Mi Corazon ($13) which pairs blood orange with pomegranate, passionfruit and lemon. A wonderfully bright libation that opens up the palate. (right)
Olvera Street ($13) is another stunning beverage. It’s a beautifully bright cocktail with strong tangerine flavors, paired with lime and raspberry shrub. It is very refreshing and difficult to sip slowly because it’s just SO good. (left)
A basket of chicharron and chips with salsa arrive at the table. Try to restrain yourself as it is very easy to get carried away.
At this point, it’s wise to order some appetizers while you further peruse the menu, and to have something in your stomach while you sip on your cocktails.
Clasico Guacamole ($11) is not to be missed. It is seasoned to perfection, with a slight kick to it, and the right amount of citrus. Try scooping with a piece of chicharron, you won’t regret it.
Elote Asado ($10) is one of my favorites and at Descanso, they do a really good job by adding — but not too much — cotija cheese to the corn kernels. The savory sweetness teases the palate into wanting more. It’s highly addictive.
I love ceviche, and Shrimp Ceviche ($14) is a well balanced bowl comprising chunks of avocado, cherry tomatoes, red onion slivers, and shrimp, bathed in a tomato base sauce. I didn’t even have to add another squeeze of lime, as it was very well balanced.
When it comes to the main courses, you’ll find that each dish comes with rice, tortillas (your choice of blue corn or flour), soup or salad.
Choose your protein, and your chef will prepare it in front of you, on the plancha.
Caesar Salad consists of chopped Romaine lettuce, a spicy Caesar dressing, pico de gallo and Parmesan Reggiano cheese.
Fideo Soup sees a tomato broth swimming with toasted noodles, avocado, crema, tortilla strips, and queso fresco. It reminded me a little of a tortilla soup but with noodles and sans corn and black beans. Of course, I added a squeeze of lime to mine.
Chef Ariana arrives at the plancha and introduces herself. She then starts preparing the Fried Rice. She starts by throwing some diced vegetables onto the plancha and cooking them quickly, before tossing rice into the mixture. A drizzle of sauce, and the rice is presented to us, ready to eat. Very tasty!
Pollo Maya ($36) is achiote-marinated chicken breast, served with a myriad of summer vegetables including squash, broccolini, cherry tomatoes, and some habanero for good measure. I absolutely loved the pickled red onions which brought the dish together. The chicken was juicy and flavorful.
Meat lovers should absolutely order the Skirt Steak ($48). A garlic citrus marinated 8oz skirt steak is cooked to your desired temperature — Chef Ariana did an excellent job with our medium rare steak — and served with fingerling potatoes, charred cebolita onions, and grilled serrano chiles.
If you have room for dessert, definitely try Tarta de Limon ($11) a pillowy cloud of citrusy goodness. I’m not a huge fan of dessert, but this even had me wanting another bite. It was light, not too sweet, and absolutely delightful!
If you’re looking for something fun and unique, Descanso is definitely a good choice for an evening out with family and friends. The food is better than I remembered, and just what I needed to “break” quarantine.
1555 Adams Ave, #103
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Tel: (714) 486-3798