Gourmet Tacos Coming to Costa Mesa – Taco Asylum

Last Thursday was the grand opening of Orange County’s newest joint, Taco Asylum. It is a small place that holds approximately 30-40 people, located at The CAMP in Costa Mesa. We were invited to a media preview event just two days before their grand opening. Taco Asylum is a gourmet taco concept developed by the people behind Haven Gastropub. Like Haven, they have an impressive beer selection but unlike Haven, Taco Asylum focuses only on tacos, which are influenced by ingredients from around the world.

Grilled Octopus – flour tortilla, kalamata olives, oregano, feta, tomatoes

We were able to sample most of the tacos they will be offering on their menu. There were a few that at first bite were just okay, most were good but there were a couple that really stood out. To be fair, the tacos that we first tried which were “just okay” came out first thing that evening on what appeared to be the first time they had served such a crowd. I’m sure they will work out these kinks quickly. We had the opportunity to try some of these again later and the look and flavors were much better.

Wild Mushroom – herbed tortilla, mushrooms, garbanzo puree, parsley salad, fried chickpeas

There were a couple really killer tacos that would make us go back again soon. First was Kim’s favorite, the Wild Mushroom Taco in a fresh herbed tortilla, with mushrooms, garbanzo puree, parsley salad and fried chickpeas. This one was an incredible combination of flavors and textures. We did not miss the meat in this taco at all and could’ve snack on them all night.

Ghost Chili Pork - flour tortilla, chili threads, pork cracklins

My favorite was the Ghost Chili Pork Taco in a fresh flour tortilla, with shredded pork, ghost chili threads and pork cracklins. This was the last of the tacos I tried and was the one I planned to be most critical of. I love spicy food, but can’t stand food that is meant to “taste hot” for hot sake and may not necessarily add anything to the flavor profile. For example, “Flamin Hot Cheetos with that red stuff all over them, really? What flavor is that? Yes, they are hot but they created a nasty flavor to get it that way. Right or wrong this was the taco I planned to judge Executive Chef Greg Daniels culinary prowess on. However, he nailed it! This was one of the best tacos I have had. The pork was seasoned perfectly and was super tender. The chili threads added a level of flavor but also a lingering level of heat. Lastly, the pork cracklins, which added a crispy texture and little explosions of flavor, really completed the taco and made it a hit! I must have eaten three or four of these and I can’t wait to go back for more.

Check out these other tacos that we thought were also very good.

Curried Paneer – naan tortilla, raita, tomato chutney
Duck – flour tortilla, camembert, dijon crème fraîche
Lamb – flour tortilla, olive tapenade, ratatouille, mâché

We really enjoyed the experience and it was fun to be there with many of Orange County’s top bloggers. The food, location and the beer were all very good and we are looking forward to visiting them again.

Taco Asylum on Urbanspoon

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