2937 S. Bristol St, B102
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Are you crazy about tacos? If so, the newly opened Taco Asylum in The CAMP in Costa Mesa may be just the place for you. Taco Asylum was opened by the trio behind Haven Gastropub in Orange. The restaurant specializes in unique gourmet tacos that include ingredients such as grilled baby octopus and confit beef heart. They also have a selection of small craft beers in both cans and on tap. Non-beer drinkers can enjoy a variety of all-natural sodas including sarsaparilla.
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to attend a special preview event a couple of days before the official grand opening. I was able to try most of the tacos. The tacos I got to sample were:
Grilled octopus – flour tortilla, kalamata olives, oregano, feta, tomatoes $5
Pork belly – flour tortilla, carrots, daikon, onions, cilantro $5
Short rib – flour tortilla, pickled red onion, salsa verde, cotija cheese, cilantro $5
Curried paneer (Indian Cheese) – naan tortilla, raita, tomato chutney $5
Lamb – flour tortilla, olive tapenade, ratatouille, mâché $6
Corazon – flour tortilla, confit beef heart, pickled turnips and peppers, harissa $5
and Wild mushroom – herbed tortilla, mushrooms, garbanzo puree, parsley salad, fried chickpeas $5(FORGOT TO TAKE A PICTURE)
All of the tacos come prepared on fresh handmade tortillas. My favorite taco of the night was probably the curried paneer taco. The naan tortilla went perfectly with the authentic Indian flavor of the curried paneer. The wild mushroom taco was also very good. The fried chickpeas added a nice crunch that complemented the tender, meaty mushrooms. The Corazon taco was my first experience eating beef heart. It was surprisingly tender and tasty.
Unfortunately I had to leave before they sampled the ghost chili pork (flour tortilla, chili threads, pork cracklins $5) and duck (flour tortilla, camembert, dijon crème fraîche $6) tacos. I heard that these turned out to be two of the favorites for the night.
I'm sure you must be thinking that these tacos are extremely expensive. Well you're right. When you see and taste the high quality ingredients though, you understand why they demand a higher price than your average taco stand. For a better value, you can get a flight of 8 mini tacos for $18. If you're still scoffing at the idea of paying $5 for a single taco, just think of it as a chance to try some gourmet treats that happen to come served in an edible wrapper.
Overall, I think this is a place that people should try at least once. It's nice to go here to sample these tasty gourmet delights, but due to the high price tag, I don't think it will be making my list of "usuals." I also found it surprising that their menu states "changes and substitutions politely declined." I can understand not allowing certain substitutions, but I think if a restaurant is going to serve $5 tacos from behind a counter, they should be a little more willing to let the customer alter the taco to their liking. It's kind of shocking that you can customize your 49¢ taco at Del Taco, but not your $5-$6 taco from Taco Asylum....