Costa Messa serves up Mexican fare with unususal touch
The salsa, the salsas. Costa Messa's incredible salsas set it far apart from the average Mexican restaurant. Add their absolutely classic preparation of Mexican dishes, and you're in for an authentic Mexican-food experience, the likes of which diners usually have to cross the border to get.
Cooks were tight-lipped about revealing exactly what goes into Costa Messa's salsas. But their red "chimichurri" salsa apparently includes a hot red pepper, garlic, and maybe some sour cream. And their tomatillo salsa has some incredibly hot green peppers mixed with tomatillos (green tomatoes). Their pico de gallo (beak of the rooster) is loaded with tomato, onion, cilatro, and jalapeño- accented with a touch of garlic. The best thing about these awesome sauces is that they're complimentary, served with fried corn tortilla chips and baked flour tortillas. Baked flour? Yes. Costa Messa serves baked flour tortillas as an appetizer. An unusual touch, but unusual touches are what this restaurant is all about.
There's nothing unusual however about Costa Messa's menu. It's straightforward Mexican fare. Not Tex-Mex mind you, but Mexican. There's a lot of grilled foods on the menu, like their chuletas (pork chops, $8.95) - two highly-seasoned cuts of pork grilled medium-well, served with a baked potato, and a side of rice and beans. And there are some very spicy items on the menu, like their chipotle chicken ($7.95), which sautés grilled chicken fajitas in super spicy chipotle sauce. Zowee! Plus Costa Messa has a healthy dose of seafood items on their menu, prepared using traditional Mexican recipes.
If Tex-Mex is a must, though, Costa Messa can provide that, too. Interestingly, Costa Messa's Tex-Mex dishes are listed on the back page of their menu, as if to say to its customers , "Hey, try the real Mexican food, people! We put Tex-Mex dishes on the last page, hoping you'd have decided on an order by now." But if a back page order is a must, rest assured Costa Messa's Tex-Mex is as good as Tex-Mex gets. Their botana platter for two flares fried, moon-shaped tortilla chips on a platter, then douses them with cheese and refried beans, and tops the dish off with butterflied fajitas, guacamole, onion and jalapeño ($14.95).
For those not so familiar with the different varieties of fajitas available in local restaurants, "butterflied fajitas" are not the chunky strips of beef that the world has come to know as fajitas. Butterflied fajitas are very thinly filleted cuts of beef. Costa Messa marinates them, then spices them, the combination of which gives their butterflied fajitas resonant flavor as well as zip.
Yes there's more, but Costa Messa is the type of place where diners can pick confidently from an extensive menu, as if each dish on the list were a specialty item. Costa Messa is sure to become a hit.
Another hot item is the parillada for two (grilled meats) which boasts chicken, beef, fajitas, mollejas (neck gland), sausage and short ribs, deep fried whole potatoes, rice, charro beans and tortillas for $17.95.
Costa Messa is spacious enough to hold a serious weekend rush. The wait staff is energetic and attentive. The tiled floors and quaint murals create a setting that's so much like Mexico, you might forget you're just a block from 10th street. But the biggest notch in Costa Messa's belt is definitely their food. Rich in flavor and exact in preparation, Costa Messa's Mexican cuisine is dead on the mark.