My first thoughts? Is this where foodies end up when they’ve gone mad tasting all the culinary goodness there is in the world? Do they force feed you tacos until you gain sanity? Far from it. Chef Greg Daniels (from Haven Gastropub) partnered up with Will Dee and Ace Patel to bring us non-traditional tacos that get their inspiration from a wide array of global cuisines. The nine taco offerings have a distinct flavor profile, come artfully wrapped in unique three inch tortillas, and will challenge your senses and just might make you mad – for another taco or two or three.
It’s an amazing concept and located at The Camp, a hip and happening Costa Mesa destination, I was delighted when offered a special event invitation by Marian the Foodie (read more about her here). Taco Asylum is a quaint restaurant and located near the Seed Market. A heat lamp signals your arrival or warns you to stay away. I took a brief glance at the chalkboard menu and settled on the Wild Mushroom and the Curried Paneer accompanied with their Craftsman Hefe. However I wish I had ordered the Taylor’s Tonic instead (this rare beverage is only seen in Northern California). What I really appreciated was the taco stands the tacos arrive on. This eliminates the need for having to hold up your taco, precious ingredients spilling out, or losing the shape of your taco.
Being Indian, I had to try the Curried Paneer (click on the photo to see more detail). It’s a blend of tomato chutney and paneer topped off with raita and cucumbers in a naan tortilla. One taste will transport you to a small pocket of India. The flavor combination incorporates everything I love about India into a taco. Growing up with basmati rice, pungent curries, and aromatic spices it was hard for me to imagine it all come together in a taco but Ace Patel brought in the influence of his Mother to create this blend and while the heat from the spice blend might shock your taste buds, the cooling sensation of the raita comes to the rescue. I only wish I could have had a tad bit more. I will have to remember to ask for a separate cup of raita next time.
The Wild Mushroom was the next obvious choice. My love of mushrooms called to me as well as the garbanzo puree, parsley salad, and fried chick peas wrapped in a herbed tortilla. Two Indian inspired tacos? Could it be? Why yes! In India, we eat chick peas in a tomato curry but I’ve never had them fried or with mushrooms. This was definitely a unique taco and an odd blend of flavors. The fried crunchy chick peas combined with the earthy flavors that the mushrooms provided made for one amazing taco.
Open late (until 11pm), this is one chill spot to hang out and if you tweet at them, you might just see your name on the TV behind the register vs the latest sporting event which I love. While hanging out, I had a chance to meet Chef Greg Daniels (pictured in white below) himself who shared something from his fridge – a chocolate chili ice cream. Yum! The restaurant is still in its infancy so expect to see some new menu additions soon, a re-work of the current tacos available, and some more surprises or Chef Daniels just might pop out from behind the kitchen to offer up a unique creation of his own for you to try but you’ll never know if you sit there reading this. 🙂