Taco Asylum is the spin-off from Haven Gastro Pub’s Chef Greg Daniels. Due to the huge popularity of his Short Rib Taco, it gave him the idea for a taco restaurant. In January 2011, this idea became what is known today as Taco Asylum (coming up on their 2 year anniversary next month). Think of the taco as a vehicle not the cuisine. The shape and form is Mexican, but the food inside is world cuisine. The flavors are authentic using fresh, humanely raised, sustainable meats and seafood, and products from local farmers and vendors wherever possible. The cuisine fits perfectly in The Camp. Also, Taco Asylum’s hot sauces are all made in house as well. With heat comes flavor as well so see which level you can take. Choose from the Red Savina, Honey Habanero, Roasted Jalapeno, Ghost Chili, and Trinidad Scorpion. Mix and match them to get the ultimate flavor rush. Just beware, some of these hot sauces will kick your ass and make you sweat so try a small drop first before drizzling over your tacos. My personal favorites are the Red Savina and Honey Habanero.
Grilled Octopus Taco is served on a flour tortilla with kalamata olives, oregano, feta, and tomatoes. The taco brings out the flavors of the Mediterranean. The octopus was tender, not chewy, and grilled to perfection. The components brought the flavor palate together from the salty, pickley kalamata olives, creamy, salty feta, sweet, tangy tomatoes, and just a touch of oregano. The Red Savina hot sauce paired well with this. Thumbs up, way up!
Pork Belly Taco is served on a flour tortilla with carrots, daikon, onions, and cilantro. Imagine the tortilla being a bao bun or French baguette and you have a banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich). The pork belly was melt in your mouth tender. The veggies give is a refreshing flavor to cut through the pork fat. The Roasted Jalapeno sauce paired well with this. Thumbs up, way up!
Short Rib Taco is served on a flour tortilla with pickled red onion, salsa verde, cotija cheese, and cilantro. The short rib was braised to perfection, tender as can be with an added Mexican flavor from the salsa, cojita, and cilantro. I can see why this taco inspired the creation of Taco Asylum. It’s fantastic! The Red Savina sauce paired well with this. Thumbs up, way up!
Curried Paneer Taco (Indian cheese) Taco is served on a naan (Indian flatbread) tortilla with raita (Indian yogurt sauce), tomato chutney, and scallions. Paneer reminds me of firm tofu but with a cold mozzarella texture. The flavors remind you of India, especially from the raita and tomato chutney. This is a great lacto-vegan option. The Ghost Pepper sauce pairs well with this. Thumbs up, way up!
Wild Mushroom Taco is served on an herbed tortilla with a garbanzo puree, parsley salad, and fried chick peas. The mushrooms taste like sautéed mushrooms you would get atop a premium grilled steak, very buttery and salty. The garbanzo puree acted like a refried bean flavor but without the fat. The Honey Habanero sauce pairs well with this by balancing out the salty flavor. Thumbs up, way up!
Lamb Taco is served on a flour tortilla with olive tapenade, ratatouille (French Provencal stewed vegetables), and mâché (edible salad greens). The lamb was perfectly tender and flavorful. However, the olive tapenade and ratatouille were too overpowering and washed out the wonderful flavor of the lamb. This might be better as an Indian-flavor with a mint-mango chutney or just al natural topped with cilantro and onions.
Duck Taco is served on a flour tortilla with camembert, Dijon crème fraîche, purple fingerling potato chips. The duck was tender and flavorful. The camembert added a creamy luxury. The crème fraîche added a cool, refreshing flavor and complemented the duck perfectly. The purple potato chips added a crunchy texture and look like shaved truffles on top. Thumbs up, way up!
Steak Taco is served on a flour tortilla with chimichurri (Argentinean sauce almost like pesto), buttermilk fried onions, and potato hash. The steak was perfectly tender. The chimichurri was a little too subtle in flavor. When you add the Red Savina sauce, it enhances the green flavor from the sauce. The fried onions added a crispy texture. The only thing that would make this better is cooking the steak to a medium rare to lock in the juiciness of the steak. Thumbs up!
“Rice” is actually Israeli couscous, cilantro, and lime. The flavor reminds me of sushi rice. It has the texture of tapioca bubbles – spongy. The flavor is refreshing from the lime and cilantro. Thumbs up, way up!
“Beans” is actually a cold lentil salad tossed with red wine vinaigrette, and chevre (goat cheese). The lentils were a great alternative to black or refried pinto beans. It had an almost three-bean picnic salad flavor from the vinaigrette, but is refreshingly different with healthy flavors and not overpowering. Thumbs up!
They carry a line of Maine Root sodas. The Blueberry is fantastic! It’s packed full of natural blueberry flavor. I love it! Thumbs up, way up!
Taco Asylum makes their own Aguas Frescas. The flavors change with the season, but we got to try the Blackberry Strawberry. It was not too sweet but was quite refreshing. I almost tasted like a fruit flavored iced tea. Thumbs up, way up!
Grab a round of tacos, choose from their craft beer selection, and pull up a chair. Hold on tight as your world tour is about to begin at Taco Asylum!
Atmosphere: 5 out of 5 stars
Décor: 5 out of 5 stars
Service: 5 out of 5 stars
Food: 5 out of 5 stars
- Happy Hour: Monday-Friday from 2pm to 6pm and from 9pm-11pm, $3 draft, $2 off cans, and $1 off tacos
- Flight of first eight tacos on the board is a great deal so you can try a variety for your world tour.
- Taco Plate: any two tacos + “rice” + “beans
- Mimosas every Sunday: $6, featuring Sofia Blanc de Blancs Sparkling Wine and fresh-squeezed orange juice
For more information:
2937 Bristol St Ste B102
Costa Mesa, CA 92626-7994
- Hours: Daily from 11am to 11pm