I’ve been looking forward to Chef Linh Nguyen’s Wu-Tang Clan pop up at Mesa Lounge since he announced it earlier this summer. I grew up listening to the Wu, Shaolin’s finest rap collective, and can still rap the entirety of the song “Triumph”—though a few lines get a little hazy these days.
The same goes for Nguyen, who might as well have come from the 37th Chamber. His love for these beats and rhymes goes back to when he was 10 years old. Inspired by music and memories, Nguyen—along with Ashley Guzman, his former cohort at the North Left, and current Pastry Queen at Irenia—delved deep into their catalogue to deliver 6 fresh cuts complete with drink pairings.
Nguyen, who is Foodbeast’s house chef, told us he’s about to become Executive Chef again somewhere in Santa Ana. If this is the kind of creativity he’s producing, I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Orange County next.
The dinner is one in a series dubbed “Chef’s Table.” Dishes are themed around famous musicians, and has featured Mesa Executive Chef Niki Starr (David Bowie) and On the Lam Chef Aron Habinger, also of the Crosby/North Left (Sade). Sublime received the honor last month; Bob Marley and Misfits dinners are planned for September and October.
I haven’t been to Mesa in many years—since before they put the name on the building—but the place was bumping, the drinks were beautiful and the pizzas and seafood looked delicious. I’m definitely going to return for the regular menu.
Nguyen greeted diners with an explosive energy and exuberantly explained each course. He gave us a tip—the dishes were connected to each other somehow, by an element or intention, to create an overall harmony in the meal. Nguyen and Guzman wowed with perfectly charred vegetables; sweet and spicy hamachi; tender tri-tip with a vegetal, fresh carrot top pistou; and a decadent dessert that was basically like eating money.
The Tiger Style runs strong in these two.
Course 1: “Can It All Be So Simple”
Roasted Tokyo Turnips, Miso Brown Butter, Black Sesame, Turnip Greens, Crunchy Garlic | Paired with Anna de Codorniu Sparkling Cava
Course 2: “Ooh Baby I Like It Raw”
Hamachi, Blood Orange, Quinoa, Compressed Melon, Mint, Chili Threads
Pairing: Rum, Montenegro, Blood Orange, Lemon, Thyme
Course 3: Da Mystery of Chessboxin’
6 Minute Scotch Egg, Bulgogi Sauce, Kimchi Puree, Shiso, Furikake
Pairing: Gin, Melon, Lemon, Shiso Mint, “Smoke”
Course 4: Wu-Tang Clams Ain’t Nuthing to F*** With
Manila Clams, Spanish Chorizo, Tomato, Fennel, Harissa, Thai Basil
Pairing: Tequila, Grapefruit, Lemon, Cucumber, Thai Basil, Jalapeno
Course 5: Tri-Umph
Wakame, Tri-Tip, Burnt Onion, Rainbow Carrots, Carrot Top Pistou, Fried Enoki Mushroom, Radish Sprouts | Paired with Smith & Hook Cabernet Sauvignon
Ashley Guzman brings out her dessert course!
Course 6: C.R.E.A.M. (Peep that “W”!!!)
Hazelnut Dacquise, Caramel Namelaka, Black Truffle Ice Cream, Edible Gold
Paired with Apple Brandy, Aged Rum, Vanilla, Falernum, Ancho Reyes, Nitro Cold Brew, Chocolate Bitters
Even the house band chimed in and got down with the Wu!
G’s up, killah beez out!!
725 Baker Street
Costa Mesa, Ca 92626