Who is well-spoken, has worked for both Thomas Keller in Napa and Brian Malarkey in San Diego and is changing things up in Costa Mesa? That would be one Carlos Anthony at Taco Asylum. If you didn't know that the asylum broke off from the Haven Collective (Haven Gastropub and Provisions Market in Old Towne Orange), now you do. Owner Ace Patel and his tight-knit team have reworked the menu and are ready to rock and roll, kicking off their newest creations last week.
The most obvious changes to the menu are price and selection. Six-inch tortillas, crammed with meaty classics like carnitas or vegetarian with roasted peppers and black beans start at $3.75. The most expensive bites are a shrimp duo, either pad thai or wasabi style for $6.75. Hover over your metal serving tray, since tasty morsels will spill out (or suffer the consequences, like my dress did).
Of course, I didn't want to forget more fanciful flavors like their bacon pb & j with pickled Fresno chili, duck in Oaxacan mole (an Anthony family recipe) or their flaming hot Firepig with red jalapenos. Vegetarian tastes can order a curried paneer or brie and mushroom combination. I was almost taken aback by fresh fried potato chips and spicy 'n sweet dessert nachos. Their goal to broaden the scope but maintain character is reached.
If you haven't been back in a while, now is a good time to check things out. When ordering your beer, be sure to inquire about their chef's prescription. Last time it was headcheese. Future specials may include mako shark and a few other surprises. Yum!