Gyutan Tsukasa

I’ve been going to the Costa Mesa Mitsuwa since I was a very small child (well, more like taken there most of those times). I can recall at least two renovations and various changes in the restaurant lineup―I do quite miss the big Zen rock gardens from my childhood―but it’s always remained a fun place to eat and shop. Gyutan Tsukasa is the most recent addition to the food court, taking over a spot that seems to change a bit more often than the others, but I have high hopes for it.

Gyutan is Japanese for beef tongue (it literally translates to “cow tongue”), and Tsukasa means something along the lines of “chief” or “government official.” The rest of the name on their sign roughly means “grilled specialty store.”

So a place that specializes in grilled beef tongue. Now that’s what I’m talking about.

The menu at the Costa Mesa location is more limited than the regular menu at their locations in Japan, but there were several items labeled coming soon, and I imagine the menu will further expand over time.

I needed something fast and portable so I opted for the lunchbox. I loved it! Just tongue, mixed grain rice, and two types of pickles. They do have pre-made ones if you’re really in a hurry, but I had time to wait for a hot one. The preparation is simple, but its origins are anything but, the tongue coming all the way from Australia and grilled over Japanese charcoal. The grilling method obviously yields a chewier result than, say, lengua, and the char flavor is a great complement to the rich and tangy tongue. The portions of each component were all well balanced―I didn’t find myself with lots of rice left over after everything else was gone―and I liked that there were both spicy and just pickle-y pickles.

I like a nicely assembled lunchbox.

Also, here’s the Yelp page for this location, as the official site doesn’t seem to have anything about this new US location.

Break of Dawn: Kangaroo Sausage

After quite a long time of hearing about Break of Dawn and having friends highly recommend it to us, we finally tried it! We loved it, of course.

Now I’m always the first to come to Orange County’s defense when someone starts calling it a “culinary wasteland” or “land of chain restaurants” (those are both actual insults I’ve heard), but even I was surprised that a restaurant of this caliber is nestled in the quiet, slightly rundown Laguna Hills Mall. We met friends for a birthday brunch, and as soon as we sat down, we were off. The attentive waiters immediately took orders for starters and drinks (see Break of Dawn Part II).

Interestingly, this was one of the few times I had difficulty deciding what to get. Everything sounded, and looked, as I could see on surrounding tables, great. But a closer reading of the menu turned up a surprise. Beef tongue!

The name of the dish may not shed much light on its actual form, but I sprung at the not-so-common chance to eat one of my favorite meats in a non-Mexican setting. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was very pleased with what was set before me: a stew! Yes, a stew for breakfast. I can honestly say I had never thought of that, and I have had some unique things to break my fast. I’m probably more surprised than I should be, to which I can only say “I am as god made me.”

Upon eating, I was even more surprised to find flavor the likes of which I hardly ever find outside of my house and my mom’s cooking. The dish obviously had much thought put into its construction and preparation. Everything had its place. The beans, the two proteins, the romano cheese, and even the egg all played in the orchestra that was playing the symphony of flavors in this dish, conducted by Chef Dee Nguyen.

Cajun baked beans, beef tongue, fava, bourbon, romano.

Cajun baked beans, beef tongue, fava, bourbon, romano. The crust (I use that term with love) of rustic bread was a nice touch too.

El Fenix: Burrito Lengua

El Fenix was a godsend when it first opened in little ol’ RSM, but thanks to the city’s weird (or possibly nonexistent) zoning logic, it was slotted in just two doors to the left of a well established Mexican restaurant. Fortunately, El Fenix distinguishes itself from its neighbor not only with far superior food, but with a very useful market, the opening of which spawned my family’s Taco Friday tradition. The Reuben’s Tortilleria tortillas delivered daily, hot off the shelf, their wonderful salsas, and great prepared and pre-marinated meats make every Taco Friday an excellent Taco Friday.

El Fenix’s lengua is a lengua verde—nice chunks of tongue in a slightly spicy green sauce, with the tongue’s richness complementing it nicely. It adds a wonderful saucy element to whatever you use it in. Pictured: burrito lengua with rice, beans, serrano salsa, and guacamole.

Maybe not the most photogenic burrito, but it's dang good! Taken from my Foodspotting profile.

Maybe not the most photogenic burrito, but it’s dang good! Taken from my Foodspotting profile.

It went very well with Cismontane Brewing Company’s Coulter IPA and Citizen California Common.