Nathaniel Nguyen’s Morning By Thasos in Costa Mesa

Real Life is Better Than TV

Remember Nathaniel Nguyen? I did a post last month about his appearance on ‘The Taste’ cooking show. A self-taught chef with experience that ranges from fine dining to food truck, the Huntington Beach resident has taken over the kitchen for breakfast at Thasos Greek Island Grill in Costa Mesa from 8 a.m. to noon on weekends. I’ve meant to stop by since our chat, and finally got the chance last weekend. While the savory waffle and butter-poached shrimp he offered Anthony Bourdain and Nigella Lawson on TV is, sadly, nowhere to be seen (and believe me, I looked), there’s plenty else to choose from on his succinct “Morning by Thasos” menu.

While his future plans run from pop-up suppers to owning a full-on brick-and-mortar, for now you can see his work at this cheery, small space across the street from South Coast Plaza. His goal is to offer healthful foods with premium flavor—his mimosa, for instance, is made with your choice of fresh-squeezed citrus. Eggs, as I’ve mentioned before, are in my Top 5 favorites, and the two topping my breakfast sausage hash ($9) were perfectly poached. The hash itself—roast sweet potatoes and parsnips, bell peppers and onions, fresh herbs, and either chicken (loukaniko), or beef (bifteki) sausage—is something special. It’s a rare breakfast dish that’s so full of vegetable love. The smoked salmon pita, at $10 the most expensive item on this very moderately-priced list, is a playful take on the traditional bagel-lox-cream-cheese trifecta: A thick, flat, Greek-style pita is layered with lebne yogurt cheese, smoked salmon, kalamata olives, red onion, and tzatziki, topped with dressed baby arugula, and another of those aforementioned eggs. Delicious.

Both the chicken and beef sausages are made in-house, with seasonings that reflect the restaurant’s traditional Greek menu. “I was glad there’s a grill here, because I think grilling the sausage gives another level of flavor to the dish,” Nguyen says, and he’s right. Both are good, with charry stripes that add flavor and texture that’s pretty irresistible. There are breakfast items from the sweet side of the spectrum, too, including gluten- and dairy-free multi-grain pancakes ($7) made with brown rice, buckwheat, and quinoa.

I’ll be interested to see where Nguyen’s plans take him. Follow his Instagram account for the latest news, where photos of his dishes are creating far-flung fans—he expects brunch visitors from Vancouver who saw his work online, and others from L.A. For now,  though, O.C. can claim him.

Morning by Thasos3940 S. Bristol St., 714-708-3000

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