Rediscovery: The Golden Truffle

Legal spirits overdue but welcome at this bastion of gustatory improvisation

We slip into seats at The Golden Truffle’s newly licensed cocktail bar. “How ’bout some goat curry?” asks the chef, the inimitable, pre-Y2K Alan Greeley, arguably O.C.’s first outside-the-box fine-dining guru. Before we order a single drink, he plunks down steaming ramekins of fragrant braised goat over white rice. Thunderously spicy, the heady stew is a warm welcome on a chilly night, and somehow doesn’t interfere with the potent drinks that follow. Bartender Tom Conant mans the cramped bar-counter and ably mixes the classics with a tasteful upgrade, say, using fresh cara cara orange juice in a screwdriver.

Legal spirits are long overdue here at Costa Mesa’s 31-year-old bastion of gustatory improvisation. But it was all about the wine when Greeley first rattled the scene. “I never saw the need for cocktails then,” he says.

One night, instead of kibitzing with the chef, we order from the daily menu, which still offers mainstays such as wilted spinach salad, and macaroni and cheese. Before our (relatively) conventional dinner of sea bass and veal schnitzel arrives, an amuse bouche of heirloom radish carpaccio dazzles the palate. The razor-thin, translucent radish slices dotted with jade-green olive oil and a crack of black pepper are unexpected and bracing, and pure Greeley. Sweet onion and silky buttermilk dressing transform tomatoes and crunchy gem lettuce into the best iceberg salad of the year—no blue cheese or bacon necessary. Entree portions are huge and include flawless buttery whipped potatoes no mortal can resist—all the better to soak up those adult beverages we’ve dreamed about all these years.

Best New Dishes
Whatever Greeley’s riffing when he’s in the kitchen, Tuesday through Saturday nights. Wednesday is Soul Night, a three-course menu from a region or country, $25.

Complimentary appetizers at the bar, 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. The wine list offers unique bottles curated by Greeley—just don’t trust the website list, copyright 2007.

1767 Newport Blvd., Costa Mesa, 949-645-9858

Two-and-a-half Stars

Photo by Priscilla Iezzi

This article originally appeared in the May 2013 issue.

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