A Costa Mesa restaurant is cleverly mixing comforting and familiar diner staples with pan-cultural options from Asia and Latin America. Toast Kitchen + Bakery opened several months ago in the space formerly occupied by the venerable Golden Truffle, which closed in 2017 after 37 years.
Toast partners Ed Lee and John Park call their restaurant a modern American diner, but many menu items feature Asian-inspired twists.
Expect a uniquely varied menu that includes pork belly (bok choy, pickled carrots, daikon, chili hoisin sauce), roasted cauliflower (mole negro, fig agrodolce, shaved milk chocolate) and avocado toast (lemon ricotta, pickled cauliflower, radish, flowering kale, popcorn shoots, citrus olive oil).
There’s an impressive lineup for those Taco Tuesday cravings, including street tacos (fried fish, carnitas, carne asada) and a pumpkin chorizo taco (poblano chorizo, roasted butternut squash, pumpkin seed salsa, creme fraiche, peppered corn nuts).
The Cajun shrimp and grits, which includes tater tots and jumbo lump crab, is stellar, as is the fried chicken and waffles.
Park tested 75 fried chicken recipes before settling on the offering at Toast. The chicken was perfectly crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside — among the best I’ve had. He’s taken that kind of perfectionism to the whole menu, which he says is full of “stuff I like to eat.”
When it comes to brunch, Toast doesn’t disappoint. Enjoy Thai chile chilaquiles (pulled pork, Thai chili salsa verde, hibiscus pickled sauce, queso freso, sous vide egg), Nutella-stuffed French toast, a breakfast burrito, orange chicken and a black sesame waffle.
Park is a veteran of the L.A. dining scene — he founded the Quenelle ice cream shops — and has worked in Orange County at Providence and Water Grill. With Toast, he knew he wanted to offer familiar options.
“There’s something about diner food,” Park said. “You know what you’re going to get. It’s comforting.”
Toast Kitchen features a full bar that pours a surprisingly perfect margarita. And to satisfy your sweet tooth, Park and Lee have also set up a small shop next to Toast called Fill, which offers malasadas (a type of Portuguese doughnut that’s popular in Hawaii), coffees, ice cream and mochi doughnuts.
Extensively remodeled, Toast Kitchen looks nothing like the Golden Truffle, which featured an eclectic Caribbean-influenced decor, murals, bookshelves, a wine cellar and the owner’s personal mementos. The space is now sleek, bright, white and airy with exposed pipes and other industrial touches.
Lee brings major experience to the mix as a partner. He’s one of the founding brothers behind Wahoo’s Fish Taco, which started in Costa Mesa before reaching international heights — there’s now a location in Japan — today. Lee also owns the Tackle Box restaurants in Costa Mesa and Corona del Mar.
I recommend trying Toast Kitchen for some eclectic finds in a fun, family-friendly atmosphere. It serves brunch, lunch and dinner.
IF YOU GO
What: Toast Kitchen + Bakery
Where: 1767 Newport Blvd., Costa Mesa