My wife took me to a new restaurant last night to celebrate my birthday; Turner New Zealand in Costa Mesa. Turner New Zealand (Gayot Review) is a high quality steak and chop house specializing in free range meats, fish, and game. I have had a Turner steak before; they supply some of the best restaurants in the world with prime cuts of beef and lamb, so I knew I was in for a good meal. It turned out to be one of the best meals I’ve ever had. For those of you who know me well, you know I’ve eaten in some of the best restaurants in the world, so saying Turner serves a good meal is pretty significant.
We arrived at Turner early so we were seated at their small bar for drinks. My benchmark for price/value is the price of a pour of 18-year-old “The Macallan” Scotch. The Yard House charges $9 per pour, Turner charges $15. A bit more expense, but the restaurant is small and in a high rent district next to the Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa.
My meal consisted of shared Oysters Tempura ($13), Lobster Bisque ($13), Rack of Lamb ($39) and a shared Pavlova ($12) for desert. My wife had a small Beef Filet ($28). The meat was perfectly prepared to order. I tried a piece of the filet, it melted in my mouth; perfect! The rack of lamb was succulent and flavorful; I have never had better. The desert was interesting. Pavlova is a traditional New Zealand dish. It is a meringue shell filled with cream and topped with fresh berries. I liked it, well kind of anyway. It was tasty, but it won’t replace crème brulee or a good piece of Spanish flan. Overall, we dropped about $165 on our meal, it would have been about $50 more with a bottle of wine. It was worth every penny.
The staff was professional and well trained. I did not notice them, which is a good thing when having an intimate dinner. The restaurant is small, with a long and narrow dinning area off an isle running parallel to the street. They also have outside seating. Seating is limited, reservations are mandatory. To get a reservation, you must call and leave a message requesting time and date, they call back to confirm or cancel. My wife booked a couple of weeks in advance. They recommend business casual as their dress code, but most of the diners I saw were dressed semi formal and looked to be heading for the theater after their meal.
My benchmarks for best restaurants are Le Grande Cascade and Le Pre Catelan in Paris’s Bois de Boulogne. Turner comes close in terms of the food, but misses on ambiance. Turner feels very OC to me, which is to say, not very Parisian.. I would put Turner in the same class as Gene & Georgettis in Chicago or my favorite steakhouse, Hugo’s Cellar, in Las Vegas.