Costa Mesa, City of the Arts: Vaca
Vaca is a the latest restaurant from executive chef Amar Santana, who has competed as a front-runner on Bravo TV’s award-winning “Top Chef” series. In fact, Santana, an alumnus of the former Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdales in South Coast Plaza, was named in 2015 as one of the most influential people in Orange County by the Orange County Register.
Vaca is authentically Spanish, serving everything from mouthwatering tapas and savory paellas to freshly cut steaks and ocean-caught seafood. Ninety percent of the food is jet-flown from Spain.
Some of the savory dishes are Paella De Mariscos, with a healthy serving of ocean-caught clams, mussels, shrimp and octopus with saffron bomba rice. The Paleta Iberica Fermin is thinly sliced shavings of cured Iberian boneless ham shoulder. And the steaks are sourced from Aspen Ridge Farms in Colorado, and cooked over a crackling orange wood-burning fire.
Santana runs a kitchen that prides itself with hard work and passion. “This is heaven,” said Santana, when asked of what work feels like managing Vaca. “This isn’t work for me.”