Vaca Amar Santana Park Tower Vaca restaurant Vaca Costa Mesa Vaca
695 Town Center Dr. (Bristol St.)
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Cuisine: Spanish / Tapas / Small Plates
Celebrity chef Amar Santana’s South Coast Plaza-adjacent Spanish venue delivers dishes marked by bold flavor and enticing complexity.
Openings: Lunch Mon.-Fri., Dinner nightly


Vaca, Costa Mesa, CA

Vaca Restaurant Review:

Sleek, narrow and cozy, this wood and earth-toned eatery has a distinct metropolitan vibe that fits right in with its South Coast Plaza and Segerstrom Center surroundings. The theatre and arts crowd like to gather here before the show for cocktails, dinner and a little pre-show stargazing --- specifically, the opportunity to see executive chef and former “Top Chef” contestant Amar Santana in action. Even if a glimpse isn’t caught, his presence is nonetheless quite present through his array of Spanish tapas and main dishes. His well-earned reputation for pushing OC diners beyond milquetoast refinement through bold flavor composition drives the menu, a sentiment that ultimately makes it essential dining. There’s plenty of ways to properly start a meal, from the on-point simplicity of the toasted bread with garlic and tomato pulp to the fork-tender warm Spanish octopus with fingerling potatoes. However, it’s utterly imperative that you find room at your table for the smoked chicken cannelloni with duck liver sauce and sherry reduction. Santana’s expertise with beef is a treat, particularly when it’s applied to the hanger steak or skirt steak. There is also a quartet of massive paellas to choose from; we recommend digging into the meat-centric option, which is loaded with chorizo, pork belly, duck confit, beef cheek and blood sausage. Be sure to save room for the flan for dessert. A well-composed list of Spanish wines is available for your perusal.