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The Clubhouse- Costa Mesa: Labor Day at South Coast Plaza

Having seen the recent Station Fire cover up Mount Wilson and our surrounding area with its thick smoke, and in return making us closing the windows for a continuous three weeks due to the smoke, we decided it was worth going out on Labor Day weekend to Orange County, where the air quality was "good", and not "moderate" (actually worse with the smoke smells) in our area.

We expected people to be flowing in with their cars to South Coast Plaza with the Labor Day events, sales, and weekend, even though we were going to arrive before lunch. Every time we have gone to South Coast Plaza, there was always a wait for the nearest spots to the mall entrances.

Empty Parking Lot at South Coast Plaza
(Facing the street from the parking lot at Nordstroms)

Most definitely not this time.

To our amazement, approximately 75 percent of the parking lot closest to Nordstroms was completely empty. Sliding into a parking space was easy as cake. Even the main streets for cars to move around were empty. There were no lines at the stop sign intersection at front of Nordstroms. At all of our previous visits to South Coast Plaza, there were at least 10 cars waiting at the intersection. Not today.

How could you call this even a Labor Day weekend? Did people go on holiday and go out of the OC? After all, the vibe going on was way less compared to our local Westfield Mall (which always seems to have the parking lots full on the weekends, and shopping is horrendous). That is scary. What happened?

Walking around in South Coast Plaza, we found out the amount of people walking around was still less than normal. However, there was more traffic at the other sides of the mall compared to Nordstroms. Nordstroms was not flowing with customers. We had no problem walking around at all. A very unusual visit at South Coast Plaza most certainly for us at the time.

As we walked towards Bloomingdales a sign to go to the restaurant named "The Clubhouse" popped up. Since we already were close by to it within footsteps, we decided to have lunch there. It would be a revival of a visit that I had about 6 years ago. Although we did have other restaurants to choose from looking at blogs with easy to find restaurant locators (after all a smartphone doesn't allow for easy navigating with its small area, and going to page to page at the archives takes too much time to load onto a phone which will suddenly do weird things...) like, Cindy's Food Makes Me Happy, and Elmomonster's Monster Munching, as well as restaurants that we remembered reading about previously, going to those restaurants would involve more walking and/or driving away from South Coast Plaza (and then get into a parking fiasco). The Clubhouse it was for lunch.

Exterior Entrance
(Side Entrance)

We were promptly seated after we had gone to the cashier's desk, and actually had our own selection of tables to choose from! Again, another unusual thing. Previous visits always had a wait of some sort and no choosing of table. The opposite happened this time.


As we settled down, we noticed the two story interior which had a multitude of details to it- full pane windows, intricate moldings and details at the walls, small and private sitting areas, and the various themes of colors. What a nice place.

Sourdough Bread and Fresh Butter
(the first portion of sourdough bread and freshly piped butter)

Sourdough Bread with butter Slice
(The butter spread onto the slightly oily and salty slice of bread)

A basket of warm sourdough (?- tasted like it) bread which was slightly slathered in a thin coating of salty oil along with a ceramic bowl of creamy, fluffy, and soft freshly made butter came to our table as our asked for our drinks order. The bread had semi-hard crust that was chewy and a soft interior, which all became a bit too salty for our tastes which their coating of oil that was salty. On the other hand, the butter was of the freshly made variety, and thus it was ultra creamy, fluffy, sweet. Yum! We did ask for a refill of the bread and what we got back was double the amount of bread you see in the photo; too much too eat.

Passionfruit Green Tea from the Republic of Tea

Speaking about drinks, our server gave us a selection of iced teas to choose from from our inquiry about it. We picked the Passionfruit Green Tea by the Republic of Tea (5 USD) and it was served in a bulbous stem glass with a slice of orange and ice. The iced tea however was very bland for our tastebuds. There was a fruitiness from the passionfruit, but the tea flavor was non existent. I think the reason is that the tea had zero calories. Yes, zero. No wonder why there was not much taste.

The ice water here was not normal either. Each glass of water tasted great with a thick wedge of lemon to go along with it. I also found a white and black striped fly in my glass. How did that get into the glass, I do not know. The busboy immediately gave me a new glass free of bugs as soon as I told him about the situation. Good service!

We ordered later on (service is a bit slow- and the clientele here seem to be very relaxed), and the waitress kept saying words like "you made a great choice" or "excellent". How nice. We did not order an appetizer for this visit as the portions here are very large, in contrast to other restaurants at around the same price range. Also, the appetizer that we liked (mushrooms with goat cheese) had vanished.

While we were waiting we ate more of the bread. It was about a 12 minute wait before everything came to our table. So, in the meantime, we took a glance at the dessert cart.


The servers will roll the cart after you finish your meal to your table so you can glance at what to have for dessert. We were not fond of having any dessert but did take a glance at it while we were waiting. Unlike some restaurants, all the food was edible! At first to me it looked fake, but then as I got closer I could smell the flavors of the desserts.

Kobe Burger

All of our items arrived at once, and the first item that went onto the table was the Kobe Burger, which according to the website consisted of an 8oz. Kobe beef burger, Monterey Jack cheese, watercress, tomato, caramelized onion, garlic aioli, and a brioche bun. We also got to select either coleslaw or french fries as the accompaniment to the burger. However, the server also suggested having both together- and so we did. No extra $$$ added, and yet the servings of the coleslaw and fries did not go down by half.

Closeup of Burger
(Closeup Shot)

The burger was extremely thick and was cooked longer than what we suggested (medium) to our server. The Kobe beef was juicy, but also charred on the outside. Charring is one of our dislikes when having meat (Would you like cancer please?), and this came with too much for our liking. We scraped it off.

The cheese and caramelized onions added components of flavors and textures to the meat, and the watercress gave a nice crisp texture to the burger. The bun however, was again not to our liking, as it was very dry and the meat to bread ratio was off. Too much bread to eat!

Overall, we felt like we should have ordered their cheaper burgers at 13-14 dollars each. The meat and the bun made the dish not as good as it would have been!

On a side note, both the cole slaw and fries were very good. The cole slaw was light, crisp, and slightly creamy from the dressing, and the fries had a soft center and a crisp exterior. Salted properly too.

Basil Orange Salmon

My other dining companion ordered the Orange Basil Salmon (19 USD), which according to the website has: atlantic salmon, orange glaze, red skin mashed potatoes, asparagus, orange beurre blanc, and basil oil. As you can see in the photo, the asparagus was substituted to broccoli, which was clean and crisp. I was not able to try the beurre blanc and basil oil but did try a sample of everything else. The salmon had a sweetness from the orange and basil and the orange zest placed on top of it gave a nice fragrant flavor to the salmon. The meat itself was very tender and fatty, unlike Sockeye salmon which we have been eating for a bit (at sale at Costco for only 6 dollars a pound...and it is wild!), as well as having a crispy crust on the outside. Good dish to order here- our server gave the happiest reaction when we told her we wanted this dish.

Blackened Chicken and Shrimp Jumbalaya Pasta

Last but not least, I ordered the Blackened Chicken and Jumbalaya Pasta (14 USD), which according to the website has: blackened chicken, andouille sausage, shrimp, red onion, green pepper, spicy tomato sauce, orzo pasta. I was very happy with this dish. Not only was the serving size larger than CPK's rendition of the dish , the flavors were more pronounced, and there was more meat- tons of shrimp, sausage, and chicken! So much to the fact I felt there could have been more orzo pasta, which was cooked to slightly over al dente but was still chewy. The spicy tomato sauce (not really spicy- more like mild/medium for me) gave the dish a rice richness and the orzo pasta soaked up the sauce. The green peppers and onions gave the dish a bit of perkiness from all the rich and bold flavors from the sauce and pasta. As expected, the shrimp was cooked to a nice crisp and retained its own flavor (and not overpowered by the sauce), and the chicken had plenty of seasoning and was not ultra tender unlike places that add chemicals to the chicken (good sign to see that it is natural). From all the dishes I have to say I liked this the best! My dining companions agreed. Sometimes cheaper is better :).

The check arrived sluggishly in 10 minutes after we told the employees almost five times to get our check. It just seems like we were in Turks and Caicos again! I mean friendly, but exceedingly relaxed and slow service. If you like a quick paced dining experience then you will probably dislike the Clubhouse.
Overall, the experience was very good. Not only were the prices congruent to what they gave back in return, the food was tasty with a few problems. We'll be returning again, but due to our limited eating in the OC we will definitely be trying other places so we have more restaurants to blog and share our experiences on for your reading.

The Clubhouse
3333 Bristol Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Clubhouse - Costa Mesa on Urbanspoon

P.S. As we left South Coast Plaza at 3PM, the parking lot at Nordstroms was about 90 percent filled. Still, no crowd of cars waiting for a parking space. However, the portion of the mall where an event was going on near Macy's, the parking lot was full there. Interesting pictures of human nature to see- even if it is just looking at different parking lots.


Unknown said…
The desserts look delicious!! I'd like to try the salmon - very hard to get good salmon in Chiang Mai, although we have rainbow trout farmed here...Your descriptions of the dishes are very mouthwatering. I've just had dinner and I'm feeling hungry again! ; )
elmomonster said…
I never got why servers always try to commend you on your choice, like it's a contest.

And this confirms what I heard about Clubhouse (I've never been). They seem to be very lax in service.

At least you got a chance to breathe a little fresh air.
Novy said…
those desserts made my mouth water. Sorry to hear about a less than stellar burger. I had the same disappointment at burger bar LV (did i miss something?).

Oh and btw, free day at the arboretum today. Your headline pic reminded me .
EatTravelEat said…
Thanks! The salmon is a good choice, but whenever when we think salmon we think of our local options in our area which are much cheaper than the Clubhouse's version, which is farmed, not wild salmon. I guess I am very lucky to get a wide choice of yummy salmon in my area :).

Haha...what the server told me was when I picked my dish was if I was afraid of the dish being spicy! No commending at all.

Service here used to be very attentive with the servers (along with the busboys), but now the servers are lazy. We asked for our check probably at least 5 times. They wanted to show us the dessert cart first apparently, but we told them not to.

I should try one of their desserts shouldn't I!
foodbin said…
it is really tough to bite into a burger when the bread are too thick-i'd prefer lean and flat ones.
KirkK said…
Hey ETE - I just read that this place is closing at the end of the year? Too bad, the food looks promising.
EatTravelEat said…
Same here on the bread, but I also hope for the bread to be soft. Maybe it is because I eat too many burgers that have soft buns and not ones with different textures!

Really?! Was not expecting that to happen. After all they are a small chain of restaurants. That will be sad for them! They have stayed in the area for so long already.
joanh said…
i really want a piece of that chocolate cake right now. i've always parked near that area, but never eaten there.. might have to give it a try next time (though we usually end up at lawry's carvery. hahah)
EatTravelEat said…
I've been wanting to try Lawry's Cravery too! I forget about going there though as we usually don't walk to that area of the mall often on our visit to SCP.