Review of La Vida Cantina at The Triangle in Costa Mesa
Where El Corazon Failed, La Vida Cantina Takes off
La Vida Cantina pleasantly surprised me with great food, service, and a fun atmosphere. La Vida Cantina is a great fit for the Triangle and the missing puzzle piece for it’s revitalization. The previous occupants of this space, El Corazon, failed miserably both in terms of food and service. There were grumblings that high-end Mexican cuisine was not a good fit for this space, although La Vida Cantina proves this wrong.
La Vida cantina is a completely new restaurant, not a reboot. The new owners stepped in and completely remodeled the location to include a very large patio with large palapas, heat lamps and fire pits. The restaurant still has a smaller dining room, although for the Southern California lifestyle, al fresca dining is the way to go.
I really liked the décor of the interior and exterior. The design borrowed from traditional Mexican folk art, Mexican pop-art and a healthy dose of California casual. I really like the massive fireplace with the Dios de Los Muertos skulls.
Food at La Vida Cantina
The basic menu at La Vida Cantina is what I would characterize as modern Mexican cuisine. Although all the dishes have very traditional elements, the modern spin on the dishes is apparent. There is an obvious Calficornication of the dishes, although the dishes still remind me of my Grandma’s preparations.
Tostaditas de Ahi
This dish is essentially mini ahi tostadas, although they eat like a fusion dish. The dish is constructed with a crispy mini tostada shell topped with creamy chipotle sauce, shredded cabbage, and what tasted like a poke made with raw ahi tuna, mango, cilantro and Serrano peppers.
Each tostada is topped with avocado slices. I really like the complex flavor layers of sweet, spicy, and smoky in each bite. The tostaditas are refreshing and perfect for an appetizer for light meal.
Enchiladas del Mar
This dish was a good value for the seafood provided. The enchiladas were plump with crab and shrimp, providing plenty of shellfish in every bite. The enchiladas are topped poblano sauce, avocado, cotija, and artistically drizzled cream.
The dish is served with white rice and black beans. The Langoustine meat chunks were beautifully accented by the semi-sweet poblano sauce which provided sweetness, acidity and a very low level of sizzle. $20
Quesadilla de Langosta
The quesadilla was impressive. It is stuffed with cheese and big chunks of Main lobster, which are sauteed with onions, garlic, mushrooms, poblano peppers and white wine. The quesadilla is garnished with chipotle cream, cotija, and cream. Each bite had chunks of lobster and the poblano peppers added the perfect amount of sweet and sizzle to the dish. This dish is a wonderful choice.
Other Main Courses
Aside from the seafood enchiladas that we ordered, there are also plenty of classic dishes like fajitas, fish tacos, sopas, tacos and soups. I was pretty impressed by what we ordered, so I expect the rest of the dishes will be excellent. Prices range from $11-20, which are good prices for the food.
La Vida Cantina Cocktails
The cocktails at La Vida Cantina is worth the visit alone; although, if you are not careful you can exceed the cost of the food by ordering too many cocktails. With that said, they are worth the price tag of $12 each.
Blackberry Jalapeno Margarita
This margarita is sweet and spicy, just like me. It is made with Don Julio Reposado Tequila, fresh blackberries, jalapenos, agave nectar and lime juice. I like the play between aromatic sweet from the berries and bit from the jalapeno. This is a very well balanced margarita. $12
Although this is a sweeter margarita, it is balanced. With that said, it was not my favorite of the cocktails we ordered. My wife really enjoyed it, although she likes this type of drink. It is made with Patron Silver, agave nectar, fresh blueberries, basil and lime juice. $12
The Spa Margarita
This Margarita sounded refreshing, so it was perfect for the warm evening. Just like any good spa water, it is made with lots of mint and cucumber. In addition, it has Tres Sietes tequila, Herradura agave nectar, lime juice. $12
Desserts at La Vida Cantina
Overall their dessert menu is relatively small; although the desserts that we tried were delicious.
Creamy Berry Crunch
This is essentially a berry sundae, made with vanilla bean ice cream and served in a crispy cinnamon tortilla bowl. The mixed berry coulis is poured on top and garnished with whipped cream. Overall, this is a good dessert for $5.
The Churros are house made and served with a house made caramel. After my first bite, I as excited and let slip out, “Wow that was the best churro I ever tasted.” I am not sure if it is the best churro I ever tasted, although my reaction was genuine, it is a dam good homemade churro. The exterior was very crispy and the interior is soft and creamy.
It had a balance of sweetness and a hint of salt in the flavor profile. It is served with a house made caramel sauce that added another dimension of sweet and salty.
My Final Thoughts about La Vida Cantina
If you are searching for the best and most authentic Mexican food ever, perhaps you should visit Downtown Santa Ana. If you are looking for very good modern Mexican food served in a fun upbeat environment, then definitely hit up La Vida Cantina. I definitely recommend La Vida Cantina. I really liked our attentive service, the ambiance and especially the food. La Vida Cantina permanently exorcised the ghosts of El Corazon from this location. Judging by the Newport crowd filling up the patio, the local community loves it as well.
La Vida Cantina Address
1870 Harbor Blvd, Costa Mesa, CA 92627