Mastro’s. The name says it all.
Known for their classic steak houses, sophisticated ambience, superb service standards and outstanding cuisine combined with the very best in live entertainment, Mastro’s has always been a distinguished and dynamic epicurean experience.
I have dined at the Thousand Oaks and Beverly Hills’ Mastro’s location many times, but never visited the Ocean Club. So, when Chris and I had an opportunity to meet with Mastro’s Executive Chef Matthew Briggs, a screaming Ferrari couldn’t get me down the PCH to Crystal Cove fast enough.
We arrived in the early evening and sat down with Chef Briggs in the gorgeous atrium within the dining room.
“Chef, obviously Mastro’s has created something very unique in their approach to fine dining,” I said. “How does that help you in your position?”
“Mastro’s philosophy is to provide the best product available and take pride in everything we do,” Briggs stated. “Our design elements, service and cuisine reflect that integrity. But what we think we do better than anybody else is provide quality of service.”
“Well, the tagline at Mastro’s is ‘an unparalleled dining experience,’ and your service really is exceptional,” I commented. “How do you maintain that standard?”
“Our staff is incredibly knowledgeable and goes through rigorous training,” Briggs replied. “We anticipate guest’s needs from the minute they walk in until the minute they depart. We are here to give ourselves to our guests, so that when they leave they’ll say, ‘We went to Mastro’s and that’s the best experience we’ve ever had.’”
“And, I assume that experience creates long-term guests,” Chris remarked.
“Absolutely,” Briggs nodded. “You’ll always have visitors and special event guests who only come out once a year, and we have regular guests who are in here four or five nights a week. But we make sure everyone’s experience is special and unforgettable.”
“And Crystal Cove is special in that it’s only one of three Ocean Clubs, correct?” Chris asked.
“Exactly,” Briggs agreed. “While we are still very well-known for our steaks, we have an expansive fish and seafood menu unlike our steakhouses. The local and seasonal dishes just fly out the door. It’s a treat to give our regular guests something they know they won’t get anywhere else.”
“The view doesn’t hurt either,” I chimed in.
“No, it sure doesn’t,” Briggs acknowledged.
“You’ve been with the company for quite some time, haven’t you?” I asked.
“Six years this past month,” Briggs smiled. “I started in 2003 as a sous chef, worked my way up and got a job at Costa Mesa Steak House. I left to pursue my artistic culinary adventures, but discovered there weren’t many places that had the same philosophy—and the same love of what they did—as the Mastro’s company. Like I said, they do whatever they can to take care of their guests.”
Briggs leaned forward conspiratorially.
“And when the guests are happy, the employees are happy. And when the employees are happy, they do great work—and that’s when management’s happy. It’s a trickle-down effect, and everyone buys into it here. You really have to be good at what you do.”
We moved into the kitchen and watched Briggs prepare two signature dishes.
“This is our 33-ounce Chef-cut Ribeye,” he said, placing the massive steak before us. “And our Lobster Mashed Potatoes.”
“Oh my God, the potatoes are unbelievable,” I said, scooping up another spoonful.
“They should be, with a pound of live Maine lobster sautéed inside.”
“The ribeye is perfect. So tender,” Chris noted.
“All of our steaks come with a very special rub – a magical combination of herbs and spices that truly enhance the flavor.”
“What are some of your other signature dishes,” I queried.
Everything,” Briggs laughed. “Our steaks and sides, definitely: Creamed Spinach, King Crab Black Truffle Gnocchi, Gorgonzola Mac-n-Cheese – those are just a few.”
“Of course,” Briggs continued proudly. “Our famous Butter Cake is one of the best desserts in Southern California and Orange County.”
“You aren’t kidding,” Chris admitted after tasting a bite. “This is the richest yellow cake I’ve ever tried.”
“You’ll have to come back and dine with us again soon,” Briggs invited.
“Not soon enough,” I grinned.
From the superior service, attention to detail and amazing food, Mastro’s and Briggs had left their stamp.
In fact, Briggs’ charm and skill immediately came to mind when my high-school girlfriend called me two weeks later to say she was visiting from the East Coast. I knew in an instant that Mastro’s was the place I wanted her to experience and remember during her visit.
I met her and her husband in the bar where we enjoyed a nice bottle of champagne I brought to celebrate. The three of us moved into the dining room and started with the Seafood Sushi Tower, a combination of lobster rolls, ahi tartare, and ahi, fresh crab and avocado rolls. We then ordered the fresh Chilled Stone Crab Claws, which were the size of our palms.
A shared order of Seared Sea Scallop with arugula and orange vinaigrette set the stage for the main course. .
“Wait until you try the 33-ounce Ribeye, the Lobster Mashed Potatoes and the Butter Cake…” I said, leaning toward them with eager anticipation. “Trust me.”
For more information on Mastros, visit www.mastrosrestaurants.com.