Chef Spotlight: Niki Starr Weyler of Mesa Lounge, Costa Mesa

In Dining by LA Travel Magazine

Step through the doors of Mesa Lounge and you’ll likely be greeted with the aroma of sizzling onions or seared ahi tuna. The mastermind behind these flavorful dishes is none other than Executive Chef Niki Starr Weyler. With a passion for preparing and presenting guests with detailed concoctions, she lights up with a genuine smile when speaking about food.

Chef Niki WeylersmChef Weyler embodies the ambiance that Mesa brings to its guests: creative mind and warm atmosphere.  Although an Orange County native, Weyler accrued her formative knowledge of food from her visits to Alameda with her Great Aunt Bettie. Picking fresh produce from local markets, tasting oysters at the ferry building, watching fresh pasta made in Little Italy, and trying lobster dinners all contributed to her early culinary experiences. While she originally studied nursing at California State University Long Beach, she chose to change career paths and follow her dream of culinary school. Her initial interest in culinary school began when she started to cook Julia Child’s famed recipes. Weyler graduated from San Diego Culinary Institute and then worked at French 75 in Laguna Beach.

Weyler then joined Charlie Palmer restaurant in Costa Mesa, meeting two important chefs who would become her greatest mentors: Amar Santana and Seakyeong Kim. These mentors taught her that playful dishes have no boundary, encouraging her to expand her creativity. It was with her Charlie Palmer coworkers that she would visit Mesa and grow an interest in seasonal cuisine. After Mesa invited Weyler to guest chef at a special wine dinner, it wasn’t long before she received an invitation to become the permanent head chef of the kitchen which she now calls home.

Despite her success as a chef, she remains humble and always ready to learn more. Between her busy hours at Mesa, she finds time to go out and try new foods at other restaurants to expand her ideas on new menu items. Her personal favorite foods to eat include foie gras and pork skin chicharrones.

Chef Weyler describes her food as modern Californian cuisine, inspired by different seasonal flavors. Every dish is prepared with attention to detail, making a meal resemble artwork. Delicious and light, the Ahi Tuna “Tacos” made with fresh ahi, avocado, sirracha, aioli, citrus ponzu, green onion, and watermelon on colorful radish shells are a definite must-try. Her favorite things to prepare are soups—developing the right layers of seasoning for a mouthful of flavor—and searing any type of fish with on to perfect that crispy texture.

Mesa ahi _tacos_smMesa Lounge is one of the best kept secrets in Orange County, located in The Camp shopping center in Costa Mesa. With sleek design and an intimate atmosphere, this restaurant and bar is a great place to unwind and casually socialize in an eclectic venue. From the Lychee Martini to the House Beef Sliders, it’s easy to understand why Chef Weyler’s restaurant draws in both locals and visitors. Mesa features a variety of small plates, ranging from savory appetizers, to market green salads, to meat and fish main courses. Order a wood oven pizza, a few bar bites, or one of the delectable sides. The Wild Caught Shrimp, sauteed with chorizo, white wine and butter on Mediterranean couscous, will surely hit the spot for seafood-lovers. The one-page menu offers an all-star choice of dishes, and the craft bar specializes in everything from reserve wine to draft beer and signature cocktails.

Mesa cocktailsmMesa takes reservations and is great for groups or for dinner dates. The lounge is open Tuesday – Saturday from 7 p.m. – 1 a.m. and the bar is open until 2 a.m. For a culinary experience shining with great service and creative flavors, visit Mesa and taste Chef Weyler’s menu items at The Camp, 715 Baker St., Costa Mesa. Keep an eye out for the bright-eyed chef behind the best concoctions at Mesa, we’re sure you’ll love Mesa all the more because of her culinary star power.