Turner New Zealand - dinner - March 4, 2006

There are a number of fine dining establishments that we enjoy, and for better or worse, we keep discovering new ones, with even more that we have yet to try. Turner New Zealand was a recommendation from someone who had read one of the other restaurant reviews on the site. After perusing the restaurant's menu, this was definitely a place that piqued our interest, especially with the variety of entrees that were available. The occasion of a milestone birthday seemed to be a good reason to try out this new restaurant. When I found out that a friend's SO shared the same birthday (different year), we decided to have a joint birthday dinner there.

Turner New Zealand is located in Costa Mesa, across the street from the South Coast Plaza Mall and close to the Orange County Performing Arts Center. A structure conveniently located nearby provides parking for Turner New Zealand, the Performing Arts Center and the nearby Westin South Coast Plaza as well as other adjacent businesses.

We arrived shortly before our 7pm reservation. As we waited to be seated, the various Turner employees who walked by us all greeted us and welcomed us to the restaurant. The restaurant is set up a bit differently than most restaurants. Rather than a large room or rooms, the tables are mostly set up along a long hallway that branches out from both sides from the main entrance, as the restaurant is situated parallel to the parking structure. In the wider sections of the restaurant, tables are set up on both sides of the hallway, but in the narrower sections, tables are only set up on one side. There is also seating outdoors in front of the restaurant. The kitchen also runs along the hallway, and taller people can see over the barrier into the kitchen area. At one end of the restaurant, there is an actual room that has multiple tables in what looks to be a covered patio area. When we were taken to our table, it ended up being in that room. We were joined by our friends shortly thereafter, and as our server took our drink orders, we perused the menu. The server asked if we had dined there before, and we said no, but that celebrating a birthday had been our reason for being there that night. We later found out that several other people in the room were not only having celebration birthday dinners there that evening, but that it was on the occasion of their actual birthday. That dining room apparently turned out to be the birthday room for the evening.

One of the problems being at a restaurant like Turner is that with so many wonderful selections, it's hard to decide what to have. One of the most appealing things on the menu for me was venison (deer). I've only had venison at one other restaurant and have really enjoyed the flavor and tenderness of well-prepared venison, but venison is generally difficult to find on restaurant menus, and I would not necessarily trust ordering venison at every restaurant where it is served.

Ordering at Turner is a bit different than at other restaurants as well. Generally, one would order the entire meal (except dessert) all at once. Here, the server took our appetizer orders first while still leaving the menu for us to peruse. As I was looking at the soup choices, I was surprised at the offerings. Three soups are available: lobster bisque, cioppino and seafood chowder. I happen to love cioppino, but I couldn't imagine having that heavy a dish as a simple starter soup. The seafood chowder also seemed much more than a simple soup. (With bouillabaisse on the entree menu, one could go seafood-wild over the course of dinner.) I knew that the rest of the meal would probably be heavy, so I wished they'd had a simpler soup I could start with, but I decided on the lobster bisque because it did sound very good. (At some point in the future, I know I'll have to order the cioppino and then maybe pair it up with something lighter for an entree.) Another person also ordered the lobster bisque and someone else ordered the tomato and mozzarella cheese salad.


Lobster bisque.


A salad of tomatoes, mozzarella and basil.


The lobster bisque was indeed very tasty, and it wasn't very heavy. It was a fairly generous serving, and the chunks of lobster in the bisque were very good. We were a bit amazed at how large the tomatoes in the salad were, and it got me thinking that a nice roasted tomato soup would be a great addition to the menu.

After our appetizers, we decided to share the seafood sampler. For an entree, I had been torn about what to order, so I decided to splurge and decided to try the entree that combined filet mignon, lamb chop and venison chop. Some of the entrees come with pre-determined sides, and some of the entrees allow the choice of a side. For my side, I picked the asparagus. Another person ordered the same combo but with mashed potatoes, the third person ordered the venison chop with the pre-determined sides, and the four person ordered the lobster risotto.

The seafood sampler was brought beautifully presented on a nice plate with various dipping sauces. The sampler included salmon sushi, oysters tempura, calamari and salmon cakes, with some greens on the side as well. The salmon sushi was absolutely wonderful, very fresh with great flavor and texture. The piece of salmon was quite generous and the piece of rice underneath was quite small, which made this sashimi lover quite happy. The salmon wasn't smoked but as the salmon appetizer is listed as "fire-kissed", I expect that's what was done to ours as well. The calamari was quite crispy and tasty as well. I'm not always a big fan of oysters, but the oysters tempura was pretty good. After having already had the bisque and some bread, I decided to save room for the entree and so passed on the salmon cakes, but others seemed to enjoy that quite a bit. I liked having the greens to munch on in between seafood bites.


The seafood sampler.


You even get Turner chopsticks!


After we had enjoyed the sampler and had a chance to chat some more, the entrees arrived, and they looked amazing.


Turner venison chop with curried organic potatoes and sauteed organic asparagus.


Lobster risotto.


Filet mignon, venison chop and lamb chop.


A side of asparagus.


A side of mashed potatoes.


I could not tell from just looking which was the venison chop and which was the lamb chop, so we asked the server. I'm familiar enough with having lamb, but not with venison, so I might have been able to tell once I had tasted both, but I wanted to start with the venison. The venison was absolutely incredible. Over the past multiple years, I have come to enjoy my red meats less cooked, so I now generally order them medium rare. With the rarer cooking, I have discovered that you can better taste the flavor of the meat itself, and the meat also tends to be more tender. I then tried some of the lamb chop, and while I did enjoy it, it was actually cooked a bit more than I had asked for. Under other circumstances, I might have brought that to the server's attention, but I was enjoying the rest of the meal enough that it didn't really matter. When I had the leftovers from the lamb chop a few days later, it was still very tasty though. I knew that in ordering the combo, it would be more than I could finish that night. I was specifically interested in the venison and lamb, so I had figured on saving the filet mignon, since I knew that beef would keep, but I hadn't been sure how well venison and lamb would keep. But, I still did want a taste that night. There are other restaurants where I can have really good filet mignon, but nothing compared to what Turner was serving. The texture and flavor and tenderness were just amazing. The other person who had ordered the combo said that he had also thought about saving the filet, but after having a taste and discovering how good it was, he was already finding himself close to finishing it. I gave a taste of the filet to the two others at our table, and they agreed on how good the filet tasted. I did end up taking most of the filet home, and when I had it several days later after heating it in the microwave, there was still great flavor and tenderness in it. I was also quite happy with the generous serving of asparagus as the side. There were enough stalks that I had plenty to satisfy myself and be able to share with the others as well. The asparagus were also nicely cooked so that they weren't mushy or overdone.

The person who had ordered the venison chops was equally happy with his selection, and he savored the flavor of the dish. The person who had ordered the risotto was also pleased with his selection. Some of us were a bit surprised that the lobster risotto didn't just have bits of lobster in it, but rather, it was a whole lobster tail on top. Guess those of us who hadn't ordered the dish hadn't read through that menu item very well. We thought the flower on the side of the dish was a nice touch, and we were amused when they later boxed up the leftover risotto and included the flower in the to-go container.

After thoroughly enjoying our entrees, the server came by to ask about dessert, so we perused the dessert menu. After the meal I'd just had, I didn't want anything too heavy, and I was close to passing on dessert. When I asked about the ice cream, the server mentioned that the ice cream was made in-house, and fresh-made ice cream has been something I've appreciated in restaurants, so I opted for that. The three flavors of ice cream were chocolate, vanilla and peach. Two others in our group ordered the bananas flambe, and the other person ordered the chocolate souffle.

When our desserts were brought, the two of us celebrating birthdays that night each had a candle in our dessert, and we later discovered that both desserts had been comped. The server mentioned that because of the candle and the slight wait for the other desserts, my ice cream had begun to melt slightly, and he offered to replace it with a fresh one, but it wasn't a big deal to me, so I declined. While the others at our table raved about the vanilla ice cream that had been included with the other desserts, I was particularly fond of the peach ice cream which had really good peach flavor, and the boldness of the chocolate ice cream was quite good as well. The blackberries were also a nice touch. The two who had ordered the bananas flambe enjoyed their desserts, as did the person who ordered the chocolate souffle. The server explained how to make a hole in the top of the souffle and then the cream could be poured in to mix with the molten chocolate.


Birthday ice cream.


Bananas flambe with vanilla ice cream.


Chocolate souffle with fresh cream and vanilla ice cream.


During the course of dinner, we never felt like we were waiting for any significant time for our next course nor did we feel rushed. However, with the leisurely time we'd spent there, it was just about 11pm when we left. A four-hour meal sounds like a long time, but it certainly didn't feel like it, and it was worth it to savor and enjoy each course. While the service wasn't perfect (there were a couple times when we had to remind the server about a drink order, but when reminded, he apologized for the delay and promptly brought what had been ordered), it was definitely stellar. Our server was friendly and knowledgeable about the food, so that when we had questions, he was able to answer them. The runners and bussers were also very efficient and friendly.

This is a restaurant that I would definitely recommend, but this amazing night of dinner does come at a price, literally. The restaurant is definitely on the expensive side but understandable once you know that all of the meat is raised in New Zealand and imported to the States. All of the meats also come from animals that are grass-fed and naturally raised without hormones or other chemicals. And that is certainly borne out in the taste of the meats. Of course, the final cost of dinner will vary depending on what one orders as an entree and whether any appetizers or desserts are ordered. The entrees are generous enough that lighter eaters could share a dish, or one could order an appetizer as an entree and perhaps a soup or salad as a starter. For those who have not had venison or lamb and don't want to order an entire entree not knowing if they'll like it, ordering the meat sampler is a good way to get a taste of each, especially since you don't have to order your entree until after you've gotten your appetizer. Or, in the case where you're ordering either a meat or a seafood dish as an entree, you can order the opposite meat or seafood sampler as an appetizer to share to get a taste of the other food. In any case, this is certainly the perfect restaurant for celebrating a special occasion where you can enjoy good service and great food.

Turner New Zealand is open for dinner Monday thorough Saturday from 5pm to 10pm. The restaurant is located at 650 Anton Boulevard, Costa Mesa, CA 92626, (714) 668-0880. Here's a link to the restaurant's main site. From there, there are links to the lunch and dinner menus (though no dessert menus are available on the site). Reservations can be made online or by fax or telephone. Fresh meats can also be ordered via the website to be shipped directly to you or as a gift.


Send a comment


Back to Restaurant Reviews.

Back to home.