Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Saturday Night at Mas Malo

Mas Malo
515 W. 7th Street - 1st Floor
Los Angeles Ca 90014

(213) 985-4332

After striking out at SugarFish Saturday night, we strolled down 7th Street to check out the newly opened Mas Malo. I was taking C out for a belated birthday dinner and ultimately the venue is less important than the adventure, so we were game.  Mas Malo was packed but they got us seated within 10 minutes sans reservation. Nice work!  In case you haven't heard, Mas Malo is the downtown offering by the same crew who've provided us Silverlake's Malo all these years.  I stop in at Malo a few times a year; for birthdays, happy hour or sometimes when simply strolling by on a Los Angeles walkabout. They're famed for their tequila collection and slightly white washed Mexican food. Never been unhappy with anything at Malo. Pleased to have Mas Malo downtown in a great partying neighborhood, with my house more or less equidistant from both right smack in the middle.


We were digging on our margaritas. We tasted two kinds: on the left is the Spicy Cucumber with Casa Nobles Silver tequila, cucumber, organic lime, agave nectar and Tapatio hot sauce and on the right is the Puro Organico margarita with organic lime, 4 Copas Blanco tequila and agave nectar. Both were outstanding. I will return just for a drink.


Of the menu items we sampled my favorite was the salsa flight. Five kinds of salsa with your choice of crispy or chewy tortilla chips.  We requested chewy and they brought us both.  In the very top left corner of the photo you can almost see the Chile Negro y Chocolate (mole) salsa then clockwise from top left are a Pico de Gallo, Burnt Habanero y Crema (my favorite), Serrano Chile y Tomato, and Tomatillo.  The mole and habanero salsas were both a lot of wow on the tongue. Woot! The tomatillo and chile with tomato nowhere near as hot but I found the tomato salsa to be pleasantly reminiscent of a ranchero sauce.  The pico de gallo was fresh and picante!


C and I both ordered the red snapper sauteed in a light brothy sauce. Generously portioned, as you can see. The menu offers sides such as yummy organic vegetarian spanish rice with delicious organic pinto beans as well as organic refried and black beans.  The one criticism I have is that the protein on my plate could have been a lot smaller and for less money than what it cost to portion out that massive amount of fish they could easily have plated some rice and beans for almost no cost. Maybe the intent is to eat family style.  Next time, C and I decided, we will share a main and a couple of the veggie sides. I am dying to try their Elote 'Echo Park Corn on the Cob'.

I really enjoyed Mas Malo, the food, the drinks. But the stand out hit of the night was far and away the excellent service. This is casual service in a casual restaurant. No one is going to set your place with three sizes of forks, two spoons and two crystal drinking glasses or linen.  You might have to ask for extra napkins. But. Every need and whim we had was very well attended to. Our server was adept at handling several small tables and two large (one very) parties at the same time. A bus person checked in with us frequently and even took D's food order when he showed up late.  A cocktail runner came by when my drink was almost empty asking if I needed a refill. I said, "No, maybe in five minutes". Literally, in four minutes and fifty-eight seconds she came by again asking if that was the right amount of five minutes. And so it was.  I like that every person working at Mas Malo acted like serving us was their job no matter what the task. 

Brilliantly done, Mas Malo. Welcome to DTLA.

Mas Malo in Los Angeles on Fooddigger

Friday, February 4, 2011

Top Cheffage: Antonia's Mussels

antonia's mussels
time for dinner

If rabid Glee followers are called Gleeks, then would Top Chef addicts foaming at the mouth and in the early stages of delirium tremons around 7 pm every Wednesday be called Top Cheeks? Doesn't have quite the same panache, now does it?


mussels, precleaned

This week's episode was a great one although the Quick Fire was maybe the dumbest thing on TV, paralleled in uselessness only by Isac Mizrahi's The Fashion Show. Well, not completely useless. We got the satisfaction of hearing Dale say he doesn't give a shit what a bitchy queen who doesn't eat thinks about the way his food looks. OK, I admit it. The idiocy of the Quick Fire was completely entertaining. And Antonia's winning mussels looked amazing.

antonia's mussels1
parsley, garlic & fennel, shallots

I used to make mussels for D when we were courting. I would make a classic Belgian preparation, with white wine and lots of garlic and butter. Sometimes I would throw in a jalapeno pepper and some stalks of lemon grass while easing up on the garlic, and maybe add a little bit if coconut milk. I haven't made them in years. Yet, they are quick and easy and D love love loves them.

antonia's mussels2
1) saute shallots, garlic, red pepper flakes, fennel seeds and salt in olive oil, 2) soften sliced fennel bulb in mixture with butter added, 3) add liquid and bring to simmer, 4) reduce and add herbs

Bravo printed Antonia's recipe, as interpreted by Rick Moonen. I threw them together after work last night in about 30 minutes while watching Notting Hill in the kitchen. I am turning into my mom. Because I was making mussels, I wanted to make the changes to the recipe in black. I used green instead, for clarity.

saute mussels in reduced liquid with lid on for 2-4 minutes

1 bunch parsley
2 pounds black Canadian mussels
1 teaspoon chili flakes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 fennel bulbs, shaved thin
1 tablespoons garlic, chopped
2 sprigs marjoram
salt, to taste
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups white wine
1 cup clam juice

supper's on

I helped D with his Spanish class while we ate, and eventually fell asleep on the couch leaning over a pile of flash cards.


Yo sueno en la  sofá con frecuencia.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

First Thoughts on Aburiya Toranoko & Reflections on Diplomacy

Aburiya Toranoko
243 South San Pedro
Los Angeles, CA 90012


I'm pissed off at Ed Hardy. If it weren't for his ubiquitous motif seen everywhere from the strip malls of the OC to the Jersey Shore I wouldn't have felt like I walked onto the front of an Ed Hardy tee when I walked through the doors at Toranoko.  I should have had the opportunity to feel stimulated by the neon irezumi mural and more gently appreciated the way the visual spread softly through the room away from the mural like the subtle edging of a well done Japanese tattoo. Not to say I didn't like it, I do like the look of the room. But trucker caps and motocross tees kept popping into my mind instead of the muscular thickly irezumi'd arms of a sushi chef I enjoy on Oah'u. Stupid Ed Hardy. I'll have to get over it, I guess.

One of my favorite bartenders in LA has made the move from Hatfield's to Toranoko to run the long bar along the south wall. Curtis is that perfect balance of professional yet personal. He remembers to ask about your hobbies, chit chats a little with you about his own family, is engaging and interesting yet never forgets to make sure you are happy with your drink/food/bar nap. So glad he's tending closer to my house again. (We originally struck up a friendship when he was slinging drinks at Vermont in Los Feliz years ago).

The food was good last night.  Things I liked: shishito peppers generously treated with softly quivering bonito flakes, a hamachi sashimi with pops of yuzu on top, yam oden in a light pickle style broth (new to me, interesting, tasty), clam miso soup (standard but good), hotate sushi (perfection). I also ordered the agedashi tofu, the largest one I have ever seen in a beautiful dashi. Soft creamy tofu, thin skin that melted away as you ate. Delicious. Have someone to share it with! And the french fries. I didn't read the description and didn't order them and there isn't a menu online. But damn, it tastes good to eat a french fry! French fry, what up? It seemed like they were made from an already baked potato.  Thickly square shaped, crispy on the outside but so light and fluffy on the inside. Oh, my. Yes.

The service was beyond friendly, but a little hapless. I can completely forgive this because every single person from hostess to bus person went above and beyond to make sure we were having a great time and getting what we needed even though the food came out of the kitchen in a rather haphazard manner. I won't go into details, we still had a great time and enjoyed the food & drinks.

Skip the ankimo. Coming from me, shocking I know. The syrup it's served in overpowers the wonderful natural flavors of the liver. I prefer the more traditional ankimo in a ponzu with a little shaved radish and roe, the way it's served at Hama Sushi..

And deep thoughts this morning...Diplomacy is not an overrated concept. Just because there is an idea in one's head and a mouth with which to express it does not mean that all ideas must be verbalized. Not that I am above putting my foot in my mouth and I probably do more often than I realize. However, saying something someone doesn't want to hear in a nice way is a huge part of my profession. My dear friend K is gifted in the skill of thinking before she speaks. It makes the words she chooses to say more meaningful. Because of this I highly value her opinion. Speaking for the sake of hearing one's own voice, while certainly entertaining at times for others, often leads to speech without prior consideration.  It can be hurtful, and potentially worse, make you sound like an idiot. So. Sometimes. Some people should reconsider before stating a potentially hurtful or completely uninformed but strongly worded opinion and just shut the fuck up.

Aburiya Toranoko in Los Angeles on Fooddigger