RUSTIC MEDITERRANEAN ALONG CAHUENGA CORRIDOR
Hollywood can always use another go-to dining option and less mega clubs, and along Cahuenga Boulevard, that’s exactly what happened when nightclub Wonderland shuttered and Madera Kitchen opened in its space.
Gone is the decadent club and in its place, a welcoming restaurant with a lovely outdoor patio. The pretty white lights visible along Cahuenga Boulevard shine like a beacon to a relaxing location offering great and tasty dishes.
From restaurateur Milton Sznaider, who also owns café Solar de Cahuenga on the corner (at Franklin Avenue), is Madera Kitchen, which offers a daring and comforting eclectic menu. While I’m not a big fan of their cocktail menu, nor wine program (with so many wines to choose from there are only 11 offered by the glass…they’re really pushing people to buy bottles, although their corkage fee is only $20 so bring your own bottle!), the cuisine is really solid.
During our recent visit for dinner, we started with a nice Burrato with tomato jam, green garlic and pine nuts. This is from their Meat.Cheese.Bread section of their menu. Usually I’m not a cheese plate or even charcuterie guy—sure I like them but they seem like an added expense to dinner. Nonetheless, this was really tasty.
Time for drinks and we started with the Discernment Blue made with Chivas Regal, agave, lime, pineapple, mint and a hint of saffron. I found this too sweet and too fruity; not how I like my cocktails. Also, the cocktail list really needs improving—it’s too wordy and in some cases doesn’t even list the ingredients in the drink (I hate that!).
The Word Up (love the name) is a spicy blend of Don Julio Blanco, lime, jalapeño, and Green Chartruese. If you don’t like drinks with bite, be careful, this one has sharp teeth.
From the Share Plates section of the menu, we went with the fantastic Grilled Oysters with black kale, golden raisins, and pine nut breadcrumbs; Grilled Octopus with charred spring onion, crispy lemon, and aioli; and the Little Gems with golden beets, speck, avocado, red onion and Chile vinegar.
The Grilled Oysters were utterly terrific. I really liked this unique take on a popular dish, and likewise, the Grilled Octopus was light and wondrous. And the beet salad was not to be outdone as it’s a definite winner—so light and fresh and delicious. I highly recommend it.
Going back for another round of drinks, I found the Zacapa Flip, made with Zacapa 23 rum, ruby port with an egg and a pinch of salt, too sweet. My favorite drink of the night was the classic Martinez, the “Father” of the martini made with sweet vermouth, gin, bitters and maraschino. This one is stiff and packs a wallop—very nice! This is how I should have started my night.
A great dish to share is the Wild Mushroom Flatbread made with Humbolt Fog, Cavalo Nero, and thyme. Think cheese and mushroom extravaganza! It’s filling so if you’re ordering one just for yourself, this is probably going to be your meal, so share, enjoy and try more menu items.
From the Pasta menu, we went with the Sheep’s Ricotta Ravioli served with English peas, fava beans, and bacon jus. This is another hearty dish, so it’s best to share if you’re looking to try more than one item. Share the Little Gems, flatbread and pasta and you have a fine dinner for $40 (bring your own bottle of wine for $20 and you’ve scored!).
One more round of drinks meant the misfortune of tasting the too sweet Green Dolphin made with Grey Goose, Hendricks, lemon, basil and cucumber (how did they go wrong?). The Fanciulli, their take on the Manhattan, made with Bullit Bourbon, sweet vermouth and Fernet Branca was mediocre—think bad Manhattan. It probably doesn’t help that I’m personally over the Manhattan craze.
For our entrées we went with the Roasted Half Chicken, served with black garbanzo, Fresno Chile, soffrito, and escarole, and the Slow Roasted Pork with Brussels sprouts, dates, thyme, and balsamic. These were paired with a decent wine. Their by the glass selection isn’t that impressive. I could have paired better with my wines from home (wish I knew).
The Slow Roasted Pork is a menu favorite. I’m a big fan of dates so I found that to be a nice touch. Tender and tantalizing, this one is hearty and just divine. The chicken is a great choice if you’re eating healthy. But it’s more than just a guilt free option; it’s also a solid menu option.
For dessert, I was compelled to order the Chocolate Flan (two favorites of mine) but unfortunately the dark chocolate overpowered the flan flavor and instead it tasted more like a brownie—not a terribly bad thing, just not what I wanted.
While the food rocked and the cocktail list disappointed (keep in mind they have a full bar that can make all your favorite drinks), I was impressed with the setting and atmosphere, which is so far removed from a nightclub as you can get. The patio is a new favorite hangout and the solid menu really helps create a great night out in Hollywood.
Madera Kitchen is located at 1835 N Cahuenga Blvd. Open daily 6pm to midnight; Thurs-Sunday until 1am. Call 213-261-3687.
Story by Jose Martinez
Photography courtesy of:Madera Kitchen