Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Magnum Crew at Pal Cabron (Los Angeles, CA)

Magnum at Pal Cabron
3337 1/2 W 8th St, Los Angeles, CA 90005
Wed 02/16/2011, 07:30p-12:15a

Pal Cabron Exterior
Jaded Angelenos may bemoan the advent of yet another pop-up restaurant, but when said pop-up involves former Bastide chef Joseph Mahon along with infamous "wine pimp" David Haskell, you can't help but be somewhat intrigued. Ever since Mahon parted ways with Bastide last December, he's been hanging around with Haskell, and the two were just itching to work on a project with each other. The end result of the collabo was the unfortunately-named Magnum Crew, which first popped up at K-Town's Biergarten December 13th and 14th last year.

This latest iteration brings the Magnum Crew to Cemitas y Clayudas Pal Cabron, also situated in Koreatown. The location at 3337 and a half West 8th was formerly the home of the original Guelaguetza, but was transformed to its current state by Bricia and Fernando Lopez in October last year. This Pal Cabron, of course, follows the mold of the original, which opened in Huntington Park back in 2009 (also taking the place of a Guelaguetza, but which has since shuttered). Look for Magnum to pop-up next time at lounge-y Indian eatery Nirvana in Beverly Hills.

Natura Bar Bricia Lopez
Since we arrived early for our reservation, Pal Cabron's lovely Bricia Lopez took us next door to NaturaBar, where she graciously doled out samples of her Oaxacan ice cream. Flavors include standbys vanilla and strawberry, but also Oaxacan chocolate, coconut-pineapple, tuna (prickly pear, not the fish), and an inimitably savory burnt milk.

Magnum at Pal Cabron Menu
The base menu for tonight offered up four courses, priced at $48, plus $27 for wine pairing. In addition, extra courses were available at $8 each, or one could go whole hog and enjoy all courses and all wine for $120, plus $20 extra for foie gras (which we did, natch). Click for a larger version.

Assisting Mahon in the kitchen this evening were Lemon Moon Executive Chef Jonathan Moulton and future Ink chefs AJ Ramirez and Klein Debow, not to mention expediter Sam Kim.

Poached Shrimp
Amuse Bouche: Poached Shrimp | Onion-Apple Custard/ Chicharrones
Our amuses did arrive on plastic spoons, but fortunately that didn't distract us from the flavors at play. I was first struck by the savory smack of the chicharrones (fried pork rind), then enjoyed the subtly tangy relish of the custard and how it paired with the shrimp. Just a lovely mélange of tastes and textures, and I appreciated how the shrimp firmly remained the star of the show here.

1: Pozole | Romaine/ Mint/ Radish/ Lime
2008 I Favati: Fiano di Avellino, Italy: Fiano
Pozole refers to a type of Mexican soup, dating back hundreds of years, traditionally made with limewater-soaked and hulled maize, pork, and various spices. The potage showed off a hearty, umami-tinged nose, and upon tasting it, I loved its rich, bold flavors. The pork, tender and teeming with porcine sapor, was the focal point for me, and I really enjoyed the balance provided by the lettuce and mint especially. The corn, meanwhile, grounded the dish, and served to impart some textural play to things. Interestingly, upon consuming the pozole with our paired wine, we noted a distinct, almost blue cheese-like funkiness on the finish, which Haskell tried to liken to an "unrefined milkshake." Very nice; I wanted a bigger bowl.

Roasted Beet Salad
2: Roasted Beet Salad | Crispy Veal Tongue/ Wild Arugula/ Pumpkin Seeds/ Creamy Feta Dressing
2009 Luigi Giusti "Le Rose di Settembre": Marche, Italy: Lacrima di Morro d'Alba
I'm no fan of beets, so I wasn't exactly looking forward to this course. Fortunately though, the liberal application of crunchy, salty veal tongue helped to temper the sweetness of the root veggie, and I enjoyed the countervailing flavors of the bitter arugula and luxurious feta. Even better were the pepitas, which lent a light smokiness to the dish, as well as a pleasing crunch. The wine pairing here was fairly dry, but with a slight strawberry tinge, and was meant to complement the flavor of the beets. The effect Haskell described when taken with the feta was one of "strawberries 'n' cream."

3: Scallop | Crushed Avocado/ Chickpeas/ Spicy Tomato-Mussel Broth/ Cilantro
NV Drusian: Valdobbiadene, Italy: Prosecco
Scallop arrived perfectly cooked, and I couldn't help but take a whiff of the bivalve's intensely saline, salty aroma. Biting in, I adored the scallop's creamy, subtly rare consistency and strong ocean-y savor. The mollusc's inherent brine was enhanced several fold by the mussel, yet moderated by the creaminess of the avocado and tempered by the earthy chickpeas, all under the overarching tanginess of the dish's tomato-based broth. The wine pairing here was arguably Haskell's best of the evening. The Prosecco had an almost non-existent finish when drunk alone, but the dry sparkler did a great job in linking up with the fat in the dish to form a long, creamy back palate.

Chilled Poached Shrimp
4: Chilled Poached Shrimp | Cabbage/ Grated Horseradish/ Tomato-Ketchup Sauce/ Oranges/ Peanuts
2009 Valle Isarco "Suditrol-Eisacktaler": Alto Adige, Italy: Pinot Grigio
You could almost think of this as the best shrimp cocktail that you've ever had. I quite enjoyed the snappy consistency and mild flavor of the shrimp, and how they were perked up beautifully by the application of that spicy "cocktail sauce." Meanwhile, the lettuce formed a great temper to the dish, and I loved the nutty accent of peanut, as well as its crunch. Haskell stated that the combination of dry fruit and spice in the wine would bring out the fruitiness of the course. However, I actually felt that the wine's alcoholic notes were highlighted when consumed with the shrimp.

Bricia's Private Reserve Mezcal in Gas Can
Haskell pouring us some of "Bricia's Private Reserve" Oaxacan mezcal.

OG Foie Gras Cemita
5: OG Foie Gras Cemita por My Last Bite: Jo Stougaard
Oaxacan Mezcal
Pal Cabron's namesake cemita is a sort of Mexican sandwich, oft associated with the city of Puebla. Though they're usually filled with beef or pork, Mahon's version used foie gras, layered with cheese, avocado, chipotle, and toast on the bottom. It was actually a very well-balanced preparation of foie, as the power of the avocado did a fantastic job in moderating the heft of the liver, all under overtones of sweet smokiness from the chipotle sauce. The pairing of mezcal was an interesting one, with the smoky essence of the liquor playing with the chipotle to form a "barbeque"-like character.

Poached Egg
6: Poached Egg | Fried Pig Ears/ Black Beans/ Scallion Creme
Francesco Rinaldi: Grignolino d'Asti, Italy: Grignolino
Poached egg and pig ear--it's hard to go too wrong with these ingredients. Indeed, the gorgeously runny egg stole the show here, and was deftly moderated by the earthy black beans, while the orejas added crispy bits of saltiness to the fray. My only complaint was that the ears were a touch too crunchy. As for the wine, I found the Rinaldi rather thin and watery at first, but the food definitely helped to give it more body and weight.

Cemita Toast Sop It Up
I wanted some bread to sop up the hot mess of egg yolk that was left on my plate, so we were brought out some more of that delightful cemita toast.

7: Squid | Chorizo/ Cucumber/ Jicama/ Sesame Seeds
2005 Tenuta Badia di Morrona "Vinsanto": Terricciola, Italy: Trebbiano, Malvasia Bianca, Colombana
Squid was absolutely delectable, with a lovely snap and brine leading to the savory spice of its chorizo stuffing, all countered by the refreshing lightness of cucumber and jicama. I was reminded of a preparation of squid that I'd had recently at Lukshon. Concerning the vin santo (an Italian dessert wine), Haskell was going for a "McGriddles"-like flavor combination here with the chorizo, but I didn't quite get it.

Flank Steak
8: Flank Steak | Cactus Salad/ Chilies/ Grilled Corn Sauce
Valle Dell'Acate "Il Moro": Sicily, Italy: Nero d'Avola
Our last savory course brought us Mahon's flank steak, a cut that's popularly used in fajitas (which, by the way, isn't a true Mexican dish). In any case, I quite enjoyed the beef. It was tender enough, with a lovely char and slight bit of smoke. It went beautifully with the restrained tartness of the nopales, as well as the crisp onion ring, but I found the corn sauce a touch sweet.

9: Flan | Pineapple/ Vanilla-Caramel Sauce
Hakutsuru Brewing Company "Sayuri": Nigori Sake
We finished with flan, with the dessert showing off its prototypical sweetness, augmented by pineapple and nicely accented by the tangy bits of mint. Haskell paired a nigori (unfiltered) sake with the course, and its sweet, floral flavors were meant to complement the pineapple, completing the "milkshake" theme mentioned earlier.

David Haskell Stripping Piñata David Haskell Molesting Piñata
Diana Takes a Whack Chuy Busts Her Open
Towards the end of the meal, Haskell and company decided to undress the somewhat misogynist piñata out in front of the restaurant, and several of us had a whack at it. However, it was none other than Jalisco native Chuy Nomas of Arandas Importers (distributors of Real de Mexico tequila) that finally busted her open.

Clay Stranger & Candy
Seen here guarding the bounty is Clay Stranger of Dos Conejo Imports, who's currently in the process of securing the rights to bring a number of Mexican mezcals into the US.

I'm not sure how long these dinners will continue, but rumor is that all this pop-up hullabaloo is preparation for Haskell's upcoming restaurant, tentatively titled Magnum-DH. Quite frankly, it's about time he got back in the game. We all remember him working at the likes of Vertical, STK, and Bin 8945 (he was managing partner), but his résumé is legit, including stints at Aubergine in Newport Beach, Aquavit and Le Cirque in New York, and Guy Savoy in Paris. In any case, if the cooking gangster is in the kitchen, and it certainly seems like he would be, then things are looking up for Magnum.

Pal Cabron Interior


Anonymous Darin said...

Good to see you - definitely a promising meal for Magnum. It was a pretty fun and playful meal, and I enjoyed a number of the dishes, most notably the squid.

Friday, February 18, 2011 2:36:00 AM  
Blogger david haskell said...

Kevin I owned BIN.

Friday, February 18, 2011 9:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think the real question here is why is there a condom on the foie cemita?

Friday, February 18, 2011 1:08:00 PM  
Blogger glutster said...

nice wrap up Kevin, it was nice running into you as always.

Saturday, February 19, 2011 1:20:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Darin: Indeed; I'm glad Sam dragged me out. Any plans to return to Magnum 3.0?

David: Got it. I've modified the post accordingly.

Daniel: Oh, it was just meant to be used as a condoment.

Javier: Nice seeing you too. Who was that girl you were with? The "lovely juncture?"

Saturday, February 19, 2011 2:57:00 AM  
Blogger Sam C. said...

Thanks for coming out dude. Wanna do 3.0?

Saturday, February 19, 2011 11:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Mike M said...

any reason why there's a magnum on the plate ?!? lol

Saturday, February 19, 2011 1:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Mike M said...

Nevermind I get it now didn't look at the title lol

Saturday, February 19, 2011 2:00:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Sam: Sure. When is it going to be? You setting it up?

Mike: Strangely, I was the sole diner to receive a Magnum XL.

Monday, February 21, 2011 12:57:00 AM  
Blogger Sam C. said...

David Haskell said it'll be in early March, but I have yet to see anything over it....yet

Monday, February 21, 2011 9:49:00 AM  
Anonymous Kat N. said...

I find that pinata offensive and very misogynistic. To add insult to injury, the doll was naked...adding to the disturbing visual. I would not eat at any restaurant that allows or encourages patrons to beat a female pinata. LA has plenty of other good restaurants that don't do this.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011 2:30:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Sam: Looks like the next one's March 6-10. See here.

Kat: In their defense, the pinata was indeed dressed initially. It was only Haskell who removed the clothes at a later time.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011 2:58:00 PM  
Blogger Helena said...

A Piñata of a naked woman in a restaurant, hanging there to be hit?? Horrible! Not only am I offended, I am disgusted. I totally agree with Kat N. and so do a lot of other women. I don't know what idiot thought this was a good idea, but they couldn't have been more wrong. This is totally unacceptable behavior.

Thursday, February 24, 2011 9:49:00 AM  
Anonymous Leni said...

In whose defense, Kevin? Haskell is Magnum and that was his sick choice.

Thursday, February 24, 2011 10:43:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Helena: Pretty sure it was Haskell's idea, as he's not exactly known for his discretion or sensitivity.

Leni: Pal Cabron, not Magnum.

Thursday, February 24, 2011 5:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Leni said...

Pal Cabron have nothing to be defended against, they weren't in charge of these antics. We're they? It was Haskell and Mahon. So again, who are you defending? Not Haskell and Mahon (who has a baby daughter, right?) who you already called out for being misogynists. There is NO defense for this behavior. None at all. Abusing women is sick and wrong and we all should stand against it.

Thursday, February 24, 2011 7:29:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Indeed. It seemed like there was an implication earlier on that it was Pal Cabron's idea.

Sunday, February 27, 2011 2:11:00 AM  
Blogger david haskell said...

Excuse me I have a mother who i love and i think you should ask my friends about my sensitivity. When you know me then you can comment on my sensitivity. The pinata is a fun thing that many had at birthdays etc. We had a football the first night and trust me i like football. Kevin if you have any questions twitter me and you and I can sit down and have a chat. I suggest you do that before you attack me personally, without ever knowing me.

Sunday, February 27, 2011 4:56:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

David, I'm not trying to attack you. You're right in that I don't know you that well. All I know is what went down at Magnum. And come on, when I inquired about the nigori sake, you replied that you "didn't cum in it." That doesn't say much for tact, and you know what, I'm totally fine with that. We all had a good time, and pointing out that your trademark style may be offensive to some isn't a slam on you. As for the pinata, it was of questionable taste. I wasn't terribly put off by it, but I certainly understand how others (such as some of the commentors above) would be.

Monday, February 28, 2011 1:45:00 AM  
Blogger david haskell said...

Kevin, we can discuss this off-site and maybe over a glass of wine. My email is

Monday, February 28, 2011 10:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, while link surfing from Kevin's Son of a Gun review I found this review. Having lived near Bin and VERY much enjoyed our food (old chef from Norman's?) there, the one thing that kept us from going more than once or twice was observing David Haskell in a work environment.

I do not know him (and don't really want to), but I did observe him and how he talked to his staff. Just. Not. Cool.

If he came up with a truly amazing restaurant, I'd be really torn between trying it and skipping it altogether. And I'd say I'm 90% leaning towards the second option.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011 10:45:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

What happened at Bin that you took issue with?

Saturday, March 19, 2011 4:17:00 PM  

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