Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Magnolia - Best Mac and Cheese / Beet Salad in LA

Deceptively simple, but abundantly satisfying - Mac and Cheese is a comfort food that brings out my not-so-well-hidden inner kid.  This is a dish that doesn't need to be complicated to be amazing - Magnolia understands this and has worked its magic to serve up a grown-up version that doesn't feel like it's trying too hard.
Magnolia's Baked Mac and Cheese ($10) has the perfect consistency and weight - thick enough to satisfy, but not so dense that it sinks to the pit of your stomach like a mushy anvil.  My favorite part of the dish - and in my humble opinion - the secret to its success, is in the top layer - Magnolia crisps the top layer of cheese, to offer an abfab combination of crunchy/crisp to creamy smooth in every spoonful.  The portion size is also just right - the Mac and Cheese with a salad is great for a light meal before catching the latest flick at the Arclight (more on that later) - this way I won't be in danger of falling into a food coma while trying to keep up with a movie!

Which brings me of course to the topic of my other favorite dish at Magnolia - the Beet and Avocado Salad ($11) - which consists of roasted multi-colored baby beets tossed with balsamic vinaigrette and roasted pistachios.  I have to start by saying that I am not a 'salad person' - and until recently, have been a bit of a snob about it:  where is the art in chopping and tossing a bunch of raw vegetables together?  But I quickly became a convert after two milestone tastings:  Petrossian's Foie Gras Haricots Verts, and Magnolia's Beet and Avocado salads.  The skill of the chef lies in his/her ability to select ingredients at their optimum state, that complement or bring out the best in each other in texture and taste, and include them at the right proportions.  The artistry reveals itself in the balance of colors, and the delicacy with which the chef casts brush strokes of flavor across the canvas of the plate.  In this case, all elements are picture perfect (though of course I get so intoxicated with this dish that I always forget to document it with a photo!).  The golden and red beets are at just the right consistency, and tossed in at perfect bite-sized pieces among the fresh mesclun.  The pistachios add a nice crunch, counterbalanced by the buttery creaminess of perfectly ripened avocado.  Have I already (over)used the word perfect to describe this salad?!!

My fellow diners will usually order the mac and cheese or a grilled artichoke as a starter and an organic homemade Turkey Burger ($12) - which they attest to being very tasty. Other entrees run from $16 (Market Vegetable Plate) to $28 (Steak Frites).

As I mentioned earlier, we do always end up grabbing a quick, light bite here before a movie at the Arclight Hollywood, which is just a block or so down the street - totally within walking distance (and you can conveniently park in the structure next to the theater!).  The Arclight is my favorite cinema chain - though I don't love the higher prices, it does tend to draw a less rowdy crowd - everyone here is of course willing to pay a bit more for a respectful environment where you can truly enjoy a movie without obnoxious phones going off, late-comers disrupting your view of the screen, or people who feel most comfortable conversing in the dark while everyone else is silent.  Magnolia fits in nicely with this theme - the atmosphere is 'relaxed upscale'.

The other perk of dining at Magnolia is that it is a great place for a "spot the star" game - though not a place frequented by A-listers, we've run into 'is that really...or just someone who looks like...' celebrities every time we've come in, from Gabriel Aubry (of Halle Berry baby daddy fame) to Topher Grace to David Henrie from Disney Channel. 

All these things combine to make Magnolia a great pit stop in a low-key night out in Hollywood - I highly recommend it!

On a 7 point scale:

Flavor - 6.5 bites
Presentation - 5.5 bites
Originality - 5 bites
Ambience - 5 stars
Service - 6 stars
Overall experience - 6 bites
Price - $$$ (3 bite marks)
Probability of return visit - 100%

Magnolia Hollywood
6266 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, CA 90028
Ph: 323.467.0660
OpenTable: Look for reservations

Magnolia on Urbanspoon

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