Mala Town- Soft opening

I beat @PorkyBelly someplace!
Soft opening - cash only
I did not have time for a hotpot, so I tried a few appys.

The pork belly was fantastic. Great combo of spice and soy and garlic.
Beef was a little too dry and a lot too salty at first. But when the chef/owner asked me my thoughts and I told her she re-made it perfectly.
Summer Noodles - excellent spice and flavor.

Menu

Pork Belly

Summer Noodles

Beef w/ cilantro and chili

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Hey I drove by, and could have sworn I saw you in there. My eyes did not deceive me.

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You should have stopped.
I was grabbing a bite pre-band rehearsal.

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Place was crazy busy today and they were super under staffed and disorganized. We waited for 1hr and left.

Where is it located?

Sawtelle. Next to Mizu 212 (in the old Beni-Tora space).

Right next to Sonoritas. Where i was sitting on the patio last night eating really smoky rib eye tacos. Really nice looking interior at Mala def want to check it out once it settles in

We were able to snag a table on their second day. Service was still finding its way and I suspect it will take some time to work out the kinks. I’m excited to see a chef-driven project open on Sawtelle.

The cafe is small: A large communal table, a counter running along one side and a few two-and four-tops on the other. The appetizers were all delicious (see @CiaoBob’s writeup) especially the cold smoked scallops and the sliced chicken in chili oil.

Hot Pot is not my favorite cuisine so I wasn’t expecting to be bowled over. But this was really good. The broths are well crafted - deeply flavored, clean, not over-seasoned. We ordered both the Mala and Shanto Beef. The condiment sauces are hand made and fresh-tasting. Lovely plates of high-quality sliced short rib. The platters of vegetables and noodles are individually curated for each broth.

Hot pot always struck me as a pursuit of quantity over quality. This is something else - like home cooking with top notch ingredients. Hot pot traditionalists might not approve but this deeply personal effort deserves our support - once they get their staff trained and come up with some sort of waitlist management system, that is.

P.S. The bunsen burners under the hot pot look cool but are a little on the weak side.

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Finally made it after an initial unsuccessful visit. We had the liang pi, cold noodles, sliced beef, and crushed cucumber as cold dishes. All were delicious with the liang pi and cucumbers being the standouts. Liang pi had a vinegary flavor spiked with five spice aroma and mixed in with chili oil and numbing peppercorns. Cucumber was atypical as it was mixed with peanuts, soy, and sesame oil and was different from the standard minced garlic and oil. Noodles had a peanut butter and chili oil that tasted perfect but I could have used a little more texture and variety in bite aside from only cold noodles and sauce.

For hot pots we had the mala beef and short rib and the coconut chicken. They were served with a hot spicy bean paste based hot sauce and a ginger green onion oil, as mentioned above. I’ve never been to a personal hot pot place (which appears to be all the rage in sgv) but the meats and veggies were very high quality. The coconut chicken soup was our favorite as they poured fresh coconut water in the hot pot which gave the chicken broth a mild yet refreshing coconut flavor. The end soup after boiling all the items was delicious. Mala pot was good if standard but on the spicy side, so be warned.


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Not much to add except a few pics. The food seems more elevated than what the chef offers at Hip Hot, but it retains a pleasing homeyness (the feeling of Hip Hot bordered on sloppy, although the food was good). The food is not particularly spicy, and I liked that. There’s a depth and complexity of flavor that often isn’t present (IMHO) when you get the gimmicky (again, JMO) overly spicy stuff (I’m also not fond of the bitter/flowery notes you can occur when the sauce collects at the bottom of the bowl; not present here).

Nice addition to the neighborhood, and I think a lot of the waitstaff (at least when we went earlier in the month) are her friends.

(Pictured below is defining decor item in the restaurant: a huge wooden piece hung from the ceiling. I could’ve sworn that our server said that is’s supposed to be the “Grand Palace,” but I couldn’t find an internet match for “Grand Palace China,” so perhaps its the one in the Forbidden City? The decor is surprisingly sophisticated.)

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From Eater LA, it called
“the baohe dian, a hand-carved replica roof of the Hall of Preserving Harmony in the Forbidden City at Mala Town”

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Where is it?

Sawtelle

Thanks all for the info about Mala Town. I had a few additional questions:

  1. I know the Mala hot pot broth is quite spicy and the shanto is supposed to be mild. Are the Cantonese Seafood and Coconut Chicken broths mild also?

  2. Are folks still finding that there’s a wait to get in? I would most likely go with one other person, on a Saturday evening, right when the restaurant opens at 5:00 pm.

thanks so much!

-Roz

I don’t think you will have any wait at 5 even on a Sat.
Coconut chicken is not spicy - and is really tasty.

Both the Cantonese Seafood and Coconut Chicken broths are mild. If you go when they first open, you should have no problem getting a seat.

A belated thank you for responding to my question - I’m really looking forward to checking the restaurant out.

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A belated thank you for answering my question - I’m looking forward to checking this restaurant out.