Sep 10, 2011
Bend Over, Hipsters! It's Mohawk Bend! Have U Been?? Echo Park, CA.
Where Sunset meets Mohawk.
The gentry have arrived in this scrubby elbow of Sunset Blvd. in Echo Park. They're wearing their skinny jeans, boho chic and pumped up kicks. They're carnivores, piscivores, lacto-ovo-vegetarians, vegans, lactose intolerant, gluten free gluttons. They all love to booze and will drink everything from absinthe to ales, from Arrogant Bastard to Idiot IPA.
With the help of the wizards at Spacecraft, the old dilapidated Ramona Theater was transformed into a theater for craft beers and progressive food.
This new theater is an ambitious, fun and fashionable restaurant called Mohawk Bend. A sparkling new marquis pays homage to the former cinema space. In the Rob Reiner rom-com When Harry Met Sally, Carrie Fisher's character observes, "Restaurants are to people in the '80s what theaters were to people in the '60s." That statement has never been more true even decades later in the '10s. Now, this would make Tony Yanow the director of Mohawk Bend's grand production. Yanow brought us the little Burbank gem Tony's Darts Away. With Mohawk Bend, he scores a bullseye and continues his crusade for craft beers (at last count 72 taps) and vegan cuisine without shoving it down your throat.
Hipsters, Scenesters, Groovesters, all love Mohawk Bend.
There's a lot of watching to do in this foodie-boozy theatre. As you stroll in from the grimy sidewalk onto the open-space patio which was formerly the Ramona Theater's lobby, right away you see Yanow's affection for everything beer. Vintage beer signs adorn the walls, some illuminated with that special aged light like a shining star from another age extinguished long ago.
The bulk of the hipsters sip beer, wine and cocktails on the patio lounge. Once entering, there are small sections of tables neatly partitioned to make the most of the long layout of the former film house.
Further in the restaurant, the seating becomes communal high tops flanked by the kitchen on the left and the bar to the right. The final section in the back is a more intimate space that greets you with a natural log fireplace reaching up against what used to be the massive movie screen. The room is dim and cozy though not far from the action on the main floor. Even without tasting or imbibing a single item, I was already smitten by Mohawk Bend.
Beer signs are like the new graffiti.
The Quick And The Bread is herbed flatbread with your choice of spreads. You can opt for one or three spreads. My party chose black-eyed pea hummus, house ricotta with peperonata and spicy roast eggplant. They were all nicely seasoned and varied in texture making the herbed carb easier to go down.
The Quick & The Bread.
Since I'm an absinthe-minded person, I went for the Monkey Gland, an absinthe based cocktail originated at Harry's Bar in Paris back in 1926 and named after a surgical technique created by one Dr. Serge Voronoff where monkey testicle was grafted into humans with the goal of extending a person's life. I'm not sure about claims of longevity (the effects may be opposite), but this libation concocted with Gin# 209, fresh OJ, St. Vincent Grenadine and La Sorciere Bleue Absinthe wash was my favorite drink at Mohawk Bend. The absinthe used was the wormwood variation which explains why little fuzzy green fairies seemed to be airborne all over the room. Not too sweet, refreshing and with just the right kick.
Getting bent at the Bend!
The exceptional small plate was the Spanish Stuffed Dates, really because it was embraced by crispy bacon. These delectable dates nestled with chorizo and wrapped with bacon was crunchy and creamy heaven with a delicious sweet-savory balance.
Not even close to the people who brought you the eggroll. At health conscious (more or less, depending on what you order) Mohawk Bend, there is the cheekily named Eggplant Rolls made with Serrano ham, smoked mozzarella and basil. It's fiercely Italian in flavors and a delight to eat although sometimes the eggplant layer can be cumbersome and difficult to pierce. A nice bite nonetheless.
Egg(plant) Rolls. Get it?
Wetting my whistle once again, I picked another absinthe bevvy. This time it was the Absinthe Spritzer, a wicked elixir of La Sorciere Absinthe Bleue, fresh lemons and limes, agave nectar, soda and a black licorice stick.
Green fairies... What do they mean??!!
When in a venue dominated by beer, there must be some fried grub in the hizzy. The Monterrey Squid coated with crispy rice flash fried to an irresistible texture accompanied by a squid ink aioli is great paired with just about any of the pints of suds at Mohawk Bend. The fried lemon slices was a clever touch that added a citrus burst to every crunch.
Better than Beer Nuts.
Yet another great fried plate to pair with beer was the excellent Squash & Chips made with chunky slices of kabocha squash, carrots and peppers all fried in tempura served with a yuzu ponzu sauce. This one's hearty and sort of healthful.
Someone at our table had the wacky idea of conducting a taste test between Mohawk Bend's meat pizzas and its vegan mock-meat pizzas. Like I said, wacky. Since I was already hallucinating off of a double whammy of absinthe drinks, I agreed.
The Holy Trinity is Mohawk Bend's branding of the classic pizza Margherita, a simple pizza of tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and fresh basil. The vegan version subs vegan mozzarella and the result could not be more dramatic. While the non-vegan Holy Trinity was fresh, flavorful and natural tasting, the vegan version was almost inedible. The mock mozzarella was more like marshmallow and made a mockery of true Italian flavors and adversely impacted the other ingredients by making them too taste artificial. Don't hate the taster, hate the fake cheese.
The vegan version on the right just ain't right...
On the other hand, an extraordinarily tasty and playful pizza was the Private Idaho. Essentially a baked potato on a pizza crust, it's piled with hearty potatoes, bits of smoky, crisp bacon, caramelized, sweet onion and drizzled with creme fraiche. Almost resembling the Japanese pancake okonomiyaki, this fun, flavorful and filling pizza is one to try.
Now back to vegan v. meat lovers taste test — the sausage battle. Again, another cheekily named menu item, the Abe Froman, named after the "Sausage King of Chicago" in the cult classic Ferris Bueller's Day Off, is naturally a sausage pizza and very good.
Take a day off like Ferris and eat this.
The vegan abomination of this is a pizza by name only, topped with the aforementioned phony mozzarella and also with something named after Satan called "House-made seitan sausage" (because it tastes like Hell). This vegan version of the Abe Froman is called the Able Farmin'. Huh?
Able Farmin', the Sausage Joke of Chicago.
When you say "dork" to your server at any other restaurant, prepare to get ejected from the premises. But when you say "dork" at Mohawk Bend, prepare for the most decadent pile of animal protein ever to challenge your arteries, especially if you go for the fried duck egg upgrade. Your doctor will quit you for ingesting this one.
Don't be a dork, eat one.
The Dork is constructed from freshly ground duck and pork, blended to form the unholy union resulting in the Dork. Mohawk Bend didn't invent the Dork, an operation up in Seattle called Lunchbox Laboratory has been practicing meat miscegenation for at least two years now with their own Dork and Churkey Burgers.
What a Dork!!
Still, Mohawk Bend's Dork is something special if not excessive. With a list of condiments that include aioli, house ketchup, fennel, pickled onions and apple on a house-made English muffin, it's interesting and mostly successful. The English muffin's texture didn't really have the stuff to grip all that stuff inside especially with the jumbo duck egg upgrade. The Dork is a moist patty made creamy with egg yolk oozing all over it. Traditionalists may not be into this, but those who like to experiment will appreciate the Dork.
This is good moment to point out that although Mohawk Bend prepares both extremely carnivorous fare like the Dork burger as well as its polar opposite V is For Vegan sandwich, the kitchen is strictly segregated so as the meat plates never meet the vegan plates. This is the only way such a restaurant can create perfect harmony among carnivore and vegan items. Mohawk Bend may really be the only place in town where hardcore vegans and meat eaters actually touch elbows since there is no such segregation in the dining room. (I used to date vegans. For vegans, dating extreme carnivores like me is like dating someone your parents hate who's out on parole and in a punk band.)
My inner Dork.
Now to dessert. The dessert trend of the moment appears to be S'mores. Mohawk Bend has theirs and it's served in a cast-iron, triple slot tray with charred marshmallow, melted chocolate and graham crackers. Since each ingredient has been melted, all you do is smear, slather and scarf.
Everything but the campfire.
Mohawk Bend is already a hot spot. There's something for everyone. The playlist is good. The bar is democratic with reasonable prices. The space is groovy, fun and unpretentious. The menu is good if you know what you want. The service is excellent and, yeah, I'll say it, Mohawk Bend will bend over backwards to make you happy.
No mohawk required.
2141 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026