Admittedly, I’ve been bored with Malo for a while. I used to go all the time, but eventually my enthusiasm waned. Of course, I still had love for the habanero and cream salsa and ground beef and pickle tacos, but neither kept me coming back to the Silver Lake restaurant. For that reason, news that Chef Robert Luna had re-vamped his menu caught my attention. And as luck would have it, I was invited to try it.
The verdict: I liked the new menu so much that I’ve already been back twice.
What I’ve always appreciated about Malo is that it doesn’t purport to be authentically Mexican. Instead, it’s a re-imagining of good old-fashioned L.A.-style Chicano comfort fare—cheesy enchiladas, hard-shell tacos, chewy chips, sweet mole, etc. The new menu follows that line, but goes beyond its previous taco-centric limitations with a long list of starters, salads, and small plates.
Standouts include the Soyrizo Fundido, a decadently cheesy concoction that’s meant to be spooned onto thick pieces of bread. I preferred it as a chip dip. On the lighter, more nutritious side was the Kale & Seed Salad topped with flax and sunflower seeds, thick tomato chunks and pistachio dressing. Unexpectedly functional were the Kale Mole Enchiladas with Pumpkin. Mixing cheese and pumpkin shouldn’t work, but somehow it does.
Though not the centerpiece they once were, tacos still make a strong showing. The Pork Short Rib Adobo Taco is particularly good with its smoky tenderness while the Zucchini Blossom with Cheese Taco, made tangy with pickled onions, is an ideal vegetarian standby. Only one taco comes in an order now, but they’re more substantial than they used to be. Case in point is the Grilled Fresh Fish Taco with a hunky portion of cod.
The one drawback to the new menu is that its grandness tends to overwhelm, which could easily have the same effect as being too small: it could cause you to order the same thing over and over again. For instance, I found myself ordering the kale salad each visit even though the Spinach Salad with Avocado and Chicharron beckoned—too many choices always make me less adventurous, ironically. However, I’m sure in time, winner dishes will reveal themselves and maybe Chef Luna can pare it down a bit.
Until then, a pumpkin enchilada rut doesn’t seem like such a bad trap.
4326 W Sunset Blvd,
Valentina Silva writes about food and restaurants. You can also find Valentina’s reviews and stories on her blog, Eastside Food Bites.