New supper club in Koreatown: a return to the aesthetic
Videos and Photos by Monique A. LeBleu ~ The Pacific Coast and Chincoteague Oysters, Hamachi Tartare, a Royal Hawaiian cocktail, Pan Fried Mary’s Chicken Schnitzel with brassicas greens, kohlrabi, and whole grain mustard jus, Prime NY Steak with a deconstructed Sauce Ravigote, Avocado Samosas, Chocolate Pots de Crème, Apricot Soufflé, and the Rockefeller Cocktail at Mama Lion Supper Club on Thursday, May 25, 2017.
Mama Lion, which opened its doors May 2, 2017, combines the elegance and glamour of the return to the Supper Club, with a modern twist. Located in the heart of Korea town, it’s situated in a prime spot just two blocks from the Wiltern Theater in the center of one of L.A.s most diverse neighborhoods near the heart of the Wilshire Corridor.
Owner Robert Kim, an 18 year hospitality veteran with The Beverly Hills Hotel where he oversaw all food and beverage purchasing for the hotel, and also as Chief Operations Officer at Park Plaza Hotel, as well as at the prestigious Eurochow, the sibling restaurant to Mr. Chow, has opened Mama Lion at the original property that once held the long-standing nightclub of the same name.
Kim, along with chef Chef/Partner Michael Hung, whose credentials include time spent with Traci Des Jardins’ team at San Francisco’s Jardiniere, overseeing the kitchen at Roland Passot’s Michelin-starred La Folie, then leaving San Francisco to open Faith & Flower in Downtown Los Angeles–honored “Best New Restaurant” by Esquire Magazine during his time there–together worked to develop a “playfully decadent new Supper Club” and menu.
Most notable in the firsts was the bar bites such as the Crispy Avocado Samosa, with a smoked pimenton ranch dressing and the smoky smothered Tater Tots with braised short rib ragout and cheddar cheese, along with Mediterranean flavor of the Truffled White Bean Hummus with warm flatbread, rosemary and thyme.
A fresh, raw menu of Chincoteague oysters on the half shell with champagne mignonette and chili lime vinaigrette, and a personal favorite the Hamachi Tartare that swaps out tuna for yellowtail, topped with with an Asian pear, Korean chili, and roasted sesame vinaigrette. Best of all however was the Santa Barbara Uni Tostaditas topped with avocado, grapefruit salsa, and crème fraiche. According to a press release the dish is a “Japanese love letter to Mexicali flavors.” Warning: it is positively addicting!
In the entrees, the Plancha Seared Gulf Shrimp, with anchovy butter, sourdough crouton, and herb salad is spectacular. The creamy tang of the butter seeps into the toasted crouton which melts into the mouth with the crunch of each bite. The Pan Fried Jidori Chicken Schnitzel, accompanied by a salad of brassicas and greens, and whole grain mustard jus is a delicious twist on a traditional German dish.
The 10oz Prime New York Steak, cast iron roasted with herbs and served more rare than medium with a deconstructed and Sauce Ravigote.
For dessert, a decadent Dark Chocolate Pots De Crème, with raspberries, bourbon caramel, and chocolate sable and a Classic Soufflé with smoked apricot and hazelnut anglaise.
Designer and visionary George Kelly of Kelly Architects, with an extraordinary portfolio that includes the Copa d’Oro, Clifton’s Cafeteria, Public School 213, and The Continental Club, utilizes existing brick and incorporates visually the original L.A. Iron Works I-beams into the amber-lit bar that is the centerpiece of the restaurant, creating both a future-forward and vintage time-honoring ambiance reminiscent of Blade Runner.
Blue mirrored cocktail tables create the illusion that the elegant dishes appear to float on deep blue waters. The golden amber glow of the bar top made from “3Form resin and Crossville gold mirrored tile” is illumination from below giving a glow to cocktails and patrons alike.
“It is important to give authenticity to the building itself and leave elements from its previous life,” says Kelly. “This is a design that transcends the eras.”
Local Korea town artist Eddy Lee’s work featured prominently and throughout the restaurant was specially commissioned to reflect the view of Los Angeles from the building’s rooftop and reflect the return to glamour of the roaring 20’s speakeasy and the “It” flapper girl.
The cocktail menu created by Head Barman Todd Eames, features thirteen unique and refreshing libations – “the Alpine Lift made with Rogue Spruce Gin, aperol, zirbenze, and white vermouth, or what Demarest refers to as a “super sexy California cocktail,” the Golden Tonic, comprised of Beefeater gin, carrot juice, lemon juice, house made turmeric, ginger syrups, and soda. The Black Swan puts a dark spin on this creamy classic, with cardamom-infused vodka, vanilla, Kahlua, cold brew, and coconut foam, and the Harpoon latches [includes] vodka, St. George Raspberry Liqueur, cranberry liqueur, lime, and simple syrup. The quintessential spirit from South of the Border is front and center in the Sun God, made of tequila, Ancho Reyes, house-made tangerine cordial, habanero shrub, cucumber, and mint.”
“[There is also the] Rusty Nail, made of Johnny Walker Black, and pecan bitters, the Rockefeller, featuring Rittenhouse rye, lemon, sugar, and Cabernet foam, and the Statesman, with Bulleit bourbon, Averna, aperol, walnut bitters, and Angostura.
My personal favorites were the Blue Hawaiian, which uses a house rum blend, blue curacao, fresh pineapple, and cinnamon, and the Doumi which features Belvedere vodka, elderflower, raspberries, lemon, and marquis super berry. Another is the Honey Pot, with Beefeater gin, honey, lemon, and lavender and the Baby Mama features Hennessy VSOP, pomegranate liqueur, lemon, and champagne.
The Mama Lion also offers “an opulent one of a kind experience with ½ oz. Osetra Caviar Service, served with buckwheat blinis and traditional accompaniments of hard cooked egg whites and yolk, parsley, lemon, and shallots” paired with premium champagnes.
Mama Lion is located at 601 South Western Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90005. For more information contact Mama Lion at 213.377.5277 or visit www.MamaLion.com.