Friday, July 10, 2009

Hugos: "Mad Cheddar" (Loadsa Money and Loadsa Cheese) by Hilary Havarti

Well, I'm proud to report I've unearthed the most expensive Mac & Cheese to be reviewed on the site to date. Ringing in at $12.50 a bowl, the mac and cheese at Hugo's is chock full of GOLD.

Actually, it's all the organic ingredients and fresh made pasta that rocket the price into orbit. The menu clearly states, "All of our pasta is vegan, organic and made fresh here," cautioning penny pinching diners to "quit yer cryin' cheapo!"

So, is it worth it? Yes, and here's why. This dish is so rich, literally and figuratively, the average person couldn't possibly finish it in one sitting. It even comes with your choice of a side of broccoli and cauliflower or an organic green salad
to boot. There will be leftovers in your future.

The dish arrived with a crispy cheese layer browned to perfection on the top, but my friend Jessica was quick to note the absence of bread crumbs. One demerit. The noodles were not the traditional elbo macaroni variety but (GASP), fusilli noodles, very unorthodox. Second demerit. While the noodles were cooked just so, I take umbrage with the choice of fusilli noodles. One of the subtle beauties of Mac and Cheese is when the cheese sauce hides in the canals of the elbows or nests lovingly in a pasta shell. A fusilli noodle doesn't offer generous pockets in which the sauce can seep (though Suzy Gruyere disagrees with me on this one and thinks fusilli does a pretty good job of holding just enough sauce). In addition, a fusilli noodle is a substantive noodle on it's own without a bunch of gooey cheese sauce on top. The noodle shouldn't Bogart the sauce is what I'm trying to say.

The rest of the news, however, is all good. While the texture would have benefited from a little crispy breadcrumb crunch, the sauce was extremely creamy, and there were tiny pieces of tomato mixed into each bite lending a hint of "acid" (check me out with my cooking lingo, thanks Top Chef!). The menu was kind enough to identify all the cheeses so we didn't have to pretend our palates were that sophisticated. A combo of Cheddar, Gorgonzola and Parmesan give this Mac and Cheese a serious punch. The first bite nearly knocked me out with it's super flavor. I've had Mac and Cheese prepared with Gorgonzola before and the blue cheesy taste tends to overpower everything else. That was not the case here. The flavor was very balanced amongst the three cheeses.

Now, I'm not gonna lie, this Mac and Cheese is really, really rich. Maybe a little too rich for my blood (pressure). I thought I actually felt an artery clog as I was eating it. It's ironic that a restaurant priding itself on a hefty menu full of healthy offerings could create a Mac this deadly. Luckily, Jessica and I ordered the delicious and refreshing Watermelon Lemonade which sort of cleansed the palate after each bite. I'd recommend doing that or at least having a medic nearby.

Hugo's / West Hollywood
8401 Santa Monica Blvd.
(323) 654-3993

Hugo's / Studio City
12851 Riverside Drive

(818) 761-8985