Friday, August 14, 2009

Ivan Kane's Café Was Mac and Cheese — Or Was It? by Hilary Havarti

Doesn't that photo make your mouth water? When this mac and cheese sauntered into the room at Café Was, I thought, What a handsome devil. Browned and crispy on top with a sprinkling of crunchy bread crumbs and oozy melted cheese here and there, it appeared to be a perfect representation. The noodles and cheese spilled over the sides as if the beauty of the mac was too much for the skillet to contain.

As we sipped our $15 cocktails (they were the size of two normal cocktails but still...), and awakened our palates with some healthy salad greens, the mac kept flashing his come hither stare. And so, we sidled up and sunk the forks in.

What a heartbreak to discover our pretty mac was guilty of a crime not uncommon in Los Angeles: artificial good looks. Biting into the dish, I was taken aback by the overpowering taste of something processed. It was either American cheese or Velveeta, I can’t say I’m an expert on either, but whatever it was, it didn’t taste good. My dining companion and guest blogger, “The Humboldt Fog,” remarked that it tasted like government issued “army food.” Not that “The Humboldt Fog” has ever served in the military but if she had to guess, this is what it might taste like. Another setback of the dish was the runny composition of the sauce. Again, I blame the orange cheese.

It wasn’t all bad news. The dish was priced at $6 and in terms of value, it was a generous portion. The noodles were cooked al dente, which I like. It had nice seasoning, a little garlic, a little Gruyere and a few bread crumbs toasted on top. Ivan Kane, if you’re reading this, lose the processed cheese and it’ll taste much better, like the rest of our meal. I had the Heirloom Beet Salad which was well seasoned and colorful. “The Humboldt Fog” had the French Harvest with baby organic greens / grapes / walnuts / candied lemon zest / champagne vinaigrette. We also tried a side of asparagus. Everything was good enough, not great.

Located in a quasi shopping center on Vine just north of Sunset, Café Was is tucked away and easy to miss. Inside it looks like a San Francisco bistro circa 1985. They’re workin’ some kind of baroque vibe with chandeliers and big heavy curtains and much to our excitement, a piano bar. We were immediately taken back to our youthful drunken revelry at Martuni’s Bar on Market Street in SF anticipating a great “Piano Man” sing along. Instead we were subjected to a Tori Amos inspired chanteuse taking all the bite out of Nirvana’s “Come As You Are.” Second letdown of the evening. Of course after a cocktail the size of a mixing bowl, you can enjoy just about anything and they do make ‘em strong at Café Was.

Ivan Kane's Cafe Was
1521 N. Vine St.
Hollywood, CA 90028
Phone: 323.466.5400
Fax: 323.466.5401


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