By Suzy Gruyere
I haven’t eaten mac and cheese in over a month. I know!! Tragic!! But I’m back on the job now and raring to go, so it seemed only fitting that I should apply my new energy and focus to a dish that calls itself “Kicked Up.” It turned out to be a fine choice.
Truxton’s American Bistro is located near LAX, as is my workplace. In its former incarnation as an old-school Chinese restaurant, this address welcomed my colleagues and me for many enjoyable lunches. The building’s transformation from a dingy, stereotypical 1960s Asian joint into a modern, sundrenched wine bar is dramatic. For anyone who never knew it as Madame Wong’s, the space probably feels a little schizophrenic because the comfy booths and Restoration Hardware lighting fixtures shout “old fashioned Midwest diner” while the exposed ductwork ceilings and big screen plasmas say “contemporary California sports bar.”
The menu is all over the place, too. It adheres to the Cheesecake Factory “something for everyone” philosophy of dining, but on a blessedly smaller scale. Still, there are numerous Asian-ish, Italian-ish, Mexican-ish and healthy-ish offerings in the mix as well as good old American classics. Truxton’s is known for its hearty burgers and garlic fries, and the ones I observed looked and smelled really, really good. I am all in favor of their stated “crate to plate” philosophy of sourcing fresh ingredients locally. The breakfast menu is intriguing enough for a return visit, too. But on this day, my objective was the Kicked Up Mac and Cheese!
Truxton’s mac is billed as “Jumbo elbow macaroni in our creamy sauce made with a blend of five cheeses and oven roasted tomatoes, topped with crispy onions.” It will set you back only $9.98 for a serving that is ample enough to ensure leftovers.
The elbows are a bit larger than usual and they feature prominent ridges in which the sauce may nestle. And what a sauce it is! When the dish arrived at my table, the sauce was too loose, dribbling out of the noodle cavities as I lifted each forkful to my mouth. But after a moment to cool and set up, this runny sauce resolved into a perfect consistency, creamy enough to cling and with just a bit of rebound to it.
I was skeptical about the inclusion of roasted grape tomatoes but they added a nice acidic counterpoint to the richness of the cheese. There’s not so much tomato presence as to redden the sauce, it’s more like an occasional burst of surprise in your mouth. Even the sprinkle of minced parsley, which at first seemed superfluous, proved to be a valuable flavor note. And the tender house-made fried onions that crown this mac – sigh! Very nice touch. (Note to self: Try topping a home-cooked mac with a layer of crushed French’s onions, the kind that usually are relegated to Thanksgiving's green bean casserole.)
My first bite of Truxton’s macaroni and cheese included a morsel of browned cheesy goodness and suddenly a wave of déjà vu washed over me. It was such a familiar flavor but I couldn’t quite place it. Eventually the server jogged my memory. Turns out the most prominent element of this dish’s five cheese blend is blue cheese. I know!! Unusual. And totally delicious! It really works. She wasn’t 100% positive but my server thought the other four cheeses were Cheddar, Parmesan, Gruyere and smoked Mozzarella.
Mmm, does that look yummy, or what?! I don’t know if it was because I hadn’t eaten macaroni and cheese in so long, but I thoroughly enjoyed Truxton’s Kicked Up Mac. The sharpness of the blue cheese really won me over. I look forward to dining there again, probably on a Monday evening when wine sold by the bottle is half-price. Care to join me, Hilary?
Truxton’s American Bistro
8611 Truxton Avenue
Los Angeles CA 90045