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Hipster haven on Sunset

CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK

October 16, 2003|S. Irene Virbila | Times Staff Writer

Leave it to Stephen Arroyo to psyche out a great location for his next restaurant. With Cobras & Matadors firmly ensconced in the Fairfax district, Cobra Lily on Wilshire Boulevard and Hillmont in Los Feliz, he's just opened Malo in Silver Lake. Or is it Los Feliz? At any rate, it's on Sunset Boulevard just south of Fountain, a handy address for the hipsters in either neighborhood.

Like all of Arroyo's places, Malo has a quirky decor. This one feels like a drafty church hall gone Goth. Flea market paintings of saints and sinners hang over the doorways. Votive candles burn in antique sideboards. And the walls are covered in what looks like black subway tile and flocked red velvet. The seating is mostly long egalitarian tables with benches or banquettes.

Actually, the space is half bar, half restaurant, and includes an enclosed patio for smokers and those who like the great outdoors with salsa and chips. Those chips, incidentally, are fried to order and served piping hot, a wonderful contrast with the cool of the quite respectable guacamole. The homemade salsas aren't bad either, though they're a little short on the smolder.

It's the antithesis of El Cholo. Plates are mostly small and spare, meant to share like the tapas Arroyo serves at Cobras & Matadors. Ceviches have their own separate category. Everything is a la carte. Beans and rice can be ordered as a side, fairly priced at $1.50.

There's a robust chicken pozole served in a speckled blue enamel pot. Tacos dorados, two to an order, come with various fillings at $4 to $8. Chile verde is sumptuously tender, chile rojo complexly spiced. Shrimp diablo with habanero chile and creme disappears in a flash; every drop of the sauce too.

Plainer dishes include a grilled pressed half-chicken with sea salt and lime and delicious little pork chops cooked in a tomatillo salsa.

Arroyo's restaurants tend to be more fun places than real foodie haunts, and this one is no exception, but if you find yourself in Silver Lake longing for some chile verde or an enchilada in a hip atmosphere, Malo may be the spot.

*Malo

Where: 4326 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake

When: Dinner 6 p.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday, 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, 6 to 10 p.m. Sunday. Full bar. Valet parking.

Cost: Appetizers, $4 to $8; ceviches, $4 to $12; main dishes, $7 to $12; side dishes, $1.50 to $6.

Info: (323) 664-1011

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