From Faith & Flower to Viviane, and now to Mama Lion, we have been following chef Michael Hung around like the Grateful Dead. Mama Lion is the dreamchild of hospitality veteran Robert Kim. He formerly operated the restaurants in The Beverly Hills Hotel and worked on the plan to revitalize Park Plaza Hotel, one of our favorite event spaces. When Kim took over the space at 6th and Western, he paid homage to the neighborhood’s history by retaining the name of the nightclub that formerly occupied the corner, Mama Lion.
Kim brought in chef Michael Hung and nightlife authority Aidan Demarest, previously of Seven Grand, The Edison, and The Spare Room. Demarest is the General Manager as well as managing beverages alongside Barman Todd Eames. Mama Lion is billed as a “supperclub” which made me think of dinner with a show, but they are referring to the phrase’s dictionary definition, “a nightclub, especially a small, luxurious one.” (Thanks, dictionary.com.)
Last week Mama, Lion hosted an opening party, allowing us to try their menu gratis. The dinner menu is in keeping with the vision of Mama Lion to be a fancy club that is still affordable. You can go crazy with oysters, uni and foie gras, but you can also have a fantastic meal for about $20.
For a down-to-earth and affordable menu for two, share the addictive and comforting Smothered Tater Tots with braised shortrib ragout and aged cheddar cheese ($11) and pan fried Mary’s Jidori Chicken Schnitzel (we fell in love with Mary’s chicken at Viviane) for only $23, which is meant to be shared. That brings you to $17 a person before drinks, tax and tip.
If you are going to splurge, I would recommend a meal of the bright and fresh Hamachi Tartare with yellowtail and Asian pear, Seared Foie Gras, served with rhubarb conserve, and the 10oz Prime 28 Day Dry-Aged New York Steak. Even with sides and dessert, I could only create a bill of around $130 for two, which is not unreasonable for a special occasion dinner. Of course, to really drive up the bill you need to order lots of cocktails and wine. And yes, they do offer Dom Perignon by the glass ($75). This place has an extremely wide price range.
The cocktail menu, with drinks ranging between $12 and $17, combines traditional drinks like the Rusty Nail and Blue Hawaiian with some exclusive cocktails. Interesting new creations include the Alpine Lift made with Rogue Spruce Gin, Aperol, Zirbenze and white vermouth, and the super-popular Black Swan with cardamom-infused vodka, Kahlua, Cold Brew, vanilla and coconut foam.
If you are out with friends for cocktails and nibbles, I highly recommend the luxe Santa Barbara Uni Tostaditas with avocado and grapefruit Salsa, or the deceptively simple-sounding Truffled White Bean Hummus on warm flat bread. And again, those Tater Tots, I cannot recommend them enough.
Mama Lion is a good place to have dinner before attending a concert at the Wiltern, drinks after work (Happy Hour is 5pm – 7pm), a nice date, or anytime you are craving Tater Tots. Seriously, Tater Tots.