Thursday, 4 August 2011

[Restaurant - Argentinean] Casa Mia e Casa Tua. Indeed; Casa Malevo of Marylebone

Location - Marylebone, London [UK]

Referring to the infernally misspoken "Italianate" saying of "My home is your home", this is certainly no joke at Casa Malevo, a restaurant seemingly located in someone's living room. Hopefully this would prove to be an auspicious omen in the wish for some home-cooked cuisine. Otherwise, the surroundings would be quite the deception. Which would be very rude. Indeed.

At once, on entering the restaurant, I was awash with feelings of profound...indifference. It is just dinner, Jeebus. However, it was a peculiar sensation - completely different to what I had expected, not in any particular negative way, but also, quite a romantic setting. Befitting for eating with my male partner in gluttony - it's ok, it's a modern society, they'll accept us. My main draw for coming to Casa Malevo was to offer an alternative to the incessant onslaught of defaulting onto Gaucho's that we once subsisted on. There is nothing quintessentially at fault with Gaucho's, but I got the beef. And it bores me. Mind you, just when the opportunity arose to go to Casa Malevo, Gaucho's introduced a new, far more comprehensive [and mesmerising] menu, almost in an obscure and nefarious attempt to tempt me back. Coincidence? Methinks not O_o. 

So, walked across the living room to our table, and sat on the most uncomfortable [lawn?] chairs. Ever. Next to the Private Dining Area/Back Garden Conservatory. Hope Mama Malevo does not struggle catering for all the assembled eaters, especially ones with my appetite. I had even prepared beforehand, knowing precisely what I was going to have. Which was thwarted when the single A4 sheeted menu was handed out, which relegated me to meat for mains. I sensed sabotage on behalf of Gaucho, essentially reversing the roles for this dinner decision - coincidences this profound just aren't a coincidence. I'm onto them...

Yes, I am a girl and I'm disappointed I could not have Cornish Monkfish at an Argentinian Parillada Restaurant. How very dare they. Never mind, one of my "exploratory" dishes were still available, so, onto to the devouring. 

~ Starter ~
- Mollejas al Verdeo

Another Restaurant, another left field choice [for me at least], this time of a seemingly "de rigeur" ingredient that I've seen becoming quite common across a large range of restaurants. Sweetbreads. Mmm, Bread! Not quite. It's a gland. And I vehemently avoided anything that provided a function of anything other than being meat. However, despite being a terminal deadbeat, I do prefer being an informed deadbeat. And the descriptions of what to expect from Wikipedia had somewhat eased me.

The Sweetbreads at least looked appetising, arriving on a small slab of slate, dressed - very lightly - with a salad and a grilled slice of lemon. Odd. On first bite, barring the oddly soft texture combined with the nicely grilled outer, I was pleasantly surprised. Not overtly sweet or bready [how misleading, hmph], but quite distinct from other meats. It combined rather well with the Verdeo sauce, which punctuated slightly through the meat. The grilled lemon was interesting. Did not quite know what to do with it. So, I just ate it as is. Was ok, as interesting as a slice of lemon with some char could be I suppose. Also, in trying my eating partners' empanadas, it is safe to say that these own the Gaucho ones. That is all. Well, fine, some subjective substance - the pastry is fresher as well as less dry, and the filling was just better seasoned and flavoured, and less like a Cornish Pasty. Now that is all.

Oddly, after straying into this uncharted territory, I now feel oddly compelled to brave the dish of "fortitude glands". Not sure why. Hell, after this, I'll try Shirako. Well, actually, maybe not.

~ Main Course ~
- Grilled Lamb Chops with Salsa Verde
- Creamed Spinach

Distraught, flabbergasted, FLUMMOXED by the denial of my Cornish Monkfish, I selected what only item remained that was not a steak, or Italian. So, grilled lamb chops. Yay..May as well order the ubiquitous spinach side, but I'll be indulgent and get them creamed. Living life on the precarious edge, I know. Not much to say really, there's only so much you can write about something as commonplace as grilled meat, especially lamb. Yes it was cooked nicely, yes I was glad with the portion sizes and the fact a bit of typical fat cut off meant I would not feel guilty should I happen to order a metric ton of desserts again. The Salsa Verde was subtle, the tiny capers a bit subdued, but it added a nice acidity to the lamb. Again, nothing spectacular though, a nice dish but hardly much can be expected.

The spinach was lovely however. Infact I only left some remaining to leave space. Not creamed to the point of being a spinach cheesecake, but just right, and a delightful crust made it all the better.

~ Dessert ~
- Flan Casero with Dulce de Leche

Down to the most important food group, and some anticipation mustered here as apparently Mama Casalevo's desserts are quite revered, in particular some Pear and Almond Tart. Which was not there. Figures. The heathens.

So a Flan/Pannacotta it was, not the most exciting of desserts ever, but it did allow me to pair it [almost Pear, like what was denied to me. HAH!] with a traditional obsessive Latin American dessert item - Dulce de Leche. Which is essentially just a milk caramel. And, wow. Whilst caramel has the ability to diffuse wars, the Dulce de Leche just topped that with a subtle creaminess and a much smoother texture than caramel, all with lashings of decadence. As well as enough sweetness to stun a horse. Which was perfect. No, I am not larger than a horse, but the Flan was conspicuously lacking in sweetness, and anything else, which thus made for the perfect combination. As standalone items however, boring and lethally indulgent for the flan and Dulce de Diabetes respectively.

~ Drinks ~
- La Consulta; Passito de Los Andes
- Espresso

One of the suggested wines, I am a bit of a floozy for Passito, so I instantly ignored the other suggestion only asking for politeness. It was a beautiful pairing. Such a richness of body and flavour that can only come from a Passito wine with its sun-dried grape production, provided a lovely backdrop for the rich and decadent Dulce de Leche imbued dessert. Granted I feared such a sugar overload would result in catastrophic results on the fall. I cannot recall precisely what the passito was like as it was a while ago now, just that it was many kinds of awesome and paired very well with the rich dessert. 

The espresso was also of note - a very well made espresso, which always adds to a meal. Strong, not watered down, richly aromatic. Done. 


An issue with anticipation is that it typically results in a bit of a Michael Jackson song - results are typically Black or White, in that the result of the expectation tends to be one of two extremes. Being very broad obviously. Granted Gaucho's had become almost as repetitive as the incessant onslaught of China Town Treachery we once used to subsist on, but it is also a rather established namesake. Which means precisely nothing, and I'm not sure what point I am trying to make. I guess in terms of comparison it is rather difficult to say, as they offer quite different experiences - from the lavish trimmings of Gauchos, with chairs made of cow, to the austere, living room-based ambience that is Casa Malevo, with its petrified redwood lawn chairs. The menus are relatively similar, though of late the Gaucho's menu has become all the more enticing. 
None of that is important though, what counts is the actual purpose of the restaurant, what my face is planted into when I come to these places. Again, it is difficult to say, as I have only ever had steaks at Gaucho's, and not much of a tangent at Casa Malevo. In isolation it was a very nice experience - the homely ambience reflected in its food, with great attention to detail and prepared very well, and taking a while, as obviously Mama Malevo only has so many hands. I am certain this is someone's house doubling as a restaurant. It's one major downfall is the very reason I sought a replacement for Gaucho's, which namely is a very restrictive menu. I did manage to try out a new food experience in the Sweetbreads, falling straight into normality with grilled lamb chops and snore. It is also seemingly better suited to people on a date, not that I can complain, a bit of romance with the food just makes it all the more pleasing. 

A welcome benefit was the price. It was reasonable. Which is always a plus for the perpetual bum that is me. Better than Gaucho's? Hard to say. Better for the experience? Oh fo' sho. Just need to return to Gaucho's and continue the comparison ^_^

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