Restaurants & Bars

Chef Mark Malicki at Bodega’s Casino Bar & Grill

Melanie Wong | Feb 6, 201103:37 PM     33

Three weekends ago, we made the foggy drive for a first visit to the Casino Bar & Grill in Bodega since Mark Malicki started cooking here. I’ll confess that my heart sank on spotting this “barbecue” menu for Sunday, 1/16/11.

Malicki was standing behind the counter and you order from him directly. But we were here and we tried all three dishes:

BBQ beef short ribs with collard greens & sweet potato, $15
Pulled pork sandwich with cole slaw, $10
Macaroni and cheese gratin, $8

Apologies for the badly lit photo and this was not Malicki's most photogenic food anyway, but everything was delicious. Malicki served the food himself and busses the dishes too.

The mac and cheese gratin was curdled and wouldn’t win any beauty contests but had loads of cheesey goodness. Quite complex with slightly chewy elbow macaroni, I’m sure this incorporated a wide range of cheeses to build that depth of flavor.

The pulled pork this time was not up to the other times I’ve had this from him, however, the portion was enormous. And, I loved the very spicy and fresh-tasting cole slaw served with it. In addition, this had a slab of roasted sweet potato alongside.

His pièce de résistance turned out to be the BBQ beef short ribs. The bland, generic menu description was no tip-off for the robust, original flavors served up on this plate. Smoky from the grill, the kalbi-cut short ribs were spicy, garlicky, and sweet. Actually really spicy but held in check by the other bold elements and we sucked on the bones for every bit of the sticky glaze. Equally grand were the collard greens, softened but not mushy and dancing with tart, chile hot seasoning. A handful of roasted sweet fennel and onion strips over the top gave the dish another punch and some sweetness to tame the heat. The plain roasted sweet potatoes also helped to tone down the fire.

Yes, this was “barbecue” but with Malicki’s own special touch, and I felt a twinge of guilt that I’d doubted him. I’d asked him whether this was a typical night. He sort of shrugged and told me that he’s mixing it up, trying to keep the prices low and figuring out what the Casino’s customers like. The night before he’d served braised pork neck with borlotti beans and he was planning to make a rabbit paella next. He also let me know that he’d be expanding his days here to Friday through Tuesday, and a friend would be manning the kitchen on his two days off. Please do check for hours before heading over there as this has been in flux.

Since then, I’ve discovered that the menu is posted on the Casino’s facebook page every day.

I’ve been checking in occasionally and have been drooling over his menus. I’ve cut and pasted some of them below. So far, I’ve not seen anything priced over $15. Mark Malicki has been one of my favorite chefs and I’m delighted to catch up with him and his cuisine again.

* * * * * * *

Jan 17 Monday’s menu:

Butternut squash soup with goat cheese toast, $6
Arugula salad with walnuts, figs, fennel & cream, $8
Fideo with shrimp, mussels & kale, $10
Black trumpet & chanterelle mushrooms on grilled bread, $9
Griddled pork chops with macaroni & cheese and sautéed greens, $12
Salted caramel pudding with toffee peanuts, $6

Jan 23 sunday supper at the casino

dates with
manchego, pistachios
& serrano ham

griddled brussels sprouts,
carrots & bacon with goat cheese toasts

potato & fennel soup with creme fraiche

caesar salad

oxtail stuffed piquillo peppers

fish tacos with cilantro,
radishes and green onion crema

flourless chocolate cake
with whipped cream

Jan 24 monday supper

griddled asparagus with bacon and eggs 8

puree of winter squash soup with creme fraiche 6
warm rabbit salad with huckleberries,
hazelnuts and cream 11

oxtail stuffed piquillo peppers 8

fish tacos with cilantro,
radishes and green onion crema 10

roast shoulder of pork with pig ear mushrooms, curly endive,
glazed carrots and pancetta 15

flourless chocolate cake
with whipped cream 5

Feb 5 Saturday supper

chowderless clam soup,
clams, spicy fennel sausage,
sweet potatoes and kale

steelhead trout,
grape, almond, leeks
bacon brown butter

niman ranch prime rib of beef,
savoy cabbage, fingerling potato,
fresh horseradish, smoked salt

almond tart with almond cream

On the Trail of Chef Mark Malicki (and outstanding pulled pork), August 22 2006

Earlier post about chowing at Bodega’s Casino

Casino Bar & Grill
17000 Bodega Hwy, Bodega, CA

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