Turning fifty is not something I necessarily wanted to broadcast but a dear friend inviting me to lunch at MAKO today to celebrate certainly was worth the milestone. To be honest, I'm dining less and less like this these days and except for a triumphant dinner at SENSI at the Bellagio earlier this year, prepared by Chef Martin Heyerling, this was a more rarified repast than usual.
With all due respect to the newer more casual Asian bistros like BEACON and ORRIS, MAKO is a much richer experience and appropriately pricier. For $29, we opted for the special Chef's Bento Box selection that featured nine items presented simultaneously on an elaborate lacquered and divided tray. Although familiar each item was uniquely realized with vibrant and fresh flavors. Take the duck Pad Thai highlighted with crunchy seared onions, Chinese broccoli and crispy pieces of duck or the Ahi tuna served as sashimi and also seared with Wasabi oil. Vegetable spring rolls have an exotic smoky quality and duck potstickers a hot mustard bite. Wagyu beef meatballs are addicting with a slight crunch and Yellowtail sashimi is accompanied with the perfect Ponzu. Even the cliche chicken satays are tender and the Asian slaw has a nice heat. My friend was very happy with his Calera Pinot and dessert was literally an unexpected surprise: a smaller bento box that included a delicate mango cheesecake with a rich berry sauce, banana ice cream, passionfruit, berry and citrus sorbet and great biscotti.
Even the room has more depth than I remember from the last and only other time I dined there four years ago. Maybe it's the "Sunday in Soweto" painting on one wall or the blue glass light fixtures that have aged well. Service was knowing and efficient and as the room filled Mako quietly worked in the kitchen while Lisa surveyed the surroundings with purpose and assurance. I thought of TERRA in St. Helena, another personal favorite. But maintaining serenity in Beverly Hills on a Friday afternoon is noteworthy in itself. This is one of the best restaurants in the city.