One of the best things about our great state of California is the abundance of Mexican food. It’s only natural considering we used to be part of that country, that the cuisine is one of our staples. There are so many varieties in Mexican cuisine, tacos to tamales, tortas, enchiladas, pozole, taquitos, not to mention all the desserts.

I find it really difficult to tire of eating it, and apparently I’m not alone seeing the recent surge in nouveau Mexican restaurants. Joining Downtown’s trend of high-end, but approachable eateries (Rivera, Border Grill) is Mas Malo. You may have heard or visited the flagship Malo in Silver Lake, known for their fresh take on Mexican fare and killer cocktails. Well, the fun has spread to 7th Street and Grand Avenue with February’s opening of Mas Malo.

Mas Malo occupies over 9,000 square feet, with high ceilings, multi-level dining and mirrored bars. With such a huge space, I thought that dining might feel slightly detached, but the mood lighting and great soundtrack (Morrissey, yes!) actually engulfs the surroundings and makes it kind of lounge-y.

I noticed a lot of large parties dining here, a plus for those of us who like to dine big. At the same time, there were couples, so it can easily be a great place for a date.

When we were seated, I faced the ground floor bar and immediately started planning on where I’d be sitting for Happy Hour when I return. Good thing they offer Happy Hour, as the cocktails are really great for soothing an especially long day or to kick off your weekend.

One thing that’s very noticeable at Mas Malo is that tequila is their best friend. There are so many varieties, at least 200. I feel it’s my duty to come back as many times as possible to sample each one. OK, not really, but at least try the other eight out of 10 “favorites” Mas Malo carries.

So far, the winner is the Spicy Cucumber Margarita featuring a crisp Blanco, lime juice, bitters and Tapatio. It starts out smooth and ends with a little kick, but not overwhelming, just a little heat to perk up those taste buds for what’s to come. That and the Piñata Smash with serrano chilies, cilantro and pineapple are so good, especially when paired with the highly recommended chewy chips, flash-fried triangles of masa and chile negro, with chocolate salsa.

I’m more of a spice person, but my partner prefers things on the mild side. Mild doesn’t mean loss of flavor, though, and the tomatillo salsa was bursting with it. The tanginess cut the heat from the margaritas in a very smooth way.

Of course, I drank water too. I know what you’re thinking, who mentions water in a feature? I do, because it’s flavored with a hint of cucumber! That’s just one of the little nuances that Mas Malo is great for: staying ahead of the game.

Speaking of being ahead of the game, the menu is not only succinct, but includes vegan options. There’s vegan menudo, soy and tofu tortas bathed in a spicy red sauce with creamy avocado, eggplant tacos and the popular vegetarian ground beef and pickle tacos.

Ah yes, tacos. I think this is where Mas Malo truly shines. They offer hard-shell versions stuffed to the max with the ingredient of your choice. The lobster taco’s crunchy shell gives way to soft, diced lobster mixed with tomatoes. The lobster comes with a thimble of salsa, but it’s really not needed. The ground beef and pickle tacos were just as our server described: “like a cheeseburger in a taco.” The pickles played off the heavily seasoned beef so well; I loved the depth of flavor.

Instead of the usual rice and beans you may have become accustomed to, Mas Malo gives you choices like fried guero chilies in lime and salt, potato salad, even radishes with queso fresco. Should you decide to order an entrée, check out the Ensenada shrimp wrapped with bacon and shrimp or the eggless Chile Relleno.

As for dessert, Mas Malo has an impressive selection from flan to Tres Leches Cake, prepared traditionally with condensed and evaporated milk. Try and order the Mexican coffee and jelly donuts, which are changed daily but are all a hit.

All in all, Mas Malo is a great addition to the Downtown scene, and I don’t think I’ll tire from this nouveau cuisine either.



Mas Malo has another location at 4326 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information, visit malorestaurant.com.