Posts Tagged ‘bibimbap’

Mashta: Battle Delicious

February 18, 2010

In the early days of food television,  before Gordon Ramsey threw knives on Kitchen Nightmares  like a sideshow carnie and floundering cooks were mercilessly eliminated by the freakishly beautiful Padma Lakshmi on Top Chef, there was the Japanese cult sensation Iron Chef.  

I don’t know what I miss more: the authoritative, excitable timbre of host Takeshi Kaga’s voice  or his imaginative pirate’s blouses and flamboyant theatrics in the Kitchen Stadium. Thank God for youtube

Battle Stingray? Ostrich? Eel? If it wasn’t obscure, unwieldy or unpalatable, it didn’t make the cut. Myung Lee was a challenger on one such episode.

Most challengers remain face-savingly stoic as the mystery ingredient is unveiled, even if impaling oneself on a Shun Santoku seems preferable to the career suicide that might result from grappling with some of the mutinous, wayward or just plain offensive chosen fare.

 But as quivering gelatinous gray lobes were hydraulically elevated to stage level, the look on Lee’s face was not unlike someone trying to quell  a bad gastrointestinal disturbance, or someone who had witnessed, say, an unfortunate episode of indecent exposure.

Liver wasn’t a dream ingredient, but now Lee chooses her own battles. I learned of her latest restaurant from OC Weekly’s food blog Stick a Fork in It.  It’s a modest stone pot stand inside Mitsuwa marketplace in Costa Mesa. Even in this udon and sushi-heavy environment, Mashta is on the radar.

The manager’s special came in a black pot sleek with oil, radiating enough ambient warmth to heat a one bedroom apartment.  The carefully arranged still life seemed to contain everything essential to satiate the hungriest of lunchtime patrons: slender pork cutlets,  a fried egg, ribbons of tender marinated rib-eye, vegetables sautéed in sesame oil and a dollop of hot sauce on a generous bed of sizzling short grain rice.

I tossed it gingerly with chopsticks to avoid a trip to the burn unit until all the ingredients melded and the rice became transparent forming a delicious crust on the bottom of the pot. Spicy and savory, this complete meal in a bowl was piping hot to the last bite.

  The special included several side dishes, none worth mention except the yummy sweet potato noodles (Japchae) that also come as an entree. My most reliable sources say the word Mashta is just one letter away from the Korean word meaning ‘tasty’ or ‘delicious’. Close enough for me.

665 Paularino, Costa Mesa, CA. 949 212 4176.  Dinner for two, $13.00,  food only.