Steven Arroyo's Spanish Tapas hot spot, Cobras & Matadors, on Beverly Blvd is another one of my all-time favorite, must-eat LA restaurants. I've been coming here every year (and sometimes every month) since 2003 (opened 2001). The proof is in the Park La Brea Newsletter review from 2006, here. But enough with the numbers. Let's get on to the goods.
When it was time for my annual trip last week with the girls, I was surprised to see the decor had changed from seductively simple Spanish to French Bistro Flare – por quoi? The rows of wine corks still line the walls, but now the walls are painted red, 2 new wrought-iron lamps hang from the ceiling, and colored pictures replace the former black and white ones. And that's not all that changed.
After perusing the once memorized menu, I was passionate about getting reacquainted with some old flames – Bacon Wrapped Dates, Green Lentils with Jamon – but DEVASTATED to find out some had gone – Bacon Wrapped Prawns in Garlic Cream Sauce on Sourdough Bread, Paella, Mojo Picon Sauce for Sweet Potato Fries. Suddenly that new quote at the top of the menu, "the past is a broken egg, the future is a hatched egg" (Paul Helard) made me wanna shout out "But it was never broke, so why'd you nix it?!?" At least I got to take on a few new love(r)s.
- amazing as always, plus new proscuitto bed Bacon Wrapped Dates with Blue Cheese, Almonds & Port Wine ($10)
- you-either-love-em-or-hate-em, crunchy, tangy Crispy Green Lentils with Jamon Serrano, Green Onions, and Sherry Reduction ($11)
- totally miss the mojo picon red pepper sauce, still some of the best Sweet Potato Fries with Heinz 57 and Aioli ($7)
- marinate on this for a minute Wood-Fired Mushrooms with Sherry Glaze, Herbed Hazelnuts & Sea Salt ($10)
- newer to the menu, you gotta dig deep for the flavor Burrata in a Jar with Basil, Olive Oil, Grilled Bread & Sea Salt ($10)
- wonderfully balanced, sweet, earthy, tangy Sauteed Spinach with Golden Raisins, Harissa & Hazelnuts ($9)
- slightly harissa smokey, could use more flavor Roasted Eggplant with Toasted Sourdough, Radishes & seriously spicy "Hots" ($8)
- succulent, charcoal flavor, citrus 'n spice Roasted Tiger Prawns with Toasted Almonds, Smoked Paprika & Salsa Verde ($16)
- tastes indian inspired, kinda bland Socca Chickpea Pancakes with Mojo Cilantro Sauce ($9)
- Artisan Cheese Plate with Manchego, Goat, Blue, and Parmesan with Grilled Bread, Grapes, Toasted Sweet Crunchy Walnuts & Apricot Jam ($17)
- meat lover's delight, veggies need more pickling Daily Selection of Salumi with Pickled Vegetables & Grain Mustard ($16)
- refreshing orange peel, big and small, green and black Marinated Olives with Citrus & Herbs ($5)
Between 6 ladies, we shared 12 plates and 4 bottles of wine – it's BYOW since Cobras doesn't sell alcohol. $38 each later we were all fat and happy, even though our kind, eager waiter forgot to bring out one of my all time favorite dishes, the Grilled Green Asparagus with Grana Padano (used to be Manchego) & Walnut Vinaigrette ($9).
We kicked off the meal big and bold with Bacon Wrapped Dates. Even though I missed the cute little bowl Cobras used to serve them in, I really enjoyed the new bed of Proscuitto the Bacon Wrapped Dates now lie on. The Micro-greens give it a nice earthy touch, and the Blue cheese / Port Wine / savory Bacon flavor combination is out of this world, and equally as good as A.O.C.'s Bacon Wrapped Medjool Dates, which are stuffed with Parmesan instead.
As for the Lentils, about 25% of the girls at the table liked them, including me. These babies are unlike any Lentil you've had before since they're crispity crunchity in texture, instead of soft. Mixed with the crunch of the Ham, I can see how it could be too much for some. But the Sherry Reduction and cool Green Onions really seal the deal. As always, I found myself having a Lentil Lovefest.
The Sweet Potato Fries got a whole new look, and sadly lost their best sauce, Mojo Picon. Instead of the communal, friendly basket, the Fries are now served on a dish. And while I love ketchup, I love their former Mojo Picon sauce more. The zestiness and savoriness of this Spanish Red Pepper Sauce totally balanced the sweetness of the Fries, which are still thin, warm, salty, and crunchy. But without the sauce, these babies really lost their Mojo – pun totally intended.
The Mushrooms taste the same as always, and the texture is nice and plump. A part of me wishes the Sherry Glaze didn't mask their natural woodsy, earthy flavors though.
I was stoked to see one of my favorite cheeses, Burrata, as a new item on the menu and in a Jar no less. But you really gotta dig deep to get all the herbs, spices, and seasoning which all sink to the bottom. The Sourdough Toast it comes with are nicely charred.
The Sauteed Spinach is another one of my new favorite dishes. Sweet, earthy, tangy, spicy flavors that all come together well with the plump Golden Raisins and Harissa.
I also enjoyed the new Roasted Eggplant, which is smokey and topped with tangy Parmesan. I wish the Bread Slices were smaller though and that there was a little more Seasoning. Also, BEWARE of the "Radish Surprise" a.k.a. fiery Red Hot Chile Peppers, not Sun-Dried Tomatoes, hidden beneath the Sliced Radish Centerpiece – we learned the hard way.
While I literally almost cried when the waiter told me they took the Bacon-Wrapped Garlic Shrimp on Toast off the menu and probably won't be bringing it back, I did enjoy the juicy drippiness of the new ones. They're tender and the Lime really stands out.
As for the Socca Cakes, the Mojo Cilantro Sauce tastes similar to the green sauce you'd find at an Indian restaurant. The Cakes themselves are really nothing special, a little dry, and could use more flavor.
The Artisan Cheese Plate is fabulous. Just order it. Everyone will love it and end up fighting over those Sugar-encrusted Walnuts.
I only tried two of the meats from the Daily Salumi Plate which were good, but by then I was getting full. I was totally disappointed by the so-called Pickled Vegetables – huge chunks of Radish that should have been cut down smaller, and there were no pickling juices to be found.
All in all, while I enjoyed some new dishes, I really kinda miss the old Cobras. The place is still crowded and bumping with interesting music choices, so get ready to make a reservation well in advance and practice your loud-talking lessons.
And Steven Arroyo, if you're reading this, PLEASE bring those Bacon-Wrapped Prawns and Mojo Picon Sauce back! They are totally signature items that your fans love and miss, so why the nix?
7615 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036. 323-932-6178.