Marlar Restaurant - A Quick Hit
When Dommy and I hear about a new restaurant in our hood we greet the news with hope and skepticism. The last restaurant in the space, Grand Bistro, was nothing more than bland wedding food. But news of something interesting came from our Neighbors. There is now A Chinese-Thai Halal Cuisine restaurant in that spot, and they said it was good. I first tried it for lunch. They had a 6.99 special and I ordered the Szechuan Tofu but a language barrier caused them to bring Tofu With Veggies. While I got the wrong dish it was good enough to try again.
When I told Dommy! of this place she was intrigued. She had hoped it would be a Chinese-Islamic Restaurant. But hopes were dashed upon learning that they did not serve the typical Scallion bread among other things instead it appears to be run by ethnically Chinese Southeast Asians with a Muslim background. The Chef is Chinese but is not Muslim. This explains the varied menu.
We started with a super creamy thai ice tea, lightly sweet and fragrant. Dommy stuck with the house tea, also refreshing with a bit a barley aftertaste.
We started with Shrimp Dumplings, Dommy pegged them as typically frozen. Nothing special. Luckily our mains made up for them...
Szechuan Tofu, basically Ma Po Tofu. A favorite dish of mine, we recently had a super authentic version at Chung King and although this was not in the same level of heat, it was extremely flavorful (Not just salty brown sauce like lots of other places) and with the slightest taste of heat and sichuan peppercorn. Though the Menu said that the dish comes with ground Beef this one had none and I think it is because it is on the vegetarian menu, you will have to specifically request it. Oh and If you need heat there is chili paste already on the table.
One of the few Chinese Islamic dishes there was Lamb Curry. Again, no where in the league of the stuff you can get at China Islamic, but again, they made a decent attempt. Lots of flavor of curry and cumin. The lamb was cooked well, thin, tender, but still slightly lamby.
Above all, we were very satisfied with our meal and are glad to have a new option so near by. Next time we plan to try from the limited Thai menu...
10706 Jefferson Blvd, Culver City, CA 90230
Always looking for Halal restaurants in the Culver City area so thanks for the report and hope to try it soon! Ma Po Tofu is also a favorite of mine....
Great report. I was wondering about this place myself. My wife liked Grand Bistro, but I have to agree it was basically decent hotel wedding food, which I've eaten plenty of. I'd never heard of Chinese Islamic food and your description really explained it.
I've so far avoided this place because in general, I'm leery of Chinese restaurants that describe their dishes in full English, rather than the Chinese terms we are all familiar with in LA. Now I have a reason to check it out, for sure, quickly, before it fails as did all its predecessors in that location:)
BTW, halal food seekers in the area should also check out the Jasmine Market on Sepulveda near Washington. Terrific Burmese curries etc.
Well, I thought I'd be impressing daughter by leading her to a halal restaurant by her house that she hadn't tried, but naturally, she was way ahead of me and had been already. Her report was that the owners were lovely people, interior was very pleasant, but that, alas, food was only 'ok'. However, after pressing her further I determined she had only ordered Thai dishes, so clearly another trip to check out the Chinese side of the menu was in order. We headed over there for lunch today...
First of all, they really are lovely folks, and the place is family owned. The daughter served us: no language barriers there, she ended up in long conversation with my daughter about the relative benefits of heading straight to UCLA vs going as a transfer student. Mom offered to hold my daughter's baby for a while. All in all, the atmosphere made for a very pleasant lunch.
At lunch, they have a number of specials at $6.99 each, and they will serve main dishes on the regular menu as part of a lunch special even if not listed.
Steamed shrimp dumplings. Only an average version.
Our mains came with a corn/egg drop soup, which was ok, and egg rolls, which I thought were better than average, not greasy, with a nice amount of bean sprouts.
We had the spicy chicken with peanuts, basically a kung pao chicken, my daughter's choice. First few bites were impressive, but after a while it started to taste too heavily of soy.
I love cabbage, so debated between the lamb and pickled cabbage soup, and the lamb and pickled cabbage stir fry. Settled on the later since it was a warm day: pieces of lamb, chopped onion and strongly pickled cabbage. I really liked the cabbage but it definitely could be an acquired taste (daughter took one bite and refused any more). The lamb was tender and nicely cooked, but not much lamb flavor: it was overwhelmed a bit, or even more than a bit, by the cabbage.(guess some people would consider that an advantage? :-))
Both mains were served with choice of steamed white or brown rice, or fried rice. (we had steamed rice) Portions were generous but not huge.
Total for our meal with two Thai ice teas and some leftovers, with tax and generous tip, was about $29.
Verdict: I have to agree with daughter that the atmosphere and service trump the food, but given that halal Chinese places on the west side are in very short supply (would love reports on any others), we will undoubtably be back. Tomorrow we have business in Orange County, so are debating heading for an early dinner at Ma's Islamic in Anaheim. I note they also have pickled cabbage and lamb on the menu; hope to do a direct comparison..
Great report!!! I've been dying to try Mas... especially since my favorite China Islamic restauraunt closed down a few years back...
I do have to point out, as we did in our original post... it's not really FAIR to compare Marlar to a Chinese Islamic restaurant because it's not one. Again, they just serve Halal food because the family seems to have a Muslim Background... but are NOT from the Western Chinese Islamic Region. Believe me, I was horribly disapointed as well... but once I realized where everyone was coming from, I adjusted my expectations accordingly...
well, I partially agree with you and partially disagree: after all, other than the flat bread (which was admittedly a highlight at Ma's), we did end up ordering the same dishes at both: and while I will admit to having limited knowledge of Chinese Islamic dishes, I think pickled cabbage with lamb is common on Chinese Islamic menus (?)...but then, as you say, if the chef isn't Muslim, you may be right that it isn't fair to expect the same quality. (the owners of Marlar definitely are Muslim though I would have to take your word on their ethnic background).
That all said, the standard dishes we had at Ma's (soup, kung pao chicken) were much better, and I suspect the food is just generally just better executed, even if one sticks to standards. And Ma's had plenty of standard "Americanized" dishes on both the lunch and dinner menus.
However, given that decent to good Chinese is hard to find on the west side, I'd still head back to Marlar when I needed a fix and wasn't willing to drive, particularly if daughter was along (since they are halal).