Chef Mark Malicki at Bodega’s Casino Bar & Grill
Three weekends ago, we made the foggy drive for a first visit to the Casino Bar & Grill in Bodega since Mark Malicki started cooking here. I’ll confess that my heart sank on spotting this “barbecue” menu for Sunday, 1/16/11.
Malicki was standing behind the counter and you order from him directly. But we were here and we tried all three dishes:
BBQ beef short ribs with collard greens & sweet potato, $15
Pulled pork sandwich with cole slaw, $10
Macaroni and cheese gratin, $8
Apologies for the badly lit photo and this was not Malicki's most photogenic food anyway, but everything was delicious. Malicki served the food himself and busses the dishes too.
The mac and cheese gratin was curdled and wouldn’t win any beauty contests but had loads of cheesey goodness. Quite complex with slightly chewy elbow macaroni, I’m sure this incorporated a wide range of cheeses to build that depth of flavor.
The pulled pork this time was not up to the other times I’ve had this from him, however, the portion was enormous. And, I loved the very spicy and fresh-tasting cole slaw served with it. In addition, this had a slab of roasted sweet potato alongside.
His pièce de résistance turned out to be the BBQ beef short ribs. The bland, generic menu description was no tip-off for the robust, original flavors served up on this plate. Smoky from the grill, the kalbi-cut short ribs were spicy, garlicky, and sweet. Actually really spicy but held in check by the other bold elements and we sucked on the bones for every bit of the sticky glaze. Equally grand were the collard greens, softened but not mushy and dancing with tart, chile hot seasoning. A handful of roasted sweet fennel and onion strips over the top gave the dish another punch and some sweetness to tame the heat. The plain roasted sweet potatoes also helped to tone down the fire.
Yes, this was “barbecue” but with Malicki’s own special touch, and I felt a twinge of guilt that I’d doubted him. I’d asked him whether this was a typical night. He sort of shrugged and told me that he’s mixing it up, trying to keep the prices low and figuring out what the Casino’s customers like. The night before he’d served braised pork neck with borlotti beans and he was planning to make a rabbit paella next. He also let me know that he’d be expanding his days here to Friday through Tuesday, and a friend would be manning the kitchen on his two days off. Please do check for hours before heading over there as this has been in flux.
Since then, I’ve discovered that the menu is posted on the Casino’s facebook page every day.
I’ve been checking in occasionally and have been drooling over his menus. I’ve cut and pasted some of them below. So far, I’ve not seen anything priced over $15. Mark Malicki has been one of my favorite chefs and I’m delighted to catch up with him and his cuisine again.
* * * * * * *
Jan 17 Monday’s menu:
Butternut squash soup with goat cheese toast, $6
Arugula salad with walnuts, figs, fennel & cream, $8
Fideo with shrimp, mussels & kale, $10
Black trumpet & chanterelle mushrooms on grilled bread, $9
Griddled pork chops with macaroni & cheese and sautéed greens, $12
Salted caramel pudding with toffee peanuts, $6
Jan 23 sunday supper at the casino
& serrano ham
griddled brussels sprouts,
carrots & bacon with goat cheese toasts
potato & fennel soup with creme fraiche
oxtail stuffed piquillo peppers
fish tacos with cilantro,
radishes and green onion crema
flourless chocolate cake
with whipped cream
Jan 24 monday supper
griddled asparagus with bacon and eggs 8
puree of winter squash soup with creme fraiche 6
warm rabbit salad with huckleberries,
hazelnuts and cream 11
oxtail stuffed piquillo peppers 8
fish tacos with cilantro,
radishes and green onion crema 10
roast shoulder of pork with pig ear mushrooms, curly endive,
glazed carrots and pancetta 15
flourless chocolate cake
with whipped cream 5
Feb 5 Saturday supper
chowderless clam soup,
clams, spicy fennel sausage,
sweet potatoes and kale
grape, almond, leeks
bacon brown butter
niman ranch prime rib of beef,
savoy cabbage, fingerling potato,
fresh horseradish, smoked salt
almond tart with almond cream
On the Trail of Chef Mark Malicki (and outstanding pulled pork), August 22 2006
Earlier post about chowing at Bodega’s Casino
Casino Bar & Grill
17000 Bodega Hwy, Bodega, CA
Chef Malicki was the caterer for last weekend’s open house at Scherrer winery. He put out a buffet of delicious crostinis as accompaniments: Salt cod & lobster brandade, Butternut squash & smoked gouda emulsion, Deviled crab, Brussels sprouts & bacon. Rabbit crepinettes formed into meatball shape and served on picks were my favorite of all. As tasty as the food was, I was more pleased to have a chance to chat with Malicki about his upcoming exit from the Casino and future plans.
He is still cooking at the Casino . . . for now. He said he needs a change of scenery, but realistically, that probably won’t happen until Spring rolls around. He’s keeping busy with catering gigs for the holidays while he tries to figure out what’s next. So, there’s still time to catch him in Bodega town.
Last month I had a chance to try his ramen. Here’s the Ramenfest menu with three different styles of noodles,
Korean Short Rib Ramen – Even served in a Korean-style stainless steel bowl. The rich beef stock was sticky with melted collagen, relatively fat-free, and had a carrot-like vegetal sweetness.
High quality toppings were the highlight: succulent beef short rib meat, lovely runny yolked sunnyside-up farm egg, sautéed chard, and crunchy kimchi.
Pickled garlic cloves – On the side, crunchy, sweet, sour whole garlic cloves. Love ‘em. And these are not dyed Pepto Bismo pink.
Fat chewy noodles –The lowlight: almost square cut noodles, more towards doughy than chewy.
This ramen bowl enters the ranking at #37.
PERSONAL RAMEN RANKING
1. Ramen Halu, 375 Saratoga Ave Ste M, San Jose
2. Tsujita, 2057 Sawtelle Blvd, Los Angeles
3. Tatsunoya at Mitsuwa Kyushu and Okinawan festival, 675 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
4. Himawari, 202 2nd Ave, San Mateo
5. Orenchi Ramen, 3540 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara
6. Santouka, 675 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
7. Maru Ichi, 368 Castro St, Mountain View
8. Izakaya Mai, 212 2nd Avenue, San Mateo
9. Shin Shin Men Men, 21265 Stevens Creek Blvd, Cupertino
10. Gaku Japanese Charcoal Grill, 5152 Moorpark Ave, San Jose
11. Yonsei Ramen Shop @ Hopscotch, 1915 San Pablo Ave, Oakland
12. Ajisen Noodle, 47890 Warm Springs Blvd, Fremont
13. Maru Ichi, 530 Barber Lane, Milpitas
14. Ramen Dojo, 805 South B St, San Mateo
15. Shalala, 698 W Dana St, Mountain View
16. Tanto, 1063 E El Camino Real, Sunnyvale
17. Izakaya Restaurant, 1335 N 1st St, San Jose
18. Alexander’s Steakhouse Lounge, 10330 N Wolfe Rd, Cupertino (closed)
19. Santa, 1944 South El Camino Real, San Mateo
20. Do-Henkotsu House of Tokushima Ramen, 4330 Moorpark Ave, San Jose (closed)
21. Ramen Tenma, 487 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
22. Hapa Ramen, 1 Ferry Bldg, San Francisco
23. Ryowa, 859 Villa St, Mountain View
24. Orson Restaurant Bar + Lounge, 508 4th St, San Francisco (closed)
25. Izakaya Sozai, 1500 Irving St, San Francisco
26. Sumiya, 2634 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara
27. Tamashii Ramen House, 3288 Pierce St, Richmond
28. Gen Ramen, 47890 Warm Springs Blvd, Fremont (closed)
29. Hana Japanese Restaurant, 101 Golf Course Dr, Rohnert Park
30. Ken Ken Ramen, pop-up at The Corner, San Francisco (closed, moved)
31. Kyora Japanese Restaurant, 1217 Wildwood Ave, Sunnyvale (closed)
32. Sobo, 988 Franklin St, Oakland
33. Kotetsu Ramen, 2089 El Camino Real, Santa Clara
34. BY Grill, 3226 Geary Blvd, San Francisco (closed)
35. Norikonoko, 2556 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley
36. Dohatsuten, 799 San Antonio Rd, Palo Alto
37. Casino Bar and Grill, 17000 Bodega Hwy, Bodega
38. Hana, 4320 Moorpark, San Jose
39. Ozumo, 2251 Broadway, Oakland
40. Men Oh Tokushima Ramen, 5120 Geary Blvd, San Francisco
41. Muracci’s, 244 State St, Los Altos
42. Katanaya, 430 Geary Blvd., San Francisco
43. Tadamasa, 34672 Alvarado Niles Road, Union City
44. Noodle Me, America’s Cup Village concession, San Francisco
45. Masa's Sushi, 400 San Antonio Road, Mountain View
46. Ippuku, 2130 Center St, Berkeley
47. Nombe, 2491 Mission St, San Francisco
48. Gochi, 19980 Homestead Rd, Cupertino
49. Shimo Modern Steakhouse, 241 Healdsburg Ave, Healdsburg (closed)
50. Oyaji, 3123 Clement St, San Francisco
51. Ramen Misoya, 3541 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara
52. Chubby Noodle, 570 Green St, San Francisco
53. Ame Restaurant, 689 Mission St, San Francisco
54. Yu-Raku, 104 S El Camino Real, San Mateo
55. Namu, 439 Balboa St, San Francisco (moved)
56. Halu Restaurant, 312 8th Ave, San Francisco
57. Sanmi, 3226 Geary Blvd, San Francisco (closed)
58. Hatcho, 1271 Franklin Mall, Santa Clara
59. Kahoo, 4330 Moorpark Ave, San Jose
60. Tomoe, 810 3rd St, San Rafael (closed)
61. Ringer Hut, 1072 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
62. Noodle Theory, 3242 Scott St, San Francisco (closed)
63. Ramen Seas, 173 S Murphy Ave, Sunnyvale
64. Watami Shabu Shabu and Ramen, 5344 Geary Blvd, San Francisco (closed)
65. Where’s Buta by Elgin Espiritu and June Lee, Eat Real Festival, Oakland
66. Kumako, 211 E. Jackson Street, San Jose
67. Japanese Restaurant Hoshi, 246 Saratoga Avenue, Santa Clara
68. Ramen Club, 723 California Dr, Burlingame
69. Saiwaii Ramen, 2240 Irving St, San Francisco
70. Ryowa, 2068 University Ave, Berkeley (after ownership change)
71. King Won Ton, 1936 Irving St, San Francisco
72. Tazaki Sushi, 3420 Judah St, San Francisco
73. Ramen Rama, 19774 Stevens Creek Blvd, Cupertino (closed)
74. Ogi-San Ramen, 10789 Blaney Ave, Cupertino (closed)
75. Kaimuki Grill, 104 S El Camino Real, San Mateo (closed)
76. Tanto, 1306 Saratoga Ave, San Jose (now Dan Izakaya)
77. Okazu Ya SF (Noriega), 2445 Noriega St, San Francisco
78. King's Garden Ramen, 39055 Cedar Blvd, Newark (closed)
79. Sushi Bistro, 445 Balboa St, San Francisco (closed, moved)
80. Genki Ramen, 3944 Geary Blvd, San Francisco
81. Mitsuwa Hokkaido festival booth, 675 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
82. Dan Izakaya, 1306 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
83. Lakuni, 325 E 4th Ave, San Mateo
84. 100% Healthy Desserts, 1155 Taraval St., San Francisco
85. Mifune, 1737 Post St, San Francisco
86. H2A Noodle, 42318 Fremont Blvd., Fremont (closed)
87. Iroha, 1728 Buchanan St, San Francisco
88. Chotto, 3317 Steiner St, San Francisco
89. Miraku Noodles, 2131 N Broadway, Walnut Creek
90. Manpuku, 2977 College Ave, Berkeley
91. Tanpopo, 1740 Buchanan Street, San Francisco
92. Sushi Yoshi, 39261 Cedar Blvd, Newark
93. La Shang Niang Ramen (OEC), 42 Dixon Rd, Milpitas (closed)
94. Oidon, 71 E. 4th Avenue, San Mateo
95. Taraval Okazu Ya, 1735 Taraval St., San Francisco
96. Suzu Noodle House, 1581 Webster Street, San Francisco
97. Bushido Izakaya, 156 Castro St, Mountain View
98. Fresh Taste, 2107 El Camino Real, Palo Alto
99. Asuka Ramen, 883 Bush St, San Francisco (closed)
100. Sapporo-ya, 1581 Webster St, San Francisco
101. Tokyo Ramen, 678 Barber Lane, Milpitas (closed)
102. Ramen Tomo, 4390 Telegraph Ave, Oakland
103. Kamakura, 2549 Santa Clara Ave, Alameda
104. Mama-san!, 312 8th Ave, San Francisco (closed)
105. Katana-ya Ramen, 10546 San Pablo Ave, El Cerrito
106. Hotei, 1290 9th Ave, San Francisco
107. Bear's Ramen House, 2521 Durant, Berkeley
So, an hour ago Chef Malicki posted his daily dinner menu on FB but with a message that he'll be moving on soon. No date of separation stated.
I'd advise that if you haven't had a chance to try his cooking, this would be the time. I'm doubly sad that I missed his shrimp & grits for all hallow's eve.
On Bastille Day I was back at the Casino with a couple friends. Had hoped to catch some summer barbequed oyster action on the pation, but they were sold out before 6pm.
We'd started off with beers at the bar, then segued to a red burgundy I'd brought, 2006 R. Leclerc Gevrey-Chambertin 1er cru Champeaux. Corkage is $10 per bottle.
On arrival we learned that Chef Mark Malicki was busy catering a gig at Bohemian Grove and his stand-in, Jody, was on duty. The day's menu included cornmeal crusted fried frog legs on a bed of arugula, as good a way to mark the French holiday as any. Good thing I'd put in our order early, as soon these were sold out too. Two backsides, actually, so four frog legs to an order. A bit thick on the batter, but cooked perfectly hitting that smooth meaty texture that L described as more like fish than chicken.
When we tried to order something else, the word from the kitchen was that everything but Scotch eggs were sold out for the night too. Endive salad, Portuguese chowder, gorgonzola sliders, BLTs, pork kaboba, chocolate pie . . . all gone. So Scotch eggs it was, two orders, served with salad greens and a dijon garlic mayonnaise. Good quality sausage, a bit overfried, and I would prefer a soft-yolked egg, a good bar bite when the mood strikes you.
Lessons learned: 1) Jody can do a more than decent job when Mark's busy. 2) Order early on the weekends before the food runs out. 3) Don't try to make a meal out of more than one deep-fried dish.
re: Melanie Wong
Took my own advice and stopped by before 6pm in Sunday's rain after a wine-filled day for a light supper before returning to the City. The Casino is 60 miles north of San Francisco.
I started with a bowl of Crayfish Bisque, $6, a big bowlful. Unlike many other versions, this one didn't hide the sweet flavor of crayfish under too much heavy cream. The tail meat was so tender and succulent, maybe a dozen pieces in the portion.
Then I had what Chef Malicki called Beans & Greens, $7. And, surprise! A thick slab of slow-cooked pork belly, maybe about 6" worth, graced the platter. This was a huge serving and despite being utterly delicious, more than I could eat despite having walked in starved. I had to ask the chef what kind of beans these could be, and my second surprise of the night was to hear that they're lima beans. Quite unlike any limas I've ever had. The beans were gigantic and swollen from braising with butter, tomato, molasses and pork juices, transformed into creamy-textured Boston baked bean-flavored bonbons. And again, the high quality local greens were perfectly cooked.
Chef Malicki has settled into a Thursday thru Monday schedule, and he's tending toward "comfort food" menus while its wet outside. His beans and greens dish represents the genre at its finest.
Casino Bar & Grill
17000 Bodega Hwy, Bodega, CA
Oh, let me clarify that Malicki is cooking dinner only, from about 5-9pm on his designated days of the week. There's a sign posted that the grilled foods, which I guess refers to the burgers and hit dogs, are available from 11-4.
The friends who joined me there for Sunday supper said they were coming back the next day! He's using local organic produce. This is a true bargain in farm-to-table cuisine.