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Delicious Spree LA to Z...C is for Cobras and Matadors

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LAist is going on a delicious spree around LA from A to Z. This week we continue with...C is for Cobras and Matadors.

Cobras and Matadors isn't new - it opened up several years ago to much anticipation, and didn't let anyone down with their fairly authentic Spanish tapas, it seems. LAist had been to that space years before when, we think, it was still Boxer. *whoa* are we old? Cobras and Matadors even went on to spawn their little offspring, Cobra Lily and cloned itself with another Cobras and Matadors in Silverlake. That's how long we waited to finally try the place.

We could not believe that at 8 o'clock on Saturday, we were able to sit down without a reservation. Cobras and Matadors is a place that we have been told many times - it is tiny. High-demand. Difficult to get into. Sure, they have tables on the sidewalk out front that are first-come, first served, but even those go fast. Tonight, we had our choice of tables. Disbelief. One of our dining guests is from San Francisco and he just couldn't believe that we had even thought of going to any restaurant without a reservation. Oh well, that's the difference between LA and the Bay. We like to live on the edge down here.

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Cobras and Matadors truly is tiny, and very dark. There are only a few larger round tables in the center of the boxy dining room, and tables for two, maybe four, all pushed up against the perimeter. We sat toward the back where a huge, deep oven opened and breathed fire like the mouth of hell. Except for the twilight that barely filtered through the front window, the flames from the oven and the faint flicker from tiny votive candles on each table, we weren't aware of any other light. And the natural light from outside was fading fast. Dark. Very dark. Perhaps that's a good thing, otherwise it would be embarassingly obvious how very uncomfortably close you're sitting next to your neighbors. We could have reached over for a taste of the steak in front of the girl at the table next to me more easily than *clink*ed wine glasses with him across from me at our own table.

After sitting down for a moment and scanning the menu to get a feel for what we might order, we popped back up and walked right back out the front door. No, the menu wasn't so horrible that we had to leave. It was, in fact, promising to be an incredible meal of small Spanish plates. We had just decided to pick up a bottle of wine from the "wine store" located conveniently next door to the restaurant; conveniently managed so that we don't even have to pay for the bottle of 2004 Basa Rueda when we "buy" it, they'll just add it to our dinner tab; conveniently "in" with Cobras so that we aren't even charged a corkage fee when they pop it open for us at our table and pour into tiny, stemless juice glasses. Brilliant. Every restaurant's wine policy should be so convenient.

The menu is fairly long, and though it's all Spanish, it seems to have something for everyone. We eased into the meal with roasted mushrooms topped with herbs and nuts. They were roasty (is that a word?) soft, juicy, delicious, but for some reason, it seemed odd to have a whole bowl of little sliced mushrooms all by themselves. It sort of felt like there was something missing. Something like a big fat steak underneath! Ah, but that comes next. We ordered the skirt steak dressed two ways. It came out on one of those plates meant for still-sizzling fajitas. Or galbee. One steak had a rich, dark brown sauce and the other a thick, creamy, cheesy sauce. Was it wrong that we kept scraping the sauces off the meat and just licking it from our forks?

Albóndigas are meatballs, and it would be accurate to say that we get hot for the balls of meat, especially the Latin kind, which usually show up in albóndigas soup. The six little albóndigas, sitting in a rich, fully fragrant sauce steeped with spices and topped with chopped fresh herbs (parsley and/or cilantro?), were incredible. There was a very prominent spice in the albóndigas, and we will venture to say it was cumin. Again, thank God for the low lighting in the restaurant, else our fellow patrons would have caught us leaning over the table, holding my hair back and sticking our faces into the plate, sitting back in my chair again but this time with a forked meatball held right under our noses, sniffing like basset hounds. It's cumin. We were all sure of it.

The loudest exclamation! goes to the croquetas. LAist has had croquetas de pollo. We have had croquetas de jamón. These croquetas from Cobras and Matadors were made with bacalao, and we swear on the holy ladle, they were the best preparation of salt cod we have ever had, and we've had my share of salt cod. These, oh these - perfectly round, tender crisp breaded on the outside, ever-so-airy and slightly soft, dare-we-say-creamy on the inside, seasoned and salted, topped with chopped fresh herbs and just barely touched with an amazing aioli - these croqetas were the best. Ever. Hands down. Do we gush? Yes, yes we f**king do because...Did we say best? Best ever.

We did lomo saltado. It sounds very authentic, is. A type of dried and cured jamón (that's ham, silly) served with aged goat cheese. *ew* Not manchego? Ivory triangles, alternating with the lomo saltado and a dark sweet bread. They were fanned around a pert little pile of what looked like pico de gallo, but tasted more aggressive with capers. The goat cheese was aged so it was dry and sliced flat, and looked like Manchego. It had the pungent odor of goat cheese, but the lomo saltado balanced it out, and we suspect the sweetness of the currants (maybe they were raisins) in the bread acted as a third flavor weight. Whatever that means, but you get the picture. Balance.

The wine was getting to us by now, and we developed this strange form of liquid courage. We ordered the octopus. *whoa* It was about eight inches of tentacle amputated from an octopus, wrapped around the perimeter of an oval plate, seasoned with something strong, and garnished with a bouquet of tomatoes and spices. What a stupid idea, now that we are of sound mind, but damn those wine goggles that make even a cephalopod look sexy! If it had been the first thing we ordered, we probably would have finished it. But unfortuantely, we couldn't because we were f-u-l-l, stuffed, and to be quite honest, that tentacle really was pretty damn near the tenderest, tastiest octopus tentacle we've ever had, and we weren't just saying that to get it into bed. Still, we can't believe we ingested octopus. *shakes head* Damn wine.

We would have ordered dessert, but it was Saturday night, and duh, of course we had a full schedule ahead of us. But next time we go back (or maybe try the other location), we'll pace ourselves, order dessert, and forget we ordered octopus.

Cobras & Matadors
7615 West Beverly Boulevard (between Stanley and Curson)
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 932-6178