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Haskell & Mahon's Magnum Pops-Up Large at Royal/T This Month

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When you're a chef and sommelier duo without a home (restaurant home, that is), these days the best thing to do is go big in small pieces with a roving pop-up operation. Such is the spirit of Joseph Mahon (Bastide, Sona) and David Haskell (Bin 8945, Vertical Wine Bistro) who are popping up mid-April with another installation of Magnum, their nomadic small plates and wine pairing palate adventure.

Coming to Royal/T (a popular spot for pop-up shops and dining hotspots) April 17-19, Magnum at the Culver City cosplay maid cafe and gallery will find Mahon and Haskell's menu of eat and drink inspired by the art and cuisine of Japan. Diners will be able to choose from a five ($62), seven ($80), or ten-course menu ($118) with optional wine pairings ($45-92), all of which will showcase Mahon's classic French roots and Haskell's innovative wine, beer, and sake selections.

Magnum first popped up earlier this year at K-town's Biergarten, followed by a February run at Pal Cabron. In each incarnation, Mahon and Haskell tuned their flavors to the cuisine of the host restaurant, always with a balance of meticulous technique and a nod to the irreverent. Case in point, at Pal Cabron, when a gorgeous piece of foie gras prepared with the flavors of Pal Cabron's calling-card Cemitas, topped with supple slices of avocado, served on a plate bearing a gold foil-wrapped Trojan Magnum condom. A brazen but delicate bite, the dish was paired with a swig of Mezcal, poured right from the plastic canister in which it was carried across the border.

Prior to Magnum, Mahon kept his knives sharpened in the kitchen of Bastide, hence his dishes that marry meticulous technique with vibrant infusions of whimsy. From Pal Cabron, standout dishes included a plump seared scallop in a spicy tomato-mussel broth with crushed avocado and chickpeas paired with a dry Prosecco, and a roasted beet salad with veal tongue, arugula, and pumpkin seeds that sparkled with the pairing of a strawberry-esque rose that cut the root veggies' earthiness and warmed the creamy feta dressing with sweetness.

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Of course, the nature of the pop-up is that you can't go back again. For the upcoming Royal/T Magnum, you'll have to whet your appetite with a tastebud teaser with some sample menu items: Fennel Royale with Sea Urchin, Apple Cloud, and Nori Powder or Braised Baby Octopus with Leek Risotto, Pine Nuts, and Pancetta Vinaigrette.

If you've never had the joy of tasting food with libations paired by Haskell, you're missing out on a seriously good time. Having a good time is the underlying philosophy to Magnum, according to Haskell. "The greatest thing about doing a pop-up," he explained to us at Pal Cabron, "is having fun." Thanks to a "more forgiving" service model of see-what-works and move ahead, diners can throw preconceptions to the side and simply enjoy what's in front of them. "Enjoy life--and enjoy food and wine," urges Haskell.

Reservations for the Magnum pop-up series at Royal/T can only be made by calling 323.798.4648 or by emailing magnumdh@gmail.com. Seatings are from 6-10 p.m. nightly, April 17-19, 2011.