This week New York Times critic Tejal Rao takes a look at Mo’s House of Axe, a new month-old ax-throwing bar in Koreatown. Despite ax-throwing’s perception as a sort of woodsy, masculine activity, Rao finds the scene in LA’s Koreatown is a lot different. Inclusive, diverse, and encouraging for beginners, Mo’s House of Axe is a picture of a fun-loving experience in the city.
Rao sets the scene first. Instead of flannel shirts and beards, the critic finds:
Instead, there were groups of 20-something women, competitive co-workers slipping in and out of Spanish, couples in wheelchairs and parents playing doubles with their children.
On a recent Saturday afternoon, Mo’s vibrated with the optimistic energy of a young start-up after a cash infusion, as players fueled up on kombucha and blood orange I.P.A.s between throws. They roared expletive-filled compliments after a bull’s-eye, and tapped ax blades in convivial low-fives.
The critic notes the easy-going and often stress-relieving nature of throwing axes:
Deep into the routine of throwing and retrieving my ax, I wondered how long I’d last in a zombie apocalypse, and how my newfound skills might fit into a changing, collapsing world. Normal stuff — though my instructor helpfully noted, “Please keep in mind that if you throw your ax at a zombie, you have to retrieve it.”
The food, assembled and cooked by the team behind Baby Blue’s BBQ, isn’t quite destination-worthy:
The meat isn’t distinctly juicy or tender or banded with smoke. And the nonbarbecue dishes, like the “mac and crack,” overestimate themselves, as well as the addictive properties of a few pieces of candied bacon.
Instead, Rao suggests heading a few blocks north to Jun Won, one of LA’s best overall Korean restaurants, for their braised black cod and radish.
Meanwhile, LA Times critic Bill Addison braves the venerable, and quirky, Go’s Mart in Canoga Park. The Jonathan Gold favorite never received the full review treatment while the late critic was writing for the LA Times. Go’s Mart, helmed by Tsuyoshi and Chiemi Kawano, has been a cult favorite sushi bar in a strip mall grocery store for years, serving a whimsical, and sometimes totally bonkers, omakase with gold flakes and truffle oil galore:
Another quartet presents Go’s more baroque stylings: an unadorned lobe of Santa Barbara uni; a lush hunk of hairy crab zapped with yuzu kosho; sweet shrimp torched and gilded, literally; and live scallop offset with a half-teaspoon of caviar. Such ornate leitmotifs will repeat through the meal, balanced with occasional restraint: shirako (cod milt) nigiri bound in toasted nori, say, or a conical hand roll brimming with frilly crab meat.
It’s important, particularly for those of us who might be driving an hour or more to Canoga Park, to understand this about Go’s Mart: It is no temple of purism. Garlic chips, twiggy-looking slivers of kelp and other embellishments might make me grin or sigh or occasionally scratch my head, though I’ve learned to relax and roll with the master’s predilections.
Addison also serves a capsule review of Arcadia’s 1919 Lanzhou Beef Noodle, packed dining room serving spicy soup with a variety of hand-pulled noodles:
I watched the cook quickly stretch the dough for my noodles behind glass; my meal was in front of me less than five minutes later. The regular-width noodles had textbook bounciness. Their wider counterparts were frillier and toothier, and, though they’re less orthodox, I preferred them.