Check out the new Mister O’s in Studio City, which serves inventive fare in a swanky, mid century modern space.
- CategoryEat & Drink
- Written byJoshua Lurie
- Photographed byRyan Tanaka
The last time Michael Hide Cardenas worked in Studio City was when he served as Teru Sushi’s maître d’. That was back when St. Elsewhere stars Howie Mandel and Denzel Washington would drop in from the set, still wearing scrubs. Now more than 30 years later and after running restaurants across the city, Michael has returned just one block up the Boulevard. He has opened Mister O’s in the former Take a Bao space, now with a retro sign and painted all white—reimagined to resemble Palm Springs in its Rat Pack heyday.
Michael, who grew up in Japan, has nearly four decades of restaurant experience. In the ’80s, he helped Nobu Matsuhisa expand to Manhattan. He co-founded Innovative Dining Group, which owns BOA Steakhouse, Katana and Sushi Roku, and he has opened beloved indie eateries like the Lazy Ox Canteen downtown.
For his triumphant return to the Blvd., Michael rehired chef Mario Alberto, known for his carnivorous dishes at Lazy Ox. However since working as executive chef for restaurants like Laurel Hardware and Tullula’s, he has adopted a lighter, brighter cooking style.
“We wanted to do something with the menu that was very California-driven, but through Latin America and the California coast, from the Bay Area all the way to Baja,” Mario says. “It’s very Mexican-American inspired with a little bit of Spanish and Arab flavors.”
The chef groups dishes into three categories: smaller “Nibbles,” intermediate “Lights” and larger, heartier “Heavies.”
Share-friendly highlights include supple fried turmeric flatbread topped with sweet tiger figs, marinated Gaeta and Picholine olives, farmer’s cheese, floral orange blossom honey and bright herbs. Sweet Shigoku oysters with deep beds perch on sea salt pedestals and host roasted shishito peppers, burnt chile negro and umami-rich dill dashi mignonette. Larger plates include a crisp-skinned sea bass fillet plated with chanterelles, corn, spigarello and lemon verbena.
Mario demonstrates finesse with seafood, but meat is hardly verboten. For instance pork can-can is Puerto Rican “porchetta,” starring loin with attached belly that’s scored, deep-fried, piled with “everything pickled” for levity’s sake and plated with earthy “eye of the goat” beans.
Save room for a round, olive-oil cake topped with whipped cream and ringed with a purple guava custard moat, studded with crunchy passion fruit seeds.
Bartender Rafael Barba clocked time in Napa Valley as both a mixologist and chef and now captures that same culinary passion in cocktails. Trade Secret is his fragrant concoction crafted with Cazadores reposado tequila, passion fruit, lime juice, egg white, and tangy Thai shrub, made with lemongrass, ginger, jalapeño and coconut, that’s shaken until frothy and stenciled with “Mister O’s” in Angostura bitters. Mister O’s also curates a tight beer and wine menu and stocks the bar with over 50 whiskeys.
Interiors are decidedly mid-century modern. The handsome space with stylized cinder block frame, sumptuous booths and retro baubles is designed to evoke Palm Springs during the ’50s and ’60s. Michael says, “When I first moved to the States, I took a couple trips to Palm Springs and remember the palm trees and pools and big Cadillacs. That vibe is pretty timeless.”
The eatery is named after the late Jordan Ostrow, one of Michael’s investors.
Mister O’s | 11838 Ventura Blvd., Studio City | 818-358-3839 | misterosla.com