Dinner without an axe to grind; ambitious menu and tasty food

| March 2, 2023 | 0 Comments

  I would hazard a guess that not many dining establishments come with a senior axe supervisor.

   I also believe that anyone contemplating a fun night out throwing axes (and who isn’t?) wouldn’t expect victuals that include $27 rainbow trout with poblano Romesco or a $13 tempura cauliflower flavor bomb with curry and fish sauce.

   All are true at Mo’s House of Axe, which offers a warm, rustic, wood-paneled environment lined with bull’s-eyes, axes and tables heaped with very tasty food.

   The brainchild of Monique “Mo” Caulfield, who was formerly in the film business, the entertaining restaurant opened five weeks before the pandemic shutdown and managed to survive on government small business loans.

   I went to Mo’s House of Axe with my husband, grown daughter, grown son and his girlfriend. None of us had tried axe throwing before, but we had an exhilarating time.

   Each of the partially separated axe throwing bays has a couch, tables to hold food and drink and two identical targets. Each bay can handle groups of up to 12 people for one-and-a-quarter hour sessions, $38.32 per person or $20 per person for two hours during happy hour. After checking in and signing the requisite waiver, we were taken to our axe bay and introduced to our axe maven, who would teach us how to throw safely, divide us into teams and lead us through a variety of axe throwing competitions.

FATHER-SON BULL’S-EYES: Zach and Gary Grossman throw axes together at Mo’s House of Axe.

   Our expert was Mo’s senior axe supervisor, Lyndon Laveaux, and he did a fantastic job of teaching us and keeping us engaged and laughing. When my throw landed with a thud on the faux Turkish carpet, missing the target by a foot, he kept my ego intact.

   I stopped throwing to concentrate on cheerleading the rest in my group and their multiple bullseyes and equally plentiful clunkers (while sipping my $14 spicy pineapple margarita). Otherwise Laveaux would have made it his mission to teach me to hit the target.  Apparently, Mo’s axe experts have successfully taught blind people, a woman who had paralyzed arms and therefore used her feet to throw and numerous octogenarians.

    In between throwing, we ordered food.

   The two-story space recently hired a new chef and launched his ambitious menu in early February.

Executive Chef Nofal “Dave” Kahwaji experienced the food world equivalent of a “meet cute” which led to his hiring at Mo’s House of Axe. He came as a patron and complained that his chicken was raw. He left his resume, which included stints at Redbird and MessHall Kitchen. Within days, the first chef was gone and Kahwaji was hired.

    Chef Kahwaji also has local ties. As a child, he was in a Boy Scout troop in the Larchmont area and remembers photographs of his troop being featured from time to time in the Larchmont Chronicle.

   In keeping with the general “camping-in-the-woods” theme, Kahwaji’s menu features cheeky titles such as “lumber jack mac” (a bowl of fusilli with four cheeses for $12) and “glamping greens” (an arugula salad with fennel and avocado, $15). “Mo’s magic mountain” is an $85 sampler (for four) of assorted sliders, chicken wings, fries and excellent Brussels sprouts which have been treated to a bourbon maple sriracha bath with bacon.

   The choices include very good takes on expected bar food, such as $13 house-made tater tots stuffed with blue cheese. At the other end of the extensive menu, one finds a 32-ounce tomahawk chop for two with chorizo smash potatoes and parmesan roasted broccolini, $85, and a $39 tender and flavorful venison rack with candied carrots, whipped smoked potatoes and wild berry demi-glace that rivals the plates I’ve had at the bastion of wild game, the Saddle Peak Lodge.

   The pièce de resistance, however, is do-it-yourself s’mores featuring a mini-campfire in a small fire-safe container, giant marshmallows, graham crackers and house-made chocolate squares. Chef Kahwaji says that, as a Southern California boy, he wanted to create the candy equivalent of chocolate molé and, indeed, the dark chocolate has a complex flavor and pleasant jolt of chile. Cue the memories of backyard barbecues and camping weekends. No axe to grind here. Mo’s House of Axe., 611 S. Western Ave., 213-908-0808.

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Category: Entertainment

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