I can’t emphasize enough how important the actual dish is to a good macaroni and cheese. Some restaurants, like West 4th and Jane and a few others I’ve reviewed, take this into consideration and do the nostalgic, now-gourmet dish right. The Spaetzle Mac and Cheese is listed under the “Share Plates” section of the gastro pub’s menu, but the dish honestly isn’t big enough to accommodate more than two people (one if eaten as a main dish). Fortunately I wasn’t that hungry, because it was so good I could easily eat it all myself.
Served in a little porcelain pot, it comes out piping hot and topped with fried onion straws (or crispy shallots, as described in the menu). Spaetzle noodles are homemade noodles or dumplings with no unique shape; they hail from Germany and are popular in Kaesespaetzle, which is essentially a sophisticated macaroni and cheese. The noodles were soft – which I guess means overcooked according to one of my Mac ‘n’ Cheese Quest readers – just the way I like them.
The white cheese sauce was thick and creamy with gruyere cheese, one of my favorite melted cheeses. It was very tasty with a hint of what I think is truffle oil. A friend sharing the dish with me tasted garlic. Garlic maybe, but it wasn’t as overwhelming as she described. Still, there was something else that I couldn’t place my taste buds on. The onion straws didn’t add much in terms of flavor, but they were a nice crispy addition.
Although I normally refrain from reading other reviews before I write mine, I happened to jump on Yelp in the middle of writing this. I get the impression that back in 2011, West 4th and Jane had a BBQ Mac & Cheese. It sounds interesting, and I’m guessing that’s all it amounted to across the board, because it’s not on the menu now. A lot of people mentioned ordering it but said it would have been better without the BBQ. There was also a burger topped with macaroni and cheese at that time. I wonder if it was as good as the Grilled Cheese Truck’s Cheesy Mac and Rib Sandwich…
The place: West 4th and Jane, Santa Monica
The dish: Spaetzle Mac and Cheese, $8
The ingredients: Spaetzle noodles, gruyere, crispy shallots
The verdict: Just the right amount of cheesy, creamy and crispy packed into a little pot of mac ‘n’ cheese goodness.