LAReview

photo credit: Jakob Layman

Cobras & Matadors review image
8.6

Cobras & Matadors

$$$$

7615 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles
Earn 3X Points

Classroom field trips, the first day of summer vacation, the exact moment when a substitute teacher rounded the corner with a TV on a rolling cart. As kids, these were exciting moments because they meant impending fun, sure, but they were also a chance to break free of the same daily structure and embrace a sense of lawlessness bubbling just under the surface. A night at Cobras & Matadors leaves us with that same heady feeling.

The Spanish bistro in Beverly Grove doesn’t play by the rules, because really it doesn’t have any rules. Instead, it’s a place created solely for the neighborhood to hang out as long as they want, drink wine, eat excellent food, and awaken their endorphin receptors.

To be clear, a meal at Cobras & Matadors is not some swan dive into unadulterated chaos. The tiny dining room on Beverly Blvd. is warm and rustic—much closer to a locals-only aperitivo bar on a Valencia side street than an all-night drinking den. There are colorful subway tiles weaving patterns along the walls, old antique tables with mismatched wooden chairs, and a tiny open kitchen with copper pots and pans hanging from the ceiling. It’s quaint, welcoming, and adorable—even to the most cynical eye at the table.

Jakob Layman

Cobras & Matadors review image

Cobras & Matadors has no website, no reservation system, and no phone (or at least not one that’s picked up on a regular basis). Upon its reopening—the original closed in the same space in 2012—signage was inconspicuously painted out front and the place did little more than wait for people to walk by and notice. The hours are weird: it’s open Monday through Saturday from 7pm to 11pm, details of which can only be found on their sporadically updated Instagram. Oh, and it’s BYOB with a $20 flat charge for whatever wine and beer you bring in. This unorthodox setup can be a little nerve-racking, particularly for those driving across town. Is the menu posted somewhere? Will we have to wait when we get there? But it’s all good. Just know there will always (or almost always) be an open table waiting—and tremendous food to follow.

The best meals at Cobras & Matadors are the ones that unfold slowly. Perhaps you’ll open a bottle of wine (there’s a convenient little wine shop next door if you forgot some) then play catch up with friends you haven’t seen in a while or weave through ice breakers on a date. You’ll snack on small plates like pan con tomate, buttery gambas, and sweet socca cakes with aji sauce. Maybe you’ll open another bottle while the table next to you suddenly erupts in a birthday celebration. Before you know it you’re partaking in a restaurant-wide chorus that feels completely organic—not like some Bucca di Beppo hellscape. 

By the time the entrees arrive, which should include a delicious steak frites for two and one of the only roast chickens that we’ve ever talked about for a week afterward, the whole night starts to feel displaced from time and reality. No one is ushering you out the door in hopes of turning tables or getting off of their shift early. Instead, the servers have probably pulled up a chair and are asking you how long you’ve been in the area and what your hobbies are. It can be a weird feeling— those endorphins, we mean—but at Cobras & Matadors, it’s best to just let the fun wash over you and appreciate that a quirky place like this still exists.

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Food Rundown

Jakob Layman

Cobras & Matadors review image

Grilled Asparagus

Raise your hand if you’ve heard the cliche “we use the highest quality ingredients and let them speak for themselves” uttered to you at a restaurant. Now put your hand down and order this dish anyway. Here, the cliche is true: tender grilled asparagus, crumbled bites of manchego cheese, a simple balsamic reduction. Spectacular.

Jakob Layman

Cobras & Matadors review image

Gambas al Ajillo

Butter, garlic, and shrimp. Not to get sacreligious, but that’s a holy trinity in our books.

Jakob Layman

Cobras & Matadors review image

Maitake Mushrooms

If you’re sensing a theme, most of Cobras & Matadors dishes are very simple, yet prepared extremely well. That also applies to this bowl of rich, sauteed mushrooms in green garlic butter.

Jakob Layman

Cobras & Matadors review image

Socca Cakes

This is the small plate most people at your table will be talking about afterward. Made from chickpea flour, these babies are essentially little pancakes whose earthy sweetness goes well with the tangy cilantro-based dipping sauce.

Jakob Layman

Cobras & Matadors review image

Half Chicken

Is this the most fantastic half chicken being served in LA right now? It certainly should be in the conversation. This bird comes with a rich, tangy chicken jus that the waitstaff pours over the plate tableside, plus a herb salad that packs a nice bitter punch. But it’s the meat itself—juicy, succulent, never overcooked—that makes this dish a must-order.

Jakob Layman

Cobras & Matadors review image

Entrecote Frites

Though the steak can sometimes be a tad fatty, this is a good cut of meat topped with a punchy pesto/chimichurri situation, served with fries that arrive in ideal fryer-crisp form. The $90 price tag might be a little eyebrow-raising—especially compared to the rest of the menu—but this is a dish meant to feed at least two hungry adults.

Jakob Layman

Cobras & Matadors review image

Churros

This dish was made famous during Cobras & Matadors’ original run in the early 2010s. The churros are warm and fluffy, with an audible crunch to each bite. The generous coating of cinnamon sugar means a nice dusting will end up on your shirt, but you will be completely OK with it.

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