Mixx, the newish restaurant entity next to über-popular Cascal on Castro Street in downtown Mountain View, is just what its name implies: a grab bag, a hodgepodge, a crazy quilt of casual fusion dishes from around the world, or "new American cooking," as owner Bill Berkowitz put it.
The menu includes Italian, Thai, soul food, Mediterranean, American comfort, Chinese, West Coast, the Bronx, Japanese, New Orleans and even a "Mt. View" chicken melt. The wine list matches with selections from four continents. Does such an eclectic assortment work? It's a mixed bag.
Berkowitz, owner of Max's Opera Cafe at Stanford Shopping Center and other locations, said the idea behind Mixx is to reflect the international flavor of a tech-driven area where "people from all over the globe" live and work. Berkowitz partnered with Steve Mayer, owner of Scott's Seafood, the previous tenant at 420 Castro, to reinvent the space.
The interior has changed from Scott's modern industrial design. Now there is a lot of wood with leather-upholstered booths, chairs and tables, plus an elegant bar area partitioned off from the dining room. Behind the bar is the spacious "game lounge," an area separated from the dining room complete with a giant TV and a youthful vibe.
Mixx has a major bar presence on Castro Street. Besides craft cocktails, there is an attention-grabbing oak-barrel aging program where various concoctions are poured into 5-liter casks and mellowed for three weeks with delicious results, according to Berkowitz.
The kitchen has also undergone some recent changes with longtime Max's in-house chefs Carlos Salcedo and Jose Perez now managing the food.
Mixx's lunch menu differs slightly from the dinner menu, and both change frequently. Since I was at Mixx for both lunches and dinners, I will quote the price I was charged, regardless of time of day.
The crispy calamari slaw ($12) was fun, colorful and delicious with plenty to share. The perfectly fried squid was tossed with sweet chilies, peanuts, cilantro and red cabbage.
Another tasty and shareable dish was the crisp, fried Brussels sprouts ($9) mixed with toasted pecans and drizzled with an apple-maple glaze. Order both dishes together and it's enough appetizer for four people.
The Thai fish taco trio ($9) was a hit with coconut, jalapeño, peanut and cilantro. The cod was fresh-tasting and juicy, and the other ingredients made the dish undeniably mouthwatering. The jalapeño added zing.
The panko-crusted crab cakes ($16) with salad greens and tartar sauce were delectable. Exceptionally light, golden, and expertly cooked, the cakes were loaded with crab flavor and the crunch of greens balanced the dish beautifully. This was my favorite Mixx dish.
I loved everything about the chicken pot pie ($14) -- except the chicken, which came as gristly bites of flavorless and altogether unpleasant bird. The kitchen must do better. Otherwise, the crust was golden, flaky and not too thick. Besides the foul fowl, there were potatoes, peas, carrots, celery and onion in a piping hot cream sauce. It could have been truly enjoyable.
The "linguini" (misspelled on the menu) alla carbonara ($12) came with Reggiano Parmesan cheese, egg yolk and guanciale (Italian cured pork jowl, generally richer and less salty than pancetta).
The carbonara sounded delicious, but unfortunately, the dish was dense and leaden -- so over-sauced and over-cheesed, I feared I would need triple bypass had I eaten half of it. I focused on the pieces of the guanciale, which had great flavor.
One lunch, I had no sooner started my first course when the entree arrived. The waiter looked sheepish but didn't offer to bring it back when I was ready. Instead, he plunked it down and walked away. Proper pacing is the responsibility of both the waitstaff and the kitchen.
I loved the idea of fried chicken and waffles ($23) with juicy free-range, air-chilled chicken breast (from 38 North, so named because the bids are raised 38 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge), peppercorn gravy, apple-maple glaze and charred greens. The presentation was bold with a knife impaled, a la Excalibur, atop the waffle and chicken to hold them together. Alas, the waffles were soggy and not worth eating.
The pan-crisp branzino filet ($18) needed something to brighten the dish, like a healthy squeeze of lemon. There was a small wedge of lime on the plate but it wasn't enough. Thai green-curry sauce, pearl couscous, sweet potato, snap peas and caramelized onion made the plate prettier than it tasted.
Excellent desserts though. Don't miss the toothsome bananas Mixx ($10) with caramelized and braised banana, salted caramel ice cream and fresh whipped cream. It came to the table flambéed, a variation on the famous Bananas Foster from Brennan's of New Orleans.
The ice cream sandwiches ($10) were two each of chocolate chip cookie and vanilla bean ice cream, and sea salt chocolate cookie with burnt almond ice cream. Luscious themselves, there was a side of warm ganache fondue for making your own mini It's-It.
Mixx has elements that don't quite mesh, and while the menu is eclectic and promising, the execution is often lackluster. More attention to detail in the kitchen is needed if Mixx is to distinguish itself.
420 Castro St., Mountain View
Lunch: Monday-Friday 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.
Happy Hour: 3:30-6:30 p.m. daily
Dinner: Monday-Thursday, 3-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 4-11 p.m.; Sunday 4-9 p.m.