At Button Mash’s Poltergeist, Diego Argoti Plays with Fusion

Chef Diego Argoti serves up Italian-Asian fusion to great success at Poltergeist, now open inside Button Mash.

There aren’t many places on earth at which you can chow down on broccoli beef ravioli and play the arcade version of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. But, that’s exactly the experience you’ll have at Diego Argoti’s new restaurant, Poltergeist, inside Button Mash in Echo Park.

Wonderfully, Poltergeist exists inside of an arcade, which is the perfect landing spot for Argoti’s raucous style of cooking. He is a seasoned chef who formerly worked at Bestia and Bavel, but he’s much more well known for his wild pop-up, Estrano, where he served Crunchwrap Supreme lasagna and Hot Pocket agnolotti.

Because of Argoti’s entertaining MO, he has been dubbed “The King of Chaos Cooking” by Eater; another writer called his food a form of “trolling.”

But the problem with those assertions is that neither accurately describes Diego’s food: There’s too much intent, personality and life experience behind his cooking to simply imply that it’s random or ironic. Diego doesn’t just thoughtlessly fuse cuisines together to get a rise out of customers; he melds experiences and ingredients that actually make sense.

For instance, the honey walnut prawns ($18) delightfully feature plenty of sweet and sticky bits: New Candelonian blue prawns are tempura fried and served with celeriac kewpie mayonnaise, candied walnuts, horchata panna cotta, and crispy rice salad, hammering home both the cloying and comforting nature of this dish.  The crispy rice salad garnish and the horchata panna cotta in particular demonstrate how Argoti plays around with Italian-Asian fusion to great success.

Another case in point is the beef and broccoli ravioli, which are likely to become your new favorite pasta dish in Los Angeles. These egg yolk ravioli are stuffed with beef short rib and Parmigiano Reggiano, then tossed with a combination of brown butter and dark soy sauce and topped with crispy fried onions. The combination of brown butter and dark soy sauce is a deeply savory and rich winner—and there’s a side of broccolini sauteed with the same mouth watering duo. Beef and broccoli is another classic but, in the hands of somebody like Argoti, the dish feels both brand new as well as comforting and familiar.

panang lamb neck at Poltergeise
The panang lamb neck at Poltergeist

Danny Palumbo

There’s also panang lamb neck—a severely underrated cut of meat that’s tender, fatty, and delicious—braised with curry spices and served with saffron bao buns. The lamb neck, and all of the delightfully sharp and tangy accoutrement with which it comes, is a showstopper. Sticky rice stuffed game hen, a Thai caesar salad, coconut curry chochoyotes, mapo tofu stuffed cabbage, and a Parker House roll shaped like a cinnamon roll and served with Fresno butter round out an eccentric menu that’s not afraid to take chances. 

It’s not chaotic; it is well calculated fun.

If you were a fan of Estrano, it’s worth noting that this is a full service restaurant and not a pop-up. So, make a reservation on Resy or take your chances at the door. Still, in addition to Poltergeist’s thrilling fare, there’s a full bar menu at Button Mash (also Argoti’s) with a great burger, thick french fries, and Korean fried cauliflower. Expect a full wine list, but also five dollar Shiner bock tallboys for the more frugal.

Good food excites and even inspires. But, great food haunts you: It loiters around in your mind long after you’ve eaten it. That’s exactly Argoti’s aim with Poltergeist, and it’s worth the ride.

Button Mash
1391 Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90026
Hours: Tues.-Thurs. 5 p.m to midnight
Fri. 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Sat. 1 p.m. to 2 a.m
Sun. 1 p.m. to midnight
Hours: Fri.-Sun. 6 p.m. to midnight