Saturday, March 28, 2009

Osteria Mozza - 02/03/2009

6602 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 297-0100

Mozza has been one of the most talked about restaurants in recent memory, with celebrity sightings and even a Michelin Star to boot. The restaurant and it's sister, Pizzeria Mozza serve up the Italian cuisine of Nancy Silverton, Mario Batali, and Joseph Bastianich. My friends and I had wanted to try the restaurant but also were a bit put off by celebrity chef and owner Mario Batali's apparent disdain for bloggers.

We visited the restaurant on a whim as we were in the area after visiting another longtime dining companion who was recovering from heart surgery and provided the impetus for the previous two dinners, Sushi Zo and Sona.

The restaurant is cloaked in drab grey hues and subdued colors, overly somber given the lively atmosphere inside. The entrance leads to a small dining area with a bar in the corner. The mozzarella bar dominates the center of the dining room with more tables and a private dining area in the rear.

We had a reservation but still ended up having to wait a few minutes at the bar which should give some idea about the success Mozza is enjoying given the fact we were dining on a Tuesday at 9:00PM. Naturally we decided to start with some cocktails. I chose the Gordon's Cup made with gin, Japanese cucumbers, lime and salt. This was reminiscent of my standard cucumber gimlet but the use of Japanese cucumber made this one of the best. My companions had a Mojito and an Il Postino (champagne cocktail) both quite good but not up to the level of the Gordon's Cup.

Bread - White, Multigrain, Wheat
I found the bread a bit dry and firm. Fairly traditional Italian style bread, served without butter; definitely not my cup of tea.

Amuse - Ricotta, Black Olive Tapenade
An overly simple amuse for my tastes. The combination of black olive and ricotta offered a bitter slightly sour tang. I would have liked something richer to round out the flavors.

Mozzarella Tasting - burrata, fior di late, bufala mozzarella
The restaurant offers a staggering array of mozzarella served with diferent accoutrements. We decided to share a tasting of mozzarella which consists of burrata (mozzarella with fresh cream), standard cow's milk mozzarella, and mozzarella made from buffalo's milk. By far my favorite was the bufala mozzarella with a distinctive tart gaminess. The creamy burrata had a slight sweetness and a richer smoother feel than the others. The traditional flor di late had the most elegant name but was the simplest least impressive of the trio.

01: Tortellini - with burro di Luigi Guffanti & Parmigiano
2000 "Valentino Brut Zero," Rocche di Manzone
A great start to the meal although we didn't know what the pasta was filled with. The meat had a sour savory flavor that reminded me of shiu mai dim sum. The sauce added a cheesy element that balanced well with the flavor of the meat. Delicious in its simplicity.

02: Calf's Brain Ravioli - salvia e limone
2006 "Vespa Bianco," Bastianich
Calf brain is always a bit risky but this tasted more like Chinese shao long bao. Biting into the ravioli released a burst of liquid that further heightened the similarity. The filling was much firmer than I would have expected for brain, with none of the offensive oiliness.

The restaurant offered a number of interesting beers and I decided to try those rather than stick with the traditional wine pairing. For the first round we had a Grimbergen Blonde and a St. Bernardus Prior 8. The blonde had a honeyed flavor while the Bernardus was akin to a traditional Trappist ale with lots of richness and dark flavors.

03: Gnocchi - with ragú Bolognese
2005 Sangiovese di Romagna "Olmatello," La Berta
Yet another dish reminiscent of traditional Chinese cooking, this time beef noodle soup or niu rou mien. The gnocchi itself was a bit soft and quickly developed a pasty texture, decent but not quite as nuanced as the previous two courses.

04: Francobolli di Brasato - with passato di pomodoro
2004 Aglianico del Vulture "Titolo," Elena Fucci
The braised meat definitely makes itself known in this dish and is complimented nicely by the tangy kick of the tomato sauce. The pasta itself was a bit firm for my tastes but didn't detract from the overall experience.

The second round of beer consisted of an Allgash Curieux and Abbaye Des Rocs Grand Cru. Both fairly dark in color. The Allgash was cask aged and showed a surprising complexity and depth of flavor. Meanwhile, the Abbaye had a spicy punch backed up by dark sweet fruit.

05: Pici - with duck ragú
2005 "Aragone," La Mozza
I thought spaghetti would be too simple for a restaurant of Mozza's reputation. Indeed the noodles were a bit denser and harder than traditional. The duck ragú had a fishiness to it reminiscent of Spanish Mackerel making it the heaviest of the courses on the tasting menu and a fine way to finish the savory pastas.

Porcini-Rubbed Rib Eye - Bistecca
We weren't quite full so we ordered an extra course of rib eye steak to share. The charred mushroom was a bit too bitter and the meat itself was far too tough to be served at a restaurant of this caliber. I was very disappointed as this was far and away the most expensive dish on the menu and only $11 less than the entire tasting menu.

06: Cannoli di Key Lime Gelato
2007 Brachetto/Moscato "Bigarò," Elio Perrone
A popular Italian dessert, it is no surprise to find Cannoli on the menu at Mozza. I found this preparation a bit too hard and dry. By itself the gelato would have made a nice palate cleanser but served with the yeasty sweetness of the cannoli it really struck a discordant note.

07: Rosemary Olive Oil Cakes - with olive oil gelato
2004 Vin Santo, Badia di Morrona
A very dry cake, with intense herbal and lemon flavors. I found this a bit too harsh for a second dessert and would have preferred a chocolate based finale to the meal.

Without a doubt the cheese was the star of the evening. I am a huge fan of mozzarella and these were some of the strongest examples I have tasted. Humorous comparisons to Chinese food aside, the various pasta courses were all fairly well done; each course having enough subtle difference to set them apart. The steak and desserts all missed the mark in some respects. I came away satisfied by the meal although not particularly awed by the food.

Osteria Mozza offers a successful combination of food and atmosphere with a dose of hype thrown in for good measure.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i have been dying to try this place (only been to pizzeria, which I am in love with). I'm tempted to just sit at the mozzarella bar on random weeknight to sample some of that amazing cheese I keep hearing about...mmmmmmmm