Saturday, October 22, 2011

LA's Osteria Mozza

Okay, I have to admit that I am not a big fan of the City of the Angels - Los Angeles.  The traffic, smog and the Hollywood effect does not inspire or motivate me the way other cities do - like San Francisco, New York City, Chicago...

But because my work takes me to Los Angeles a couple times a year, I am determined to find a inspiring connection and for me it is FOOD.

The last couple of trips to LA, I've made a point to get restaurant referrals from my foodie friends here in Hawaii.  So last year, I was able to go to acclaimed celebrity chef, Suzanne Goin's AOC Wine Bar and Restaurant and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Sat at the bar next to a porno director and his wife - so pretentious!

Earlier this year, I got to have breakfast & brunch (once at their nextdoor counter & at the actual restaurant for Saturday Brunch) at JGelina in Venice and loved the food, atmosphere and service.  So I am slowly warming up to Los Angeles and giving it a chance into my foodie life.

This past Tuesday, I was able to get a reservation to Mario Batali's popular "Osteria Mozza" with executive chef Nancy Silverton really leading it.  So reservations were made on, but the only time I could get a table was 9:15pm, I booked it anyway, and went early at 8:00pm to try to get in.  And I did on the Mozzarella Bar, which I think is the best seat in the house, especially when eating by yourself, because you really are not by yourself.

I was so pleasantly surprised to see Nancy Silverton herself, working the bar, not as the expediter, but as a line chef filling orders.  Now that is a class act!  She moved and interacted with staff, chefs and guests with much grace & ease.  She did not act as the boss, but as one of the line team.  When dishes needed fixing to comply with her standards, she just spoke to her co-worker as a coach and showed them how it should be.  I really give her so much respect, I was there for 2.5 hours and she worked the entire time and the place was hopping.  WOW!  I think that is one of the reasons she is called America's mozza master.

Let me start with the Mozzarella Bar, is not part of the drink bar, but a bar where all of the cheese and antipasti is prepared.  The bar is a marble counter bar filled with ingredients that is used in the primi dishes - salt, braised leeks, hazelnuts, a pepper shaker (one that everyone on the line shares), plates, milk glass vases of seasonal white flowers, and brass figurines of ducks, insects, pigs, on it - I just loved it.  It felt like how her kitchen at home would be. 

Before I go into what I ate, the service was delightful and easy.  Everyone that served me was personable and helpful - 5 stars for service, atmosphere and food!

So this is what I had:

I started with a glass of Italian rose.  I believe it was from Tuscany and was recommended by my waitress.

This was my pre-appetizer, a crostini with fresh ricotta, tapenade and fresh basil.  It was fresh, light, simple, delicious and a great palate opener.  The ricotta was lemony with a smooth milky texture.
My primi (appetizer) was Pane Pomodoro with Burrata, Speck and Pickled Shallots.  The burrata blew me away with it's silky sweetness, the smoky salty speck, the sweet/sour of the tomato salsa and acid from the pickled shallots were a perfect marriage of texture and the whole spectrum of flavors on a toasted piece of garlic baguette.

My dinner was a selection from the secondi menu (pasta) Green Pappardelle with braised lamb ragout and a side of grilled broccolini.  The pasta was a green pasta which in the Mozza Cookbook says it's made of fresh nettles and they were wonderful ribbons of silky pasta and the lamb ragout braised with red wine, pancetta and a flavorful soffritto (carrots, onions, tomato & celery).  My broccolini was seasoned with good olive oil, balsamic and garlic.

I was so full by the time it came for dessert, but I could not say no, so I had the Poached Yali Pears Almond Gelato with Toasted Almonds and baked pieces of crispy puffed pastry.

I had to purchase the Mozza Cookbook and asked Nancy if she could sign it for me and she did graciously.

I will have to blog about the first recipe I make from this wonderful cookbook.  

I would recommend Osteria Mozza and please, please sit at the Mozzarella Bar, you will love it.  And say "Hi" to Nancy for me!