It seems to me we have had a spate of hard-to-believe-great-from-the-gate openings in LA of late (Spice Table, Lukschon, Hostaria del Piccolo, Playa, Shunji’s, Cleo); a few that seem like they need more time to declare themselves as keepers or weepers (Scarpetta, Red Medicine, Bouchon); and one very disappointing debacle ([D]Red O).
With this impressive opening rally in mind I went, with two friends and high hopes, to Mezze on La Cienega in the old Sona (and many others) space only to be (mis)treated to some really bad food and haphazard service. The place was really very crowded for a Tuesday at 8:30 - I hope our bad experience reflects a new place’s lack of skill with a large crowd more than total ineptitude. The restaurant is quite nice looking. And the menu seems intriguing and well thought out. Most notable, architecturally, is the wide open area in front of the place with a narrow “patio” that opens onto La C. like a giant garage door. It looks really great – though the noise, cold air and smoke that wafts in from the street was unpleasant. Second most notable is a big glassed-in cooking/pizza area with seats right in front to watch the action. These areas and the bar and dining areas are lovely.
Service: Everyone was really nice. Our waitress could not recommend a thing (“everything is so good”), charged us for a drink we never ordered and forgot a coffee we did. A far more together hostess provided some guidance.
Merguez Sausage, Fontina, Tomato Jam, Aleppo pepper $14 – we all thought most frozen pizza has more flavor and crunch. The crust was limp, and the toppings bland, despite the exotic description.
Spring Tabouli, Green Garlic, Fava bean, Pancetta, Almond $10 – not bad, probably the second best thing we had.
Poached Egg Shakshouka, Yogurt Emulsion, Sweetbread, Pita $12 – I believe this was described to us as a Bedouin, or perhaps a Syrian, breakfast. It is hard for me to imagine that even the poorest, starving Bedouin would serve such an underseasoned dish to his family, or even his camel. It was a mushy, bland tasteless mess.
Braised Tripe, Falafel $10 – we all thought this sounded interesting and it looked nice. The falafel was fine but the tripe was too much for all of us: one friend declared it unclean - nothing like the wonderful Italian tripe Osteria Angelini serves.
Striped Bass, Eggplant, Soujouk $24 – It was OK. Third best dish, I guess, but nothing to go back for.
Pee Wee Potato, Zhug, Aioli $9 – Best dish by far: small yummy roasted potatoes with some fine spice and kick.
Heirloom Bean Foul, Celery Salad, Preserved Lemon $9 – watery, flavorless.
The meal was really a big let-down but I sensed a consciousness behind the place that may lead to improvement. It seemed (mostly) that the chef/kitchen has quite a few good ideas that were badly sourced, seasoned, sauced and/or served. Or, as one guest said it is disappointing “when you're promised such exotic flavors and end up with mush.”
401 N. La Cienega Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90048
7015 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038
8400 Wilshire Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Hostaria del Piccolo
606 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA 90401
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