I had dinner at Prezza last night and was very impressed. At most 'nice restaurants' I find that the food is usually good, but not spectacularly so. However, I had quite a few moments where I found myself thinking 'wow, how do they do that?'
I went with a large group of people and we asked the waiter to bring out lots of appetizers for the table (all from the menu, but just in bigger portions). There were a lot, so I can't remember the exact names, but here goes:
Steamed mussels in a tomato sauce with bits of sausage: The mussels were good - plump, fresh, not at all off tasting - but what really impressed me about this dish was the bits of sausage underneath the mussels. They were a perfect balance between too chunky and too smooth, with a great flavor. It was just salty enough with other savory flavors, but no one flavor (particular spice or meat) dominated. I can't describe it except to say that I was surprised at how very good it was.
Huge fried prawns in a crispy light coating: quite yummy, not at all greasy, good balance of flavors (very slightly sweet), cooked until tender but not chewy. Very well done, but considering all the other interesting things they had, not a taste standout.
Lamb skewers with a lentil sauce: I thought this was a bit underseasoned but was very impressed by the lamb itself. Tender but not mushy, with a clear young lamb flavor that was not so strong as to make me think 'mutton.' The lentils underneath were okay, but I thought they were a little undercooked and tasty faintly medicinal.
Portabello mushrooms on polenta: fabulous. The polenta was incredible - extremely smooth and creamy, but not mushy feeling, with a surprisingly integrated flavor for polenta. The usual buttery, corn-y flavor was there, but somehow better fused together with a melt-in-your-mouth consistency. The slices of mushrooms were intensely flavored, without being too salty or one dimensional, and were a perfect complement to the polenta. I would definitely order this appetizer again.
Bread and olive oil: Both of these were much better than average. A generous basket of very warm bread - crusty but not too hard on the outside, warm and soft with the perfect density on the inside served with excellent olive oil with quite a few olives swimming around. Very fresh tasting (if fresh tasting oil makes sense), not overpowering or murky.
We also asked the waiter to bring out some of the pasta dishes to share as appetizers:
Veal ravioli-type-things with a light sauce and black truffles: WOW. These were little packets of tender, smooth veal with a shaving of black truffles and a very thin coating of a sauce I'm going to describe as... creamy but in a syrupy sort of way. Like a thick reduction sauce maybe. I don't know, I would have to be a better cook to get any more specific. But the combination of flavors was just super.
Ravioli-type things with tomatoes and sausage and fennel(?): Good, but I was too busy trying to scarf a few extra veal raviolis (remember we were sharing). However, the sausage on these was quite tasty.
I also split a salad with one of my dinner mates:
Arugala, roasted red peppers, goat cheese, in a balsamic vinagrette ... - can't remember exactly: These salads are HUGE. We split one, and when the waiter brought it out we thought he had accidently brought us each our own. Then we looked down the table at the people who had ordered their own - huge dinner plate sized mounds of greens and such. I was really quite surprised since this was otherwise a sort of very-modest-sized-plates-of-arranged-food type of place (but not too arranged). The argula was fresh, not old and tough, with good creamy, not-chalky goat cheese and flavorful red peppers in a well-balanced vinagrette. However, I probably wouldn't order it again since it's the type of thing I could make myself if I had really good ingredients.
For an entree I ordered the veal loin with saffron lobster risotto and some sort of green (I forget exactly). Excellent quality veal, nice crust on the outside, and very tender and juicy on the inside, but I thought it was a bit underseasoned. However, it had this unctous glaze-y sauce that was tasty, but hard to figure out. One of my dining companions thought maybe it had barbecue flavorings but I didn't taste it. (It was not like barbecue sauce at all, we were just trying to figure out the flavor.) The risotto was good, with generous chunks of lobster considering it was just the side, and the creamy richness contrasted nicely with the slightly bitter greens. However, a few of the lobster chunks were a bit overcooked. After all the fantastic appetizers we had just had, I was not enthralled with my entree, but if we had been in any other nice restaurant, I think I would have been quite happy with it.
I had the red wine the table ordered - a full-flavored, but not overpowering, zinfandel. I would certainly recommend it except that someone else ordered it so I don't know exactly what it was. But they do have a very extensive wine list and a helpful staff.
Dessert was a chocolate hazelnut flourless cake with hazelnut ice cream. Another winner. Very smooth, chocolately, dense, yet surprising light textured. It avoided the major problem with flourless chocolate cake: being TOO dense and bricklike. The hazelnut ice cream was an excellent complement. Actually it was too bad it's overshadowed by such a good cake, because when I took a few bites of it alone, it was quite delicious, creamy and not too sweet, with good sized chunks of hazelnut.
I also shared a small glass of tawny port with a dining companion. Don't know much about port but it tasted great to me.
Overall food-wise: excellent quality, very well integrated flavors, with quite a few 'wow' moments. More than just trendy restaurant hype.
Also, the service was excellent. When 4 (out of 12) arrived early for our reservation, we were seated right away. There was no griping or making us feel uncomfortable when the rest of our group came late. Our waiter was attentive, informative, and accomodating without being intrusive. And the valet parking attendent had my car waiting out front (prewarmed, seat adjusted back to fit my short legs, friendly and helpful in directing me back to the freeway) even though I forgot to give the waiter my parking stub at the end of the meal. (How did he know?)
It was very pricey (about $70 per person with tax, without tip) but we ordered a TON of food and very good wine. If I was going with myself and a date, I would have probably ended up paying about $50 per person.
All-in-all, I highly recommend Prezza for your next special night out!