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OSTERIA MOZZA DURING THE DEPRESSION: REVIEW W/ PICS

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OSTERIA MOZZA DURING THE DEPRESSION: REVIEW W/ PICS

la tache burger | Oct 13, 2008 11:47 AM

Full review with pics: http://www.eatdrinkordie.com/blog/pos...

Not sure whether we're entering into a long-term global economic depression (say 3 to 10 years) or just a serious recession. One thing I am sure about, last week we were definitely in a depression. So, all day Saturday I was craving a meal at a really nice restaurant.

So, where to go ... The first place that jumped into my mind was Osteria Mozza. Hmm, that's interesting. And anything else I thought of just did not seem as right.

As soon as I entered the restaurant I understood why this place was calling to me. No signs of any economic problems here. Packed to the gills, every table occupied, lots of people waiting at the bar. I came here because I sensed it wouldn't be depressing here.

Despite the throng, there was one open seat at the mozzarella bar. "That's my seat!", I thought to myself, "perfect." I asked the host if I could "just sit there"? He responded, rather brusquely, that I could not. He was going to seat a party of three in that spot after one of the parties of two surrounding the empty seat got up. Hmmm. He explained that the three had been waiting over an hour. And my projected wait? At least an hour, maybe 90 minutes ...

Do I detect a certain haughtiness? Or not?

The host leaves the host stand and I decide to try my luck with the hostess instead. I ask her, super nicely, "is there ANY chance of my sitting in that empty chair at the mozzarella bar? Because if not, and the wait is really 90 minutes, I'm probably gonna take off." She responds, nicely, that I definitely cannot sit in that chair at the mozzarella bar, but they'll seat me as soon as ANYTHING pops up, and it probably won't be 2 hours. (She mentioned 2 hours, I didn't.)

So I leave and start trekking back to my car, wondering what the hell restaurant I'm going to go to instead ... Then a voice comes: you ONLY want to go to Mozza, and that chair at the mozzarella bar WILL BE YOURS.

I re-enter the restaurant and wait patiently, right by the host stand. A sommelier I recognize comes over and says hi and we chat. He points out he's got a good gig in this economy. Absolutely, I say. Doesn't hurt that it's owned by a celebrity, in this economy, he says. Not at all, I say.

I take in the scene as I wait. It feels like mostly native Angelinos and New Yorkers in here, successful, thriving people, probably a lot of them in the entertainment industry. Young, old and in between, but almost everyone has at least a hint of savviness about them. It's a cool vibe.

I sneak some photos -- I don't want to be seen taking pictures of the dining room in full swing on a Saturday night. Slightly tacky. So I took poor photos, but hopefully capturing something.

After I wait about 15 minutes, if not less, they seat me. Where? The empty chair at the mozzarella bar. Yes! And they apologize for the wait.

My waitress is brilliant. She is the most friendly, patient, soft-spoken person, plus she's extremely opinionated about the menu, which I love. I basically let her order for me.

I choose the most expensive wine by the quartino, a Barolo which is delicious. Not a profound wine, but a very enjoyable wine. You can taste the 2003 sunlight in the wine, and at the same time it is feminine, silky, with the beautiful dried leaves dryness of Barolo in the finish.

Amuse: Ricotta cheese smeared onto a tostini with black olive tapenade. Oh that cheese!! This is so good. The cheese so creamy and sweet and delectable. The tapenade a perfect accompaniment.

First course. Testa with green olives. Why? The waitress said it was awesome. What is it? Head cheese (meat from the head of a calf). I've never had head cheese before and I'm scared. The first three bites are weird, I'm not used to the texture and it makes me think of things I don't want to think of. Then I start to get it. Soon the texture does not bother me at all, in fact it's lush. The meat is cut so thin yet there is such a lushness. Look at this thin plate of meat, yet it packs a wonderful full-appetizer punch. Ultimately ... exquisite. (Sorry, all pics of the full dish were blurry, this gives you a sense of the look and feel of it, and the fact that I actually ate it, sorry)

Next course was the least interesting. Bufala Mozzarella with anchovies, meyer lemon and Italian spinach. Good but not great. The anchovy was extremely salty at first, then I started to taste it and it was good. The cheese never really sang. The meyer lemon seemed like a separate thought. The whole combination ... I didn't fully get it. Would try another cheese next time. Like more ricotta! (But it was pretty)

Next came my quail. I take one bite and I'm fully committed. It's so good. Pretty soon I'm sucking bones. One of the best dishes in LA. Sweet with some kind of cranberry sauce tasting thing, and some kind of bread stuffingy type thing, too. So brilliant for this time of year. I tell the waitress it's "retarded" and I think it took her a second to realize I meant "genius". Then she was happy.

The wine didn't go perfectly with the sweetness of the quail dish, but it was workable and I saved a few sips for after the quail was gone. I tasted that lovely wine for a few last sips.

I let the waitress order dessert for me as well. Fig tart with panna cotta. Fruit direct from the farmer's market. She said it was the best. It was great. I was full but I ate every bite.

Very good meal. Price: $108 before tip.

Met the couple who sat next to me at the bar halfway through my meal. Both just turned 30, moved to LA nine months ago. He's an engineer. She's an actress who wants to go for her shot at fame before she gets too old and has babies. And they're at Osteria Mozza on a Saturday night, after a week of our entire economy showing signs of collapse, sitting at the mozzarella bar, ordering an appetizer, a pasta, and a main course -- splitting everything. Drinking beers and martinis. I love them. I love LA. I love the Osteria.

What depression?

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