5×5 Chefs Collaborative @ Melisse (Santa Monica, CA)

5×5 Chefs Collaborative Dinner Series
Melisse
1104 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Dining date: 4/29/12

melisse exterior

The 5×5 dinner series has been around a number of years now, but this is the first (certainly not the last) one that I’ve been to. I don’t know why it took so long. The concept is thus: 5 chefs create a 5-course meal (one dish for each chef), rotating to each of their 5 restaurants (for 5 dinners in all). As if I needed more convincing, there’s been a sixth guest chef at each dinner, and this year’s no exception (making for 6 courses). The guest chef has often been an out-of-towner, providing unique flair to an otherwise already-all-star cast. The dinners cost $150 with a portion of proceeds benefiting the Southern California Special Olympics. A pretty cool concept!

menu

This was the first dinner of the 2012 series, held at Melisse in Santa Monica. The complete lineup: Josiah Citrin of Melisse, Michael Cimarusti of Providence, Gino Angelini of Angelini Osteria, Michael Voltaggio of ink., Rory Herrmann of Bouchon, and guest chef Ludovic Lefebvre of LudoBites. Ken Takayama (Melisse Chef de Cuisine) handled dessert duties for this dinner.

A special cocktail menu was prepared for this evening; we sampled a few (descriptions from left to right).

Renovateur Cadavre “corpse reviver” oxley gin, lillet blanc, cointreau and lemon
Citrine el tesoro plata, aperol, grapefruit and lime juice
Les Restes deaths door vodka, crushed grapes, lychee shaken with egg whites
Surfeur appleton rum, pineapple, ginger syrup, lime and soda

cocktails

Sampling all four, I thought this was a pretty strong lineup. My drink was the Surfeur, a refreshing and balanced cocktail with a little bit of sweet fruit, citrus and something I’ve really been enjoying in cocktails – ginger syrup.

The first thing to come out of the kitchen was this amuse bouche.

foie gras and rhubarb with dehydrated whey and citrus

foie gras and rhubarb with dehydrated whey and citrus

Basically a small ball full of foie flavor, it had a soft, almost jelly-like texture with a crispy coating. The main flavor profile was that of the foie gras – I could see this being a fitting start to Melisse’s Foie for All dinner as well.

Citrin: crisp chicken skin, raw milk curd, aged and fermented beets, shaved macadamia & chilled pea, yogurt sphere, meyer lemon air

crisp chicken skin, raw milk curd, aged and fermented beets, shaved macadamia

Host chef Josiah Citrin’s dish was this duo. The chilled pea consomee was light and refreshing, with a little bit of the citrus of the meyer lemon coming through. The textural component came in the form of crispy chicken skin, complemented by creamy milk curd and beets (which I think added the tartness I tasted).

Cimarusti: fluke sashimi, fluke fin, geoduck clam creme fraiche, yuzu kosho, crispy puffed rice

fluke sashimi, fluke fin, geoduck clam

Cimarusti has some beautiful plating skills and it was on clear display here. Fluke and geoduck sashimi were the proteins; the fluke was tender while the geoduck had just a little bit of chew. Yuzu kosho provided subtle heat, creme fraiche provided tartness, and puffed rice added a little crunch. This dish showed a lot of restraint and was very well-balanced. Quite good.

Lefebvre: Eastern Squid ink, ash and baby french leeks

Eastern Squid ink, ash and baby french leeks

Next up was Ludo’s dish. Tender pieces of squid were accompanied by a squid ink sauce, an ash crumble and a sweeter yellow sauce I can’t recall. I thought this was a strong dish, with the squid going very well with the sauce and delicate crumble. The glazed leeks were tasty too.

Angelini: homemade spaghetti chitarra alla norcina sausage, spring truffles, parmigiano-reggiano

homemade spaghetti chitarra alla norcina

Angelini’s dish was seemingly one of the simpler dishes of the evening but my favorite. I really like fresh pasta and found it to be done perfectly here. The spaghetti was thicker than what I normally see, almost resembling Japanese udon in shape. As a result, it provided a really nice chew to go along with the sausage-based sauce and earthy truffles. Goodness. I wanted a whole big bowl of this. One of the best things I’ve eaten this year.

Voltaggio: wild black bass egg yolk dumplings, porcini dashi

wild black bass

Next up was Voltaggio’s dish, a piece of sea bass topped with egg yolk dumplings (!) and a porcini dashi. The fish was cooked well, having a moist flavorful flesh though I would’ve preferred a crispy skin. Egg yolk dumplings were a fun addition, yielding a runny interior not unlike an actual yolk. Very interesting. It added a richness to the dish, while the dashi provided that extra depth of flavor.

Herrmann: degustation de lapin devil’s gulch rabbit, sweet carrots, fava beans, young onions, rosemary scented rabbit jus

degustation de lapin

Hermann’s dish was this trio of rabbit preparations – loin, rack and a cooked terrine. In many ways, this reminded me of The French Laundry but it lacked some of the pizzazz that I found in other courses. The tenderloin seemed a bit on the dry side, but the rack was a highlight with its juicy and tender meat. Carrots, beans and onions rounded out the dish, as well as a herb-scented jus that brought everything together.

Takayama: chocolate, caramel, strawberry, wild fennel

chocolate, caramel, strawberry, wild fennel

chocolate, caramel, strawberry, wild fennel

Loved the presentation of this dessert! Takayama’s creation of cake, fresh strawberries, and liquid nitrogen caramel ‘dippin dots’ were served in a chocolate bowl. The liquid nitrogen created the smoky effect, while the flavors were that of a chocolate and strawberry cake.

Lastly, we had some extra sweets to finish off the meal.

mignardises macarons, berries with yogurt and brown sugar

macarons

fruit

I found this meal to be very good – probably the best meal I’ve had so far this year. The food lived up to the big names and the progression of courses fit well, something that’s not always easy with these types of dinners. My favorite dish was Angelini’s pasta for sure, but other highlights included Cimarusti’s sashimi, Ludo’s squid and Takayama’s dessert. Even my least favorite plate was still a relatively strong effort. Especially with this level of cooking, I’m already looking forward to the rest of the series.

group shot

Sunday, April 29, 2012: MELISSE, with Guest Chef Ludo Lefebvre
Monday, May 21, 2012: PROVIDENCE, with Guest Chef Jeremy Fox
Monday, July 16, 2012: ANGELENI OSTERIA, with Guest Chef Michael Tusk
Monday, August 20, 2012: BOUCHON, with Guest Chef to be announced
Sunday, September 16, 2012: ink., with Guest Chef Chris Cosentino

Sushi Gen (Los Angeles, CA)

Sushi Gen
422 E 2nd St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Dining date: 4/6/12 and 4/11/12

sushi gen exterior

Sushi Gen is one of Little Tokyo’s most popular restaurants (4.5 stars on Yelp with 1500 reviews is a good indication), seemingly always having people waiting outside. It’s probably one of my favorites too, and one of the first restaurants I remember dining at in LA. I’ve been back many times so a post is long overdue.

To me, Sushi Gen offers two pretty distinct experiences. One is at the sushi bar, where diners sit in front of the sushi chefs and the menu is pretty much sashimi/sushi-only. The other, and seemingly more popular option, is to sit in the dining room where sushi is available, as well as a variety of composed cold and hot plates. While my best meals have been at the sushi bar, dining at the tables presents much more variety and value since there are a number of combination plates that provide more bang for the buck.

sushi bar

Recently I dropped in for lunch at the sushi bar (the wait for a table was 45 mins. even though there was immediate availability at the bar), and came back for dinner a few days later for dinner (in the dining room).

Lunch

wasabi and ginger

Salmon and Yellowtail

salmon

yellowtail

Beautiful. We started with two good pieces, soft and tender with clean flavors.

Red Snapper

red snapper

The fish was slightly warm and slightly chewy, complemented by some light acidity.

Toro

toro

As expected, this was soft and silky with a fatty melt-in-mouth texture. Always a highlight.

Scallop

scallop again

This was one of the highlights too – it was very soft and delicate, and the yuzu kosho topping was exactly what I was looking for. We enjoyed these so much that we ended up getting another order.

Monkfish Liver

monkfish liver

In between sushi courses, we also ordered this dish of monkfish liver. Creamy and rich with a clean sea flavor, it was a pretty good example. Subtle heat and acid complemented the rich liver.

Sweet Shrimp

sweet shrimp

shrimp heads

Frequently one of my favorites, the sweet shrimp here was succulent and sweet with a great snap to it. The shrimp heads came either fried or in soup; I opted for the latter. I liked the shellfish flavor it imparted into the soup.

Giant Clam

giant clam

This giant clam was chewy, sweet and not at all fishy. A little bit of yuzu kosho was a zesty accompaniment.

Tuna

tuna

I loved the deep red color of this tuna; it was tender with a good flavor.

Albacore

albacore

Onion, soy, and a light citrus (ponzu?) topped these soft pieces of albacore.

Spanish Mackerel

spanish mackerel

The crisp, sharp flavor of the raw onion countered and fatty fish with a little bit of ginger coming through too.

Unagi

unagi

Tender with a sweet sauce, I liked the delicate texture and nuttiness that the sesame seeds offered.

The sushi was quite good; in fact, better than I had remembered it to be. Totally better than the stuff sold down the street at equally-popular Komasa. The fish were cut a little bit thicker and wider than what I typically see, and this helped to create some great meaty bites. The price wasn’t bad at all either, coming in just over $50pp after tax. Makes for a pretty guilt free lunch too, health-wise.

Sushi Gen doesn’t have much in the way of dessert, but I’ve got the perfect after-lunch sweet/drink. Mikawaya’s mochi is a good bet, but I prefer this:

Ozero Exterior

(Boba) Milk Tea

ozero teas

Yay! Half a block down, Ozero makes some good milk tea. There’s a pretty extensive menu, but I’ve stayed within a very narrow range of a few different milk teas (black, green, oolong). My favorite is easily the regular (black) milk tea without boba, on the right.

Dinner

A few days later my aunt, uncle and cousin were in town and they always come here. We opted for a table in the dining room since it offers a more varied menu. Unique to the dining room, a bunch of combinations are offered from sushi/sashimi to more standard fare like steak, chicken and salmon teriyaki. The combinations come with miso soup and sunomono, and a choice of sashimi or tempura.

combo sides

Chicken Teriyaki

chicken teriyaki

Chicken teriyaki isn’t the most unique dish here, but they do it pretty well. A generous piece of dark meat is seared to get a crispy skin (that’s key!), while the teriyaki was a welcome addition, not being overly sweet or thick.

Tempura

tempura

The tempura was done pretty well too; the batter was fairly light and fried well. I think there were two shrimp, sweet potato, a carrot and a couple other vegetables.

Salmon Teriyaki

teriyaki salmon

Like the chicken, the salmon teriyaki is pretty good as far as salmon teriyaki goes. I don’t think this dish has been cooked as consistently as the chicken though, sometimes being a bit overcooked.

Sashimi Dinner

sashimi combo

On this occasion I went with the sashimi dinner. There are a few cooked preparations to go along with the sashimi and there’s a lot of variety on this plate. I could make out squid, cooked tuna, spicy tuna, raw tuna, yellowtail, crab, albacore, cooked salmon, and chopped tuna with green onion. The quality of fish in this dinner combination is definitely a notch or two below what’s at the sushi bar, but it’s good enough considering the $26 price tag (which includes the tempura).

Sushi Gen is ultimately a very satisfying restaurant for both those that want a higher-end sushi experience and also a pretty good value play for some good Japanese food. Even the sushi is relatively reasonable for the quality; I think one could go all out and still spend less than $100. Sometimes I’ll find a middle ground and order sushi to supplement one of the combinations, but for some reason the sushi just doesn’t taste the same when it’s brought to the table.

I have definitive favorites when it comes to Japanese food in Little Tokyo. Daikokuya and Shin-Sen-Gumi for ramen, Fat Spoon for curry, and Hama and Sushi Gen are tied atop for sushi. Given the fact that Gen offers much more than Hama in terms of cooked dishes (Hama is a sushi bar only), Sushi Gen might be the restaurant I recommend most often in Little Tokyo.

Bluefin Tuna Sashimi

Dining date: 4/14/12

Last weekend, I was browsing my local Japanese Nijiya market when I stumbled upon an advertisement for a tuna filleting demonstration. It would be a prized bluefin tuna and the fish would be sold at the end of the demonstration! I knew tuna could be huge fish so I was curious to see what it would look like and how it was going to be broken down. Plus, I wanted to try some of the fish fresh off the cutting board.

butsuakamichutorotoro

Bluefin tuna is a poor choice in terms of sustainability (the Monterey Bay Aquarium assigns it an ‘Avoid’ rating) due to decades of over-fishing around the world. The primary consumer is Japan, where it’s considered a delicacy – particularly the fatty section of the belly, or toro. Given the depleting population and the fact that the fatty belly is a small fraction of the overall yield of the tuna, the toro is often one of the most expensive cuts in a sushi restaurant.

I dropped in to Nijiya just after 11am and an employee was well on his way to breaking down the fish. I’m not sure if he started with the whole fish (I was pretty early and his table wasn’t that large, so I don’t think he did), but it was clear that all of the parts were there from head to tail.

tuna remains

filleted carcass

filleted flesh

The tuna was effortlessly filleted, separating huge chunks of flesh from bone. Clearly, this guy had done this many times before. It was pretty cool to see the meat; a red to white gradient showed the level of fattiness from one side to the other. The deepest red color, and the leanest part of the fish, was akami. Often called maguro in restaurants, it’s the cheapest cut of bluefin. The rest of the flesh ranged from medium-fatty chutoro to the fattiest (and most expensive) of them all, otoro. The trimmings and other sections of the fish were sold too; I grabbed a small chunk of each of the three highest grades and took them home to eat.

trimming the fish

chutorotoro

I’ve never prepared sushi before, but I often purchase sashimi-grade fish to slice and eat. In short, sushi chefs make it look so damn easy to do but it’s really hard to slice it perfectly. In fact, I don’t even know what a perfect slice is supposed to be, but I did my best to cut against the grain and slice on a bias wherever possible (my pieces of fish were of varying shapes). The fattiness of the toro was evident when I was cutting it; my hands became oily just by touching the fish, and the knife sliced through like I was cutting a softened stick of butter.  It wasn’t pretty, but I got everything sliced up and served it with a warm bowl of short grain rice and a soy sauce-wasabi mixture.

bluefin tuna sashimi

toro sashimi

The fish was excellent and about as good as expected. I enjoyed the lean akami (on the right of the plate), which was still very tender and had good flavor. The chutoro (middle of plate) was even better, having a richer flavor while being even more silky and tender. Finally, the toro was expectantly rich and fatty with a texture that seemingly melted before it could be bit into. Like Japanese wagyu beef, it’s really best in small quantities because it’s just so incredibly rich and oily. But man, it is good stuff!

Dining on bluefin tuna (especially on the belly) is by no means an everyday occurrence, but it was fun to splurge on this a bit. Purchasing it from the market was a whole lot cheaper than a restaurant too (of course), with the whole plate above costing about $30…and it came with a show!

LudoBites Best of Foie Gras @ Gram & Papa’s (Los Angeles, CA)

LudoBites: Best of Foie Gras
Gram & Papa’s
227 E 9th St
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Dining date: 4/18/12

ludobites menu

If there are two ingredients with which I’ve had the most fond LudoBites memories, it might be foie gras and chicken. I’m not counting on a “Best of Chicken” night anytime soon (but I’d love to see one!), however I’m not surprised to see a night dedicated to the controversial and soon-to-be-banned ingredient. In fact, Ludo’s already done a foie gras dinner at Animal and has been very outspoken about his view on the matter.

For this dinner, Ludo teamed up with the usual suspect – Gram & Papa’s in downtown.  It’s still probably my favorite venue despite the quiet neighborhood, due to its proximity to me and the open kitchen where much of the action can be seen.

kitchen interior

In the coming months, I’m expecting to see more dinners like this (Melisse has one). Why not celebrate (binge) on it while you still can? This two-night dinner menu was 5 courses of foie gras (6 if you include the amuse) for $105, lower than what I would’ve expected. A quick glance showed a few familiar plates (albeit with a few changes) and some that I found completely new to me – an intriguing balance.

Foie Gras Cromesqui “MM”

Foie Gras Cromesqui

We were first served this amuse bouche, a spherical croquette filled with a liquid foie gras sauce. The shell was delicate with a nice crunch, and the warm foie flavor really set the tone for the meal.

Foie Gras Dynamite tuna, lychee

Foie Gras Dynamite tuna, lychee

This dish was very similar to one at LudoBites 5.0, a seemingly odd combination of raw tuna, seared foie gras, and a spicy ‘dynamite’ sauce. I feared that the richer dynamite sauce would overshadow the tuna and foie gras, but I found this to be pretty nicely balanced. I liked the contrast between the rich, fatty foie gras and leaner tuna, and the sauce had a subtle spiciness that brought it all together. A lychee sauce provided sweetness, while salmon roe added some pop to each bite.

Foie Gras Miso Soup radish, turnips

Foie Gras Miso Soup radish, turnips

Seeing this dish on the menu, I was instantly reminded of what was maybe my favorite dish of LudoBites 8.0. A miso soup (prepared with duck stock!) was pretty well done itself – adding in gently poached, perfectly-cooked chunks of foie gras will elevate just about any soup. No exception here – the liver was completely melt-in-mouth, while crisp slivers of turnips and radish provided some fresh bite. Bravo!

Foie Gras Black Croque-Monsieur grapes

Foie Gras Black Croque-Monsieur grapes

This dish is probably one of the most notable in LudoBites history – I first had it during the 4.0 run. A squid ink-dyed bread was toasted and served with serrano ham and an oozing foie gras terrine and cheese mixture. Grade A food porn, and it tasted as good as it looked. The foie and ham flavors both stood out and mixed so well in each bite, especially with a little bit of the accompanying sweet grape sauce. I loved the crispy texture of the toasted bread too – ooey gooey greasy deliciousness.

Foie Gras “Crepinette” morels, pears, green asparagus

Foie Gras "Crepinette" morels, pears, green asparagus

Foie Gras "Crepinette" morels, pears, green asparagus

Our last savory course was an original, as far as I know. It was a play on a crepinette, a type of sausage wrapped in caul fat, a thin membrane that surrounds the internal organs of the stomach. It wasn’t nearly as weird as it sounded, being very similar to a typical sausage casing. Of course, foie gras was packed inside and accompanied by a potato puree, diced pears and morel mushrooms. I thought the flavors were balanced well, and the foie gras was able to stand out in the midst of everything. I thought a key ingredient was the pears, which added a welcome sweetness and subtle texture. Oh, and the grilled ramps were delicious!

Foie Gras Sundae brioche, black berries

Foie Gras Sundae brioche, black berries

Our meal came to a conclusion with this dessert, a foie gras ice cream topped with whipped cream, brioche (toasted in duck fat, of course), and berries. Another original, I think. I thought the ice cream was oddly rather grainy and fibrous, but the flavor was clear foie gras. I think the brioche was caramelized in something since it was addictingly sweet, while some berries adding a different kind of fresh sweetness. The flavors were nice, but I didn’t love the consistency of the ice cream.

This was a very good meal and one of the better complete meals I’ve had from Ludo in some time. True to his style, the plates were pretty creative and different with a good mix of familiar LudoBites and new stuff. The main highlights for me were the miso soup and croque-monsieur, but all of the dishes were pretty strong overall. I thought Ludo did a good job of showing varied applications of the ingredient; so well, in fact, that I’ll just miss it that much more come July 1. I’m curious if we’ll see Ludo do something similar once more before that date arrives…

ludo in the kitchen

Previous LudoBites posts:
LudoBites 4.0 (2) | LudoBites 5.0 (2) | LudoBites 6.0 (2) (3) | LudoBites 7.0 (2) | LudoBites 8.0 (2)LudoBites America

Dan Moody & Adam Horton @ Raphael (Studio City, CA)

Dan Moody & Adam Horton Collaboration
Raphael
11616 Ventura Blvd
Studio City, CA 91604
Dining date: 4/17/12

raphael exterior

My visit to Raphael has been long overdue. I first sampled chef Adam Horton’s food at Test Kitchen, towards the end of his stint at Saddle Peak Lodge in Calabases. Horton departed Saddle Peak and came to Raphael early last year, and I’ve been hearing good things about his cooking, particularly about this one sous vide short rib dish. Given these reviews and his strong resume, I’ve been meaning to visit but just haven’t had the chance to drive out to Studio City (which is actually much closer to downtown than it seems). A one-night popup dinner in collaboration with Dan Moody was the perfect excuse.

bar area

interior2interior

The setup was rather simple with six courses, three created by each chef. The dishes alternated chefs with the final dish (dessert) created by Moody. The price of admission was 65 bucks, which I thought pretty reasonable given the standard of cooking I was expecting from these guys.

Palm Sugar Cured Amberjack and Albacore (Horton) crispy taro, mint, cilantro, pickled daikon and lime caviar

amberjack and albacore

The fish was tender and I liked that it was cut into large chunks; I particularly enjoyed the crispy thin strips of taro root for their texture and subtle earthy flavor. Pickled daikon and lemon added some acidity alongside the mint and cilantro aromatics to create a light and refreshing plate.

Uni & Scallops (Moody) scallop crudo, uni ice cream, spicy tomato dressing, miso-sesame crumble

scallop uni

Creamy soft scallop and uni ice cream (an intriguing vehicle for the flavor) were the bulk of the flavor, while the crumble provided the much-needed textural contrast. The dressing provided just a little bit of heat to bring it all together.

Quail (Horton) carrots, kaffir lime, coconut and flavors of green curry

quail

I thought the quail was cooked perfectly, yielding moist and succulent meat – I found myself gnawing on the bones for some time. The curry brought some depth of flavor and heat, while some carrots provided just a touch of crunch and sweetness. I thought the coconut and lime were good additions too, completing a sort of deconstructed Southeast Asian curry.

Beef Tartare (Moody) beef heart, boudin noir, roti paratha and yellow curry

beef tartare

I think this dish was popularly known as the best dish of the night at our table. There were a few rich components on the plate between the beef heart, boudin noir and the yellow curry; they mixed together to create some really delicious bites. Roti paratha, a Singaporean crispy pancake, was an ideal vehicle in which to soak up the curry and creamy boudin noir. An excellent dish.

Braised Veal Cheeks (Horton) asparagus, creamed morels, sauce périgueux

veal cheeks2

veal cheeks

As expected, these veal cheeks were exceedingly tender and rich, while the asparagus helped to lighten things up a bit, as well as add some bite. I really liked the morel mushrooms which provided their earthy, savory flavor that paired pretty well with the meat.

Chocolate Decadence (Moody) flourless chocolate cake, grand marnier custard, vanilla cognac whipped cream, white, milk, & dark chocolate mousses, orange & port sauce

chocolate decadence

The chocolate cake seemed fairly simple but it really stood out to me for being so dense with a deep chocolate flavor. A light vanilla whipped cream was an ideal pairing, though I’m not sure I tasted the cognac in it especially when eaten with the chocolate. The mousses provided some variety in the chocolate flavor, but the star for me was clearly the chocolate cake especially with a light citrus flavor in the accompanying sauce.

All around I found this meal to be a pretty strong effort. There was a good mix of flavors (with Southeast Asia being a recurring theme, no complaints here) and execution was pretty on point. Highlights for me included Moody’s beef tartare with its rich hearty flavors coming together very well, as well as Horton’s juicy and succulent quail plate. I hope they can do something similar in the near future; regardless, I need to get myself back to Raphael for a proper meal from Horton.

Mozza Whole Hog @ Scuola Di Pizza (Los Angeles, CA)

Whole Hog Dinner
Mozza’s Scuola Di Pizza

6610 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Dining date: 4/14/12

mozza exterior

Mozza has really made use of their space at the corner of Melrose & Highland, creating their higher end Osteria Mozza, their sitdown Pizzeria Mozza, their takeout Mozza2Go and a sort of all-purpose Scuola di Mozza all within the same space. Like many others in LA, I’ve been a fan of the their establishments since they opened, but this would be my first time to the Scuola. The most junior Mozza on the block, the Scuola primarily serves as a space for family-style dinners and cooking classes, as well as the occasional special event dinner. The most noteworthy dinner has probably been the Whole Hog Dinner, a five-course affair showcasing a number of pig parts in various preparations. I’ve heard great things about the dinner and have been meaning to come out. These whole hog dinners seem to book pretty quickly; this April reservation was the soonest one available when I made a reservation in late February.

dining table interior

We were greeted at the door with a glass of prosecco and some passed appetizers as we awaited the first course. Seating for 28 is around one large table (duh, family style) in pretty close (cramped) quarters. It’s right in front of the open kitchen, which provides an upclose view of the chefs and the food preparations. Sitting on the countertop was a preview of what we’d be eating, including a skin-on roasted pork shoulder and roasted bone-in pork loin. Needless to say, it sure whet my appetite.

mozza interior

pork shoulder wholewhole pork loinpork charcuteriepork grilling

TROTTER BISCUITS

trotter biscuits

These were very flaky, with a nice crispy texture within the layers. The pork flavor was subtle but present.

BUTCHER SNACKS

butcher snacks

To show off the quality of the pork and also serve as a preview of some of the cuts to be used during the evening, a selection of pork was brought out to taste. Pieces of loin, leg and belly were simply grilled with olive oil, salt and pepper. I thought the results were delicious, displaying the pork flavor with the smokiness of the grill. I enjoyed all three bites, particularly the juicy loin (pictured).

SALUMI & PATÉ coppa, speck, pancetta, capocollo, finocchiona, testa, ciccioli with pickles & spicy mustard

charcuterie1

charcuterie2

charcuterie3

charcuterie4

I don’t love charcuterie, but I enjoyed these examples. My favorite was probably the one I thought was head cheese; creamy and delicious especially with the tart acid of the pickled carrots and shallots.

PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO SOUFFLÉ pork leg ragù

parmesan souffles

souffle with pork leg ragu

This may have been the dish I was most looking forward to. As the souffles were taken out of the oven, they released a strong cheesy aroma signaling to everyone that the next course was coming. The souffle itself was very light and creamy with a heady parmesan flavor that really went well with the rich ragu. Quite nice.

PORK BELLY, ARUGULA, BEANS

pork belly

plated pork belly

This was an intermezzo of sorts, rich and fatty pork belly complemented by the bitter arugula and some creamy beans. It’s hard to go wrong with pork belly and these succulent pieces did not disappoint.

SLOW ROASTED PORK SHOULDER chicory salad & salsa verde

pork shoulder

pork shoulder with salad

This looked like a turtle sitting on the counter, but it was actually a skin-on, bone-in pork shoulder. Roasted for 10 hours, much of the fat had rendered away leaving the skin to just be pulled apart from the meat. What a sight. Both were chopped up and served with a salad. The super crispy skin was addicting, but I found the tender meat to surprisingly be on the dry side. Hm. The salad and salsa verde both provided some acidity to counter the richness of the pork.

MILK ROASTED PORK LOIN caramelized ricotta & sage

cutting pork loin

pork loin plated

pork loin with ribs

This whole pork loin was roasted with the rib section intact, then the ribs were cut off and seared. Fried sage, the sliced loin and the ribs were put atop caramelized ricotta. I found the loin to be very tender and moist, an excellent example of the cut. I didn’t think the ricotta added too much flavor, but I enjoyed the sage with the pork. The seared pork ribs were good too with just a little bit of char. However, there weren’t enough ribs for everyone (most but not all) so the two in our party who were served last didn’t get any. Kind of a bummer to an otherwise good dish.

GRAHAM CRACKER PIGS gelato & sorbetti

pig graham crackers

gelato

The pig was incorporated into dessert not just by having the graham crackers shaped as the animal, but also via lard being used in the dough. Thankfully, no lard was used in the gelato (though something like Humphry Slocombe’s Boccalone proscuitto ice cream would’ve been sweet). Heaping scoops of gianduja, banana and vanilla came to the table; my favorite was easily the nutty chocolate flavor of the gianduja. The graham cracker had a mild sweetness and provided the textural crunch to complement the gelato.

Mozza’s whole hog dinner fell a bit short of my high expectations; nonetheless it was a good dinner. I was eager to see more pizzazz from the accompaniments, particularly from the last two savory courses. And I was surprised the shoulder was on the dry side given that it was the focal ingredient. However, I definitely ate to my heart’s content of porky goodness, and it was great to see so many preparations of the animal.

The full picture photo set can be found here on Flickr.