The Taste: Flavors of LA (Los Angeles, CA)

The Taste 2012: Flavors of LA
Paramount Pictures Studios
5555 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Dining date: 9/2/12

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Day 2 of The Taste brought two more events: ‘Flavors of LA’ during the day and ‘Dinner & Drinks’ at night. I went to the daytime session, featuring an eclectic mix of LA’s food scene. Some of the main highlights, to me, were the cooking demonstrations on this day. A very strong lineup of chefs would be showcasing their talent including Ludo Lefebvre (LudoBites), Kris Yenbamroong (Night + Market), and Ricardo Zarate (Mo-Chica, Picca).

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Like the rest of the weekend’s events, all food, drink and seminars/demos were included in the price of admission ($65 in advance, $75 at the door, $50 via LivingSocial promo).

The Glendon Bar & Kitchen bourbon buffalo wings

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Valerie Confections brown derby grapefruit cake; blum’s coffee crunch cake

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valerie confections coffee crunch

Ombra Ristorante vitello tonnato

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Wurstküche mango jalapeno sausage, caramelized onions; rattlesnake and rabbit sausage, sweet peppers

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Saffron Spot tutti frutti and saffron ice creams

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Schulzies Bread Pudding assorted bread puddings (salted caramel and earl grey pictured)

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Tamarind of London tangy semolina shells; mango-passion lassi

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Mayura butter chicken, aloo palak, garlic naan

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Bulgarini assorted gelati

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Sam’s By the Beach artichoke souffle, roquefort cheese, chives

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Susan Fenniger’s STREET paani puri

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Waffles de Liege liege waffle

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Coupa Café beef empanaditas; arepas

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Locando del Lago farro ai funghi

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CHAYA watermelon mojito; tuna burger

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Gottsui okonomiyaki

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Lukshon sichuan pig ear terrine; kimchi bloody maria

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Picca/Mo-Chica unagi causa roll

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La Casita Mexicana mole poblano chicken

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bashi/Terranea caramelized shrimp, green papaya salad

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Plan Check smokey fried chicken, smoked milk gravy, yam preserves, spicy pickled okra

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Farmshop heirloom melon gazpacho, sweet corn, la quercia speck ham, opal basil, za’atar

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Sushi Roku halibut, yuzu vinaigrette

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The Cake Mamas chocolate salted caramel, good witch, churro cupcakes

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Carvel 90210 custom dipped ice cream cones

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Coolhaus assorted ice cream sandwiches

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Of course, alcohol was plentiful at the event (as well as some non-alcoholic options!).

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I also caught a glimpse of Jonathan Gold, Sang Yoon, Gustavo Arellano and Evan Kleinman discussing the state of the LA food scene.

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And Ricardo Zarate talking about and preparing his highly regarded Peruvian ceviche.

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I thought this was another successful event. Similar to the prior day, I didn’t find too much of the food to particularly stand out, but the overall variety of events was more than enough to pique my interest. Food-wise, perhaps my favorite bite of the weekend was Valerie Confections’ coffee crunch cake. Moist and light, it had just the right amount of coffee flavor and textural crunch, reminding me of the cake I had so many times growing up in San Francisco. Plan Check served a generous portion of their smokey fried chicken, a dish that’s quickly becoming a notable one around town. Exceedingly juicy, the chicken had a nice crust and paired well with the smokey milk gravy. Waffles de Liege served their namesake liege waffles hot off the iron – delicately crispy yet fluffy with just the right amount of sweetness. Lastly, Bulgarini served up some excellent gelato, including a refreshing jasmine flavor.

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Note: This event was hosted.

The Taste: Field to Fork (Los Angeles, CA)

The Taste 2012: Field to Fork
Paramount Pictures Studios
5555 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Dining date: 9/1/12

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This past weekend, The Taste returned to LA.  In its second year, it’s one of the biggest food festivals in the city, stretching over the three day Labor Day weekend. It was a slightly slimmed down version this year with less events (5), one location (Paramount Studios), and a more approachable ticket price ($65 in advance, $75 at the door, $50 via a LivingSocial promo).

Similar to last year, the five events each had a different theme. Each featured its own lineup of cooking demonstrations, wine seminars, chef panels and book signings. Of course, unlimited food & drink tastings were included in the ticket price as well, making this one of the most complete (if not the most) food event packages for 65 bucks.

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The first event of the weekend, ‘Field to Fork’, reflected the farm-to-table concept that we’ve been seeing more and more of around the country. In addition to the ~30 restaurants whipping up dishes, there were a number of farms showcasing their produce, as well a panel on the ‘State of the Farmers Market.’

Tender Greens freekeh, gazpacho sliders

Tender Greens freekeh, gazpacho sliders

Tender Greens freekeh, gazpacho sliders

Rocio’s Moles de Dioses grasshopper cream soup

Rocio’s Moles de Dioses grasshopper cream soup

Ombra Ristorante farro salad

Ombra Ristorante farro salad

9021PHO chicken pho

9021PHO chicken pho

FigOly spicy gazpacho with crab

FigOly spicy gazpacho with crab

Ray’s & Stark Bar roasted pork belly, watermelon

Ray’s & Stark Bar roasted pork belly, watermelon

Good Girl Dinette corn and tomato hand pie, peach hand pie

Good Girl Dinette corn and tomato hand pie, peach hand pie

Valerie Confections basil panna cotta with blenheim preserves

Valerie Confections basil panna cotta with blenheim preserves

Bistro 45 za’atar dusted duck, honey dates, goat cheese polenta

Bistro 45 za'atar dusted duck, honey dates, goat cheese polenta

Locanda del Lago puree of market vegetables, micro arugula; eggplant sorbet, ricotta, red onion, golden raisin saute

Locanda del Lago puree of market vegetables, micro arugula; eggplant sorbet, ricotta, red onion, golden raisin saute

Locanda del Lago puree of market vegetables, micro arugula; eggplant sorbet, ricotta, red onion, golden raisin saute

Scarpetta porchetta, smoked brentwood corn, pickled mustard seed vinaigrette

Scarpetta porchetta, smoked brentwood corn, pickled mustard seed vinaigrette

Mr. Chow chicken satay; shanghai cucumber

Mr. Chow chicken satay; shanghai cucumber

Sysco sterling silver roasted new york

Sysco sterling silver roasted new york roast

Sysco sterling silver roasted new york roast

La Casita Mexicana dry white corn soup; bean salad

La Casita Mexicana dry white corn soup; bean salad

Casa Azul Cantina/Frida mexican corn snack

Casa Azul Cantina/Frida mexican corn snack

Guelaguetza oyster mushroom & cactus tostadas

Guelaguetza oyster mushroom & cactus tostadas

BLVD 16 heirloom tomato & watermelon gazpacho; strawberry & piquillo gazpacho

BLVD 16 tomato & watermelon gazpacho; strawberry & piquillo gazpacho

BLVD 16 tomato & watermelon gazpacho; strawberry & piquillo gazpacho

Creme Caramel LA vanilla and emerald plum almond creme caramel; vanilla and upside down summer peach bread pudding

Creme Caramel LA vanilla and emerald plum almond creme caralem; vanilla and upside down summer peach bread pudding

Terranea lobster rolls; peach blueberry oat streusel pie

Terranea lobster rolls; peach blueberry oat streusel pie

Terranea lobster rolls; peach blueberry oat streusel pie

Canele mixed bean salad

Canele mixed bean salad

Lexington Social House grilled peaches with burrata and crispy pancetta; rice pudding with pineapple

Lexington Social House grilled peaches with burrata and crispy pancetta; rice pudding with pineapple

Red O pork belly sopes

Red O pork belly sopes

Soleto Trattoria & Pizza Bar chopped salad; salmon scallopini, tiramisu; strawberry shortcake

Soleto Trattoria & Pizza Bar chopped salad; salmon scallopini, tiramisu; strawberry shortcake

Wood & Vine chicken liver & foie gras pate

Wood & Vine chicken liver & foie gras pate

The Blvd at Beverly Wilshire Hotel quail breast, chayote jicama slaw, guajillo vinaigrette

The Blvd at Beverly Wilshire Hotel quail breast, chayote jicama slaw, guajillo vinaigrette

Cook’s County spretzel with mustard dipping sauce; grilled sausage salad with pickled onion

Cook’s County spretzel with mustard dipping sauce; grilled sausage salad with pickled onion

Cook’s County spretzel with mustard dipping sauce; grilled sausage salad with pickled onion

Drinks were also plentiful, perhaps moreso than the food itself. One of my favorites was Veev pouring drinks (mojito or lemonade) into these mason jars.

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I probably stopped by the Vita Coco stand a dozen times throughout the weekend.

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And tasted my way through several pours of scotch and tequila…

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in between other cocktails and wines.

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I was also able to catch a few minutes of one of the wine tasting seminars and the tail end of a cooking competition between David LeFevre (M.B. Post) and Ray Garcia (Fig).

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This was a fun event. Given it was outdoors and pretty damn hot out, shade and anything cold (cocktails!) were in high demand. Food-wise, I didn’t think there was anything spectacular, but some of the highlights were Scarpetta’s porchetta, Valerie Confections’ basil panna cotta, and Wood & Vine’s chicken liver & foie gras pate. Scarpetta’s porchetta, which seemed to actually just be roasted pork belly, was lucious, tender and delicious. Served with a smoky corn puree and a light vinaigrette to cut through the richness – it was a winner. Valerie Confections brought a couple of my favorite bites of the weekend; here, the panna cotta was smooth and creamy with a subtle basil flavor. Paired with a sweet apricot preserve, this was another hit. I thought Sysco was an odd inclusion in the ‘restaurant’ lineup, but I’ll never complain with large roasts of strip loin beef. Lastly, I appreciated Wood & Vine taking the opportunity to give away some foie gras, in a duo of tasty livers (chicken and foie) on a crispy crostini.

Being one of the more reasonable ticket prices in the LA food festival arena, The Taste presented quite a bit of value with its considerable array of food/drink-related activities. I’m excited to see how The Taste evolves next year.

Note: This was a hosted event.

Playa Brunch (Los Angeles, CA)

Playa
7360 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Dining date: 7/22/12

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I’ve stepped into Playa a few times for Julian Cox’s cocktails, but this would be only my second meal here (the first was dinner).  I recently had an OpenTable dining certificate about to expire, and picked Playa due to strong brunch recommendations.

Playa is one of John Rivera Sedlar’s restaurants (the other being Rivera in downtown), with food described as “urban Latin.” I’m not totally sure what that means, but the brunch menu is an intriguing mix of traditional brunch plates with Latin influences and some more original ones. Cocktails, crafted by Julian Cox, are top-notch; a wall of liquor and a bar full of fresh ingredients promise good things to come.

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A Beer & A Ball campari, aperol, grapefruit, sage, lime, hops infused champagne

A Beer & A Ball Campari, Aperol, Grapefruit, Sage, Lime, Hops Infused Champagne

This was one of my favorites from a previous visit. Grapefruit citrus is the main flavor that came through with a little sparkling wine. A little bitter and a little herbaceous.

Dramble aged dark rum, fresh lemon, simple syrup, all-spice dram, muddled raspberries

Dramble Aged Dark Rum, Fresh Lemon, Simple Syrup, All-Spice Dram, Muddled Raspberries

Raspberry and citrus (from the lemon) were the main flavor profiles in this refreshing cocktail. Loved the presentation.

Tortillas Florales con marmeladas y conservas

Tortillas Florales Con Marmeladas y Conservas

This is one of the signature items at both Rivera and Playa. These tortillas were easily discernible from the store-bought variety in their texture, and I liked that the edges were a bit crispy. Still though, they were just tortillas, albeit really nice looking ones. Butter and two sweet fruity marmalades were served alongside.

Flan De Elote quinoa, flores de calabaza

Flan De Elote quinoa, flores de calabaza

I thought this was a very strong dish. A light flan was sweet and savory with some earthy quinoa providing a little bit of bite. Bitter arugula was a nice change of pace.

Piquillos Rellenos gruyere, chorizo, golden raisins

Piquillos Rellenos gruyere, chorizo, golden raisins

Sweet peppers, meaty bites of chorizo and a creamy gruyere came together for some tasty bites. I didn’t think the raisins were needed since the piquillo provided enough sweetness.

Huevos Polenta lardons, rajas, calabacitas, queso cotija

Huevos Polenta lardons, rajas, calabacitas, queso cotija

Huevos Polenta lardons, rajas, calabacitas, queso cotija

Creamy polenta was topped with a poached egg and cheese making for a very savory flavor combination. Fried lardons added some meatiness as well as crunch, while a subtly spicy sauce brought it all together. A nice dish.

Duck Hash weiser farm fingerlings, peppers, 63° egg

Duck Hash Weiser Farm fingerlings, peppers, 63° egg

I thought each of the individual components were good between the potatoes, tender duck and poached egg. However the dish wasn’t anything more than that; I was missing some of the Latin influences that we saw in other plates.

Playa was a good brunch, but I wouldn’t say it was great. I thought most of the dishes were pretty unique, or at least a unique spin on a classic brunch dish (except for the duck hash). I’m always down for something different when it comes to brunch. With a strong cocktail program and a dining room full of natural light, it was a nice spot for a weekend brunch.

Ray’s (Los Angeles, CA)

Ray’s
LACMA

5905 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Dining date: 7/13/12

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Ray’s (and connected Stark Bar) has been a place I’ve wanted to try for some time now. Opened a little over a year ago, it’s somewhat quietly gained some strong accolades including being named a Best New Restaurant in 2011 by Esquire. It’s uniquely located on the LACMA campus in mid-city; on a Friday evening the place was bustling. There were a lot of people walking around (something was going on…still not sure what it was), making for an interesting place to dine and people-watch.

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Given the restaurant is attached to a museum, the restaurant has some artsy touches of its own. One of these was the dining room table, which included drawers that opened up with silverware. How fun! I’m just glad the server pointed it out before we inquired about missing silverware.

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The chef at Ray’s is Kris Morningstar, someone who’s been bouncing around LA for some time now (Blue Velvet, Casa, District). The concept is farm-to-table featuring a wood-burning oven and grill. The menu is pretty condensed with a number of appetizers, a few entrees, two pizzas and a few sides. We ended up ordering a bunch of items to share.

Warm, crusty bread was the first thing out of the kitchen. The first batch was excellent but the second one suffered from uneven reheating.

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sorrel soup, lemon creme fraiche, marcona almonds

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The kitchen sent out this amuse – a sorrel soup. The flavors were mainly grassy and tart, and the amuse as a whole was kind of refreshing.

calf’s brain haricot vert, hazelnut brown butter, preserved lemon

calf's brain haricot vert, hazelnut brown butter, preserved lemon

The calf’s brain was seared nicely leaving a silky soft interior. Some hazelnuts and waxy green beans rounded out the dish nicely.

corn agnolotti stuffed pasta, hazelnuts, lime brown butter, wild arugula, hen of the woods mushrooms

corn agnolotti stuffed pasta, hazelnuts, lime brown butter, wild arugula, hen of the woods mushrooms

Good chewy agnolotti pasta was filled with a sweet corn filling. The pasta was covered in a rich butter sauce; arugula did a good job of balancing it out with a fresh, peppery bite.

bottarga squid ink bucatini, calabrian chile, mint, cherry tomatoes

bottarga squid ink bucatini, calabrian chile, mint, cherry tomatoes

I thought the pasta was kind of soft (overcooked?), but I enjoyed the flavors. The squid ink and bottarga provided the sea flavors while fresh mint really brightened things up.

calabrian pizza fiery salami, parmesan, garlic, mozzarella

calabrian pizza fiery salami, parmesan, garlic, mozzarella

I thought this pizza was pretty well done. A thin, charred crust held up a zesty tomato sauce and some pretty good salami.

farro broccoli di cicco, shiitake mushrooms, green onions, chili sauce, slow cooked egg

farro broccoli di cicco, shiitake mushrooms, green onions, chili sauce, slow cooked egg

Loved the textures in this dish between the chewy farro and oozing egg yolk. Juicy cherry tomatoes packed a punch, while some chiles brought a lingering heat. There were a lot of components to this dish and I thought they all came together very well.

branzino potato gnocchi, piquillo peppers, sugar snap peas, olives

branzino potato gnocchi, piquillo peppers, sugar snap peas, olives

The branzino had a crispy skin but the meat may have been slightly overcooked. The small gnocchi were nice touch, while the snap peas provided some texture and sweetness.

chicken roulade anson mills grits, collard greens, roasted turnips, sea island red peas, crispy shallots

chicken roulade anson mills grits, collard greens, roasted turnips, sea island red peas, crispy shallots

This simple chicken dish may have been the highlight of the night with its succulent and tender meat. It was pretty juicy and packed with herb accents, and the creamy grits were a good earthy accompaniment.  Very nice.

hanger steak grilled scallions, charred onion puree, sungold tomatoes, smokey blue cheese, crispy bread, smoked marrow

hanger steak grilled scallions, charred onion puree, sungold tomatoes, smokey blue cheese, crispy bread, smoked marrow

This hanger steak was cooked well and really exuded a smoky aroma. Juicy tomatoes made a repeat appearance, adding some sweet and brighter flavors. I’m not sure I caught the marrow flavor, though.

We also ordered a couple of side dishes to go along with the entrees,

macaroni gratin, comte gruyere, buttered bread crumbs

macaroni gratin, comte gruyere, buttered bread crumbs

The pasta was a little bit soft, but overall this was a good enough dish. The bread crumbs were an integral part of the plate for me.

frites josh’s ranch

frites josh's ranch

This side didn’t fare quite as well, with many of the fries being rather oily and soggy. Ick.

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BTOs

Lastly the kitchen sent out some sweets, dubbed BTOs (Better than Oreos). I’m not sure I fully agreed with the title; they were different with a soft, crumbly cookie and richer cream filling.

The food at Ray’s was overall pretty good, particularly for something considered a ‘museum restaurant.’  The dishes seemed fairly simple in concept, allowing them to shine (or falter) pretty clearly. Given the most expensive thing we ordered was $25, I thought the prices were pretty reasonable; I’d come back if I were visiting the museum.

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

Mezze (Los Angeles, CA)

Mezze
401 N La Cienega Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Dining date: 2/18/12

mezze signage

Mezze opened last March and was commonly featured on “Best New Restaurant” lists in LA. The food is something a little different than what I’m typically accustomed to, being focused on Mediterranean (particularly Eastern Mediterranean) flavors from the likes of Syria, Egypt and Tunisia. It’s been on my “interested to try” list for some time – a BlackboardEats deal was the impetus that brought me in the door for this visit.

The menu is largely based on small plates, with a selection of larger mains and flatbreads as well. We focused in on the small plates, ordering one of the mains and one of the flatbreads as well.

Braised Tripe falafel

Braised Tripe falafel

The spongy tripe was braised in a strong tomato-based sauce. It was pretty tender; crispy fried falafel provided much of the texture. I thought the deep tomato flavor may have overpowered the dish slightly, though.

Hashweh Risotto lamb, burnt onion, lemon

Hashweh Risotto lamb, burnt onion, lemon

This was a good risotto, creamy and somewhat rich with the small chunks of lamb. I thought this added a welcome depth of flavor, nicely complemented by a little bit of lemon. The almonds added some texture, but I’m not sure they were necessary – I enjoyed the delicate mouthfeel of the rice.

Egyptian Rebel Fries heirloom beans, brisket, syrian cheese

Egyptian Rebel Fries heirloom beans, brisket, syrian cheese

This was a pretty well-executed poutine – the key was the extra crispy fries. They soaked up the meaty bean-filled gravy and still kept some of their texture. Ooey gooey deliciousness.

Blue Prawn saffron, radish, aleppo

Blue Prawn saffron, radish, aleppo

The plump prawns were tasty, sitting in a shellfish bisque-type broth with saffron accents. Fresh, crispy radish added some texture, as well as what I think was puffed rice.

Tunisian Fish Stew sweet potato, leek

Tunisian Fish Stew sweet potato, leek

I didn’t realize these would essentially be fish balls – very tender, almost creamy. Onions and potatoes added some extra flavor and substance to the dish, brought together by a warm, homey broth.

Duck Gallantine israeli pickles, medjool dates

Duck Gallantine israeli pickles, medjool dates

I liked the duck on its own and also liked the warm flatbread on its own. However, when combined, the bread overshadowed the duck – I think it was too much bread for the thin slivers of meat.

Lamb Shoulder sumac, onion, black rice

Lamb Shoulder sumac, onion, black rice

This was very tender and quite gamey. Lots of lamb flavor, smothered in a rather rich sauce.  The black rice, which had a barley-like brown color, added some starch to round out the bites.

Merguez Sausage Flatbread tomato jam, aleppo pepper

Merguez Sausage tomato jam, aleppo pepper

The sauce was quite tangy and actually pretty strong in flavor. I thought it was the main flavor profile in this flatbread, overpowering the sausage itself.

Date & Amaretti Parfait mascarpone, turkish coffee

Date & Amaretti Parfait mascarpone, turkish coffee

Lastly, we shared one dessert. There were layers of sweetness between the honey, date and mascarpone offset by some of the bitterness in the coffee. A crunchy cookie provided the texture in the parfait.

Our meal at Mezze was a good one, but not great. I thought the balance of flavors were off in a few dishes, and no single dish was particularly memorable. Still, the menu and cuisine was different – a little bit of a change of pace – definitely a plus. I wouldn’t be opposed to returning, but I probably wouldn’t suggest it either.