Location: 401 N La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048. 310.657.4103
Date: May 31, 2011
Cuisine: Modern Middle Eastern
Rating: Really tasty!
For a long time in the 2000s Sona was my favorite restaurant in LA, and I was sad when they closed last year. Mezze is a totally new restaurant that opened in the same space. It’s much more casual, a modern middle eastern with a mostly tapas style menu and an emphasis on farmer’s market ingredients. I love middle eastern flavors, so I was excited to see what they’ve done with the concept.
The chef, Micah Wexler, has a star studded pedigree too, having worked variously in LA at Vincenti, Melisse, Patina and Craft.
All the wines are from my cellar as usual. I had gotten a case of this Cal Pinot in 1997 at the vineyard and I noticed it in the corner of the cellar while picking wines. This was the last bottle — most of the rest probably having been drunk over a decade ago — and it turned out that the extra years really served it well. Having been well cellared its entire life the wine came out of the bottle like a middle aged burgundy, slightly brick in color and deliciously pinot fruity.
The menu. Even the “large” plates aren’t that large. We ordered around three things per person and it was about right.
The old Sona space has been opened up and repainted, lending a lighter more casual style.
“Spring Tabouli, Green Garlic, Fava bean, Pancetta, Almond.” A very nice tabouli, made richer by the addition of big ham chunks. This is from the grain school of taboili, some are a bit stronger on the parsley/mint thing.
“Beet Salad, Chickpea, Sheep’s Milk Yogurt, Haloumi.” Beet salads are a menu staple in recent years, but this one was as good as any with the yogurt serving well as the “fat.”
“Wild Salmon, Purple Onion, Rye Bread.” This dish was made entirely by the fish, which was sashimi grade and top notch.
“Fluke Crudo, Cherry, Green Almond, Tahini.” This dish was just a little bland. The cherries were yummy, but the fish, while impeccably fresh, didn’t have a lot of flavor.
Parker gives this Chateauneuf du Pape a 95. “Bottled at what I suspect is the whim of Paul Feraud, the 1989 and 1990 Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Laurence were tasted side by side with the Cuvee Reservee. Although the Cuvee Laurence is no better than the Cuvee Reservee, they are more evolved, with more complexity from the extended cask aging. Ultimately, I think the Cuvee Reservee will surpass them, since the development of that wine will take place in the bottle, not in wood, but it is more backward and less evolved. The 1989 Cuvee Laurence is slightly sweeter, richer, and more opulent than its younger sibling. However, both wines are enormously constituted, thick, rich, classic, old style Chateauneuf du Papes the likes of which are rarely seen today. Both wines carry 15+% alcohol. They will be worth a special effort to find and purchase.”
We also ordered a series of flatbreads (aka pizza). This one is “Green Cauliflower, Moroccan Olive, Feta, Golden Raison.” The feta/raison thing worked: sweet and salty.
“Flowering squash, syrian cheese, zatar.” This was good too, but more mild.
“Merguez Sausage, Fontina, Tomato Jam, Aleppo Pepper.” I had high hopes for this one, but it just didn’t have enough punch. There was nothing wrong with the flavor, but the sausage was too mild, and the tomato muted.
“Grandma’s Chopped Chicken Livers, Sour Plum Mostarda, Challah.” This tasted exactly as advertised, like homemade chicken livers!
The challah is a perfect bread for it too.
“Soft Shell Crab, Heirloom Cucumber, Gem Avocado, Smoked Egg.” Nice and interesting combo, although it was a small dish and split by 6 people resulted in merely a bite.
“Shawarma, Amba, House Pickles.” Nice little meat, pickle and flatbread sandwich. Although I would have liked the meat to punch out a bit more in the flavor department.
“Poached Egg Shakshouka, Yogurt Emulsion, Sweetbread, Pita.” I liked this dish a lot. It tasted mostly of tomato and yogurt, a bit like “ricotta and gravy.”
“Lamb Shoulder, Green Wheat, Dukkah Spice.” A very nice lamb dish. The meat had that full on lamb flavor. This was not a sweet lamb prep like some middle eastern ones, but more on the salty/meaty side.
“Sea Urchin, Israeli Cous Cous, Lemon, Mint.” Very soft tapioca type texture, with a some sea urchin flavor — very pleasant.
“Veal Manti, Almond Milk, Black Lime.” Manti are a type of dumpling, like Afghan Mantoo (see here). While we each only got a bite this was a very good dish.
“Hashweh Risotto, Lamb, Burnt Onion, Fried Lemon.” Nice. Rich too and gooey.
Parker 94. “The 2007 Laurel, a blend of 65% Garnacha and 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, is deep purple-colored with a bouquet of wet stone, Asian spices, black cherry compote, and incense. Dense and sweet on the palate with tons of spice, it is super-concentrated, rich, and smooth-textured. Give this lengthy effort 2-3 years of additional cellaring and drink it from 2013 to 2027.”
This is an amazing wine, deep grape.
“Semolina Pound Cake, black lime, Indian lime, mulberries, hibiscus.” This was my least favorite of the desserts, although there was certainly nothing wrong with it — just a mild sweet cake with fruit.
“Roasted Aprium, honey, basil, pistachio.” Aprium made me think of a Latin noun, but they’re just apricots crossed with plums. In this particular incarnation however, they were wonderful — and the ice cream went perfectly!
“Lebne Cheesecake, rainer and brook cherries, rose.” A wonderful light cheesy fluffy, which went classically with the cherries.
“Strawberry Parfait, sasame, sumac, halvah cream.” This was probably my favorite. The strawberries were really intense and the cream — well exceedingly creamy.
“Rose Malabi, rhubarb, market berries.” Also fantastic, this was basically rosewater (which I love) flavored pannacotta with berries.
We recieved a little parting gift of spicy saseme bright. I totally dug this stuff, and it had a bit of a burn.
Part of the surgery done on the old Sona space is opening up the kitchen.
Overall, I was very impressed by Mezze. Not every dish was spot on, but they varied from good to great and they get serious points for having a big menu full of interesting flavors and a tapas style format that really favors sampling a lot of stuff. The prices are pretty reasonable too considering the quality of the food and how much we pigged out.