Fancy Mediterranean? You probably couldn’t drag me to such a restaurant a year ago. It’s like fancy Chinese – are you fuckin’ serious, right (although I actually do want to try WP24)? But that was when Mezze opened, near the Beverly Center on La Cienega Blvd (or as my gangsta high school Spanish teacher would pronounce it, La See-A-”Ninja”). I certainly wasn’t going to go to Cleo, so what would change my mind with regards to this new restaurant? Well, the good vibrations rolled in from critics and bloggers alike, and made the latest version of the Bible a.k.a. Jonathan Gold’s 99 Essential L.A. Restaurants. And I received a 30% code from BlackboardEats to use for dinner – God is telling me to eat at Mezze. So I dragged Greg and Jen (the idiot below) along with me for the spiritual journey…
I didn’t take a photo of the interior, but it was quite nice. Not necessarily fancy nice, but it was a very bazaar-y fancy (an actual one, not the sexy restaurant nearby) – nice “authentic” touch, if you will. And it was quite the hot spot that night: two American Pie actors were at a nearby table, some Hollywood execs were poppin’ bottles in the back, and these familiar-looking has-beens who I can’t seem to identify were on the other side. Add a group of young Yelp-Elite-type Asian girls behind me, and a FOBby Asian family who said “herro” to the American Pie guys and then stood at the kitchen window for ten minutes waving at the chefs, and you got yourself the place to be on a Thursday night.
Merguez Sausage Flatbread, Tomato Jam, Aleppo Pepper ($16)
We were recommended by the server (who Greg pointed out looked like David Cook of American Idol fame) to order about three things per person. Good call, David. Started with one of the flatbreads, baked in a wood-fire oven visible to the dining room via the kitchen window. Nice and simple – like a pizza (duh).
Grandma’s Chopped Chicken Livers, Apple Mostarda, Challah ($12)
If only my grandma knew how to make these…they were delicious! One of my favorites of the night. The mostarda added some needed sweetness, and the combination was great on the freshly-baked challah bread. Challah!
Wild Salmon, Purple Onion, Pee Wee Potato, Rye ($14)
This is a play on lox and bagels. Good, but nothing spectacular once you got over what it’s supposed to be – and how little those potatoes were. Pee wee indeed.
Foie Gras Terrine, Saffron Lebne, Warren Pear, Pistachio ($21)
Gotta’ get my foie fix before the ban later this summer. A bit disappointing, however, as the foie has this slight (metallic?) aftertaste which I wasn’t crazy about. Still, combining all the stuff on the plate and smearing over the pita was quite nice.
Shawarma, Brisket, Amba, House Pickles ($10)
Jen apparently hates sharwarma. Good, one each for me and Greg then. I thought that the beef brisket was well-seasoned and cooked, and enjoyed trying amba (a mango pickle condiment used in Middle Eastern cuisine) for the first time.
Farm Egg Shakshouka, Yogurt, Sweetbread, Pita ($12)
Probably the best thing I ate that night. Enough said. Okay a little more – shakshouka is basically a dish where an egg is poached in a tomato type of sauce. Very hearty and even more delicious. Fried sweetbreads and pita were nice textural contrasts.
Lamb Shoulder, Freekah, Dukkah Spice ($27)
I like lamb, but I didn’t read much about this particular dish before coming. However, Greg said that this was the thing to get according to Yelp (blah). Of course Yelpers would be right…not! I really wanted to like this dish though when it was all said and done, but unfortunately, the lamb was a bit over, and quite bland to be honest.
Potato Flatbread, Young Onion, Bottarga ($16)
There was a Serious Eats article about this particular flatbread the morning of our dinner, so I thought it was a sign from above that I should order it. Plus, I love bottarga (mullet roe). But the bottarga flavor was a bit muted here – mostly just potato and young onion (basically scallion). Still pretty good though.
Wood-Oven Cornish Hen, Zatar, Natural Jus ($26)
Like I always say, it’s usually stupid to order chicken dishes at restaurants (or keeping up with the religious undertones that I unintentionally developed at the beginning of the post and ran with, blasphemy). This cornish hen was great. PERFECTLY cooked, and was very flavorful despite not having too much seasoning. The natural flavors were able to shine.
Lebne Cheesecake, Persimmon, Ginger, Hazelnut ($9)
Dessert time! The lebne (Middle Eastern yogurt cheese) cheesecake was highly recommended by David Cook, and I had heard some good things about it. It was presented as these cute little minis you see above. Very good.
Roasted Apples, Honey, Zatar, Brown Butter Gelato ($9)
Our lady of the table Jen chose this dessert, and it was a hit as well. Simple enough – just roasted apples and a scoop of gelato. But combining everything together, and it was like a delicious apple pie a la mode. Good thing Greg didn’t make a pie joke at Jason Biggs…
I have to say, I was very pleased with our dinner at Mezze. Just about all of the dishes we had were at least solid (except the lamb shoulder), and some were truly great (chicken liver, shakshouka, cornish hen). Not that it truly matters, but I already mentioned that the decor was fun, and service was really good (water refilled every time glass was half-full – no joke). I am finally convinced that sophisticated Mediterranean cuisine is attainable, and Mezze is a welcome addition to the dining scene in L.A. I don’t need a discount to convince me to return.
Chris Hei grade: B+
401 N La Cienega Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90048