Return to Osteria Mozza
We went back to Osteria Mozza last week. This most recent visit confirmed my opinion that the kitchen isn't yet operating on all cylinders.
The mozza bar is where it's happening: Brilliant presentations, ultra high quality ingredients -- absolutely state-of-the-art. It's similar to the mozzarella menu at Jar, but refined and sharper. I think Jonathan Gold's comparison to sashimi is spot-on.
Unfortunately, the pasta and meat dishes simply weren't up to the high standard set by Batali. The orecchiette were drowning in their pan sauce. The linguine was a assemblage of gummy pasta, flavorless clams and chiles. Neither of the dishes had that essential quality of great pasta where the whole transcends the sum of the components. Pasta is Batali's thing. For anyone who has visited Babbo or Lupa, you'll know what I'm talking about. I really missed his touch here.
On to the meat: The grilled lamb chops were heated through, browned on the outside, but somehow still raw-tasting. The roast pork seems to have been brined which I see as an unnecessary crutch. In both dishes, the fat had barely melted. This isn't a creative choice; it's just plain wrong.
So much about Osteria Mozza is right: The space is exciting, the menu is smart, the anitipasti are fantastic. They just need to get their act together in the kitchen -- and they will. I'm sure of it.
Right now, I'd have to recommend Angelini, La Terza or even Vincenti over Osteria Mozza for pasta and meat dishes. Even the sycophantic J. Gold concedes there are problems when he talks about "the restaurant Mozza will eventually become."
I was at the Osteria last week and had a wonderful meal there. While I enjoyed the overall meal as a whole, I do somewhat agree with you about the pasta, well, at least the orrechiette. I liked the orrechiette, but felt that it still could have been better, I was expecting to be blown away. On the other hand, we also had the egg ravioli which I thought was excellent, as was the grilled quail. You could read more of my take here:
For only being open a few weeks, there's always room for improvement, but I thought the dishes we had that night were fantastic.
re: Burnt Lumpia
Wow, the orrechiette was phenomenal the night I went, a real showstopper and the unanimous favorite among our four pastas, but that was only night #8 they were open. I wonder if there's been a little fatigue since then.
I notice no one got the octopus. That's the superstar dish at Osteria Mozza, I feel. Even yesterday, someone who ate with me there that night said, "I still dream about that octopus."
I was also there last night and tend to agree with your regarding the pasta dishes. It was just two of us dining last night (using the reservations that the lovely hrhboo so kindly offered to me when she was unable to use them) and given that I hadn't done 5 hours of Tae Bo and 3 hours of spinning, we couldn't sample that much of the menu. Next time I go, I'll go with a bigger group because the dishes are rich enough that a few bites of each would suffice and then I could try a lot more. We started with two antipasti to share: the burratta with bacon, escarole and carmelized shallots and the mussels. The mussels were great, perfectly cooked it a slightly spicy tomato based broth that I sopped up with the buttery grilled bread and then spooned up when I ran out of bread. The burrata, though, was definitely the highlight of the night. The combination of creamy cheese, crispy bacon, sweet shallots and crunchy bread was absolutely fantastic. It made me want to try each of the dishes on the menu from the mozzarella bar and I'm sure that's where I'll sit next time I go so I can do just that.
After that, we shared two of the primi. The waiter warned us that these were small portions going in, which we had already been expecting, and they definitely were. The sauces on both were rich enough, however, that they were actually very filling and I would have been uncomfortably full if we had even shared one of the secondi, something we had considered doing at the outset. We ordered the agnolotti, which is stuffed with a really great meaty filling and finished with a sage butter sauce, and the orecchiette with sausage and swiss chard that's finished with a sprinkling of crunchy, slightly herby, bread crumbs. Both of these dishes clearly utilize the freshest of ingredients and the pasta was cooked perfectly al dente, but neither was in any way transcendent. They were basically two very good pasta dishes, neither of which made us moan or close or eyes in pleasure or really even have a strong desire to order again. I'm sure I just bought into the hype too much, but I was expecting a little eye closing and moaning or at least a shiver of delight from the food at OM.
For dessert, we shared the bombolini: essetially fried dough rolled in sugar served with rasberry sorbet and a chantilly cream. This was, again, very good but not relevatory like the budino next door. The bill came to around $90 before tip.
Aside from the food, the service was outstanding: really friendly and fun without being overbearing or obtrusive. And I am completely in love with the whole vibe of the place, with the fantastic music really making the experience. I'll definitely be back, but as I said before, it will be to sample more from the antipasti menu and to take in the scene from the mozarella bar.
Thanks again to hrhboo for donating her reservation!
Went last Saturday night, and our table ordered most of the items you did, and I must agree totally with your assessment - the pastas were just there, nothing special, and overly salted and sauced, especially the orecchiette.
The pork chop was exactly as tritip stated, which I would not order again. As to the burrata, it was fine enough, but folks, get some good burrata at the store, cook up some good bacon and serve it at home. It is nothing special to eat or prepare.
The bombolini was a major disappointment, period. Max in Sherman Oaks does that dish three times better, yet calls it donut holes instead!!!
Overall, the room, vibe and decor are all tens, period, and the wine list is quite nice, albeit expensive, with even a Sardinian wine at $73, which while good, should have been no more than around $50 or so, or at least in my understanding.
Come back in 3-4 months when they catch their breath, tweak what is needed to be tweaked, and then give it a go. Just tooooo many customers as of now.
My experience has been different, especially with the lamb which I thought was simple and sublime.
One question: how did you order the lamb? I had to order it medium (necessary comprimise with dining companion), not my usual med-rare and wonder if that accounts for my enjoyment vs. your tasting rawness?
Also, is it possible that the taste of small-farm, domestic lamb is just so different than what you may be used to that it accounts for the taste?
The orechiette was amply but not over-sauced IMO - certainly not swimming but then again I do think diners in the US expect more sauce on their pasta than do those in Italy.
I agree that the place still has room to stretch, especially with regards to table service and timing - how can service be obsequious and absentee all at once?
All that said, I found most of the plates coming out of the kitchen to be truly good.
In restaurants of this caliber I usually leave that decision to the kitchen. We eat California lamb from small producers, usually cooked medium rare and we really enjoy it.
The "scottadito" lamb preparation I've had at other restaurants like Angelini or Olivetto in Oakland or Babbo in New York come out like they've been cooked over hot wood: little bit of char, fat melted, still pink in the center. It's not that the lamb was too rare. It felt like it had been brought up to temperature too slowly. That's a rookie mistake for a grill chef.