Guess what D got me from Paris???
I preheat a memory | I fold in old friends with new | I bake a good laugh
Guess what D got me from Paris???
Ok, I know other people are already done gushing and talking about the place ( like here, here and here), but I just took my dad there for the first time this Tuesday–yes Tuesday, 3PM no less. Gotta call in early for this one friends–and it was sooo goood. SOOOO GWOOOOOD. Even my dad loved it, and he doesn’t even like pizza. (or maybe that’s precisely why he liked it–because it didn’t taste like pizza, hah.)
Pizza bar (where you eat your pizza with wine….
because there’s also a wine bar where you drink your wine with pizza)
After much anticipation, waiting, and delay (and more delay), Pizzeria Mozza finally opened last November by a partnership between Nancy Silverton (of the legendary La Brea Bakery!) and the Batali-Bastianich duo. Interestingly, this is Molto Mario’s first foray outside New York City (along with Osteria Mozza, which is due to open anytime soon right next door from its Pizzeria counterpart). I have to admit I’m not too familiar with Ms. Silverton’s food (only got bread from La Brea three or four times and they were very good) so yea, naturally I was expecting Mozza to be more or less like a West Coast version of Mario’s Otto–the room a little more spacious and sunlit, tables not so obnoxiously crowded together, ceiling a tad bit higher, but essentially, the same thin-crusted pizza (which I like).
But boy, was I wrong! (well, to a certain degree…)
Well, the pizza…it was thin-crusted alright (just how I like it! fyi, I’m not really a fan of pizza, especially when the dough is thick and tasteless, which is most of the time. Yea…I like my crust microthin and supercrisp. Ok, I should just shut up and not eat pizza), but Mozza’s pies are nothing like the stuff they make at Otto to be sure. It’s like a gazillion times better! Ok, I shall table this pizza discussion for later since it’d probably make more sense to talk about the appetizers first….argh, I’m sorry this post is so disorganized!
Fried Squash Blossoms with Ricotta
So to start things off, we got the winter caprese and the fried squash blossoms stuffed with ricotta. The squash blossoms were hot and crunchy and oozy–perfectly executed. But alas, poor squash blossoms could only go so far when they came alongside this revelatory, otherworldly omigod-food-can-taste-this-good thingy that was Mozza’s Winter Caprese. So I’m sure we’ve all had this simple combination of fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and pesto sometime before in our blessed lives, but OMIGOD, THIS MOZZA THINGY FUCKING KICKS ASS! The cheese was burrata, made in house from mozzarella and cream, and I don’t know if burrata always tastes this good because this was actually the first time I’ve had it, but it was light and airy and creamy and tasted of vast green pasture and beautiful happy cows…or well, I guess to be more accurate, a mouthful of that burrata conjured up an image of beautiful cows happily grazing in some vast green pasture–yea, very idyllic. If something could taste idyllic, this would be it. And then atop that heavenly cloud of burrata were the most gorgeous cherry tomatoes, roasted on the vine–they tasted orgasmic. Hah, I don’t want to be all food-sappy but I could almost taste the amount of love and care the grower put into his little tomatoes. He probably treated them like gems–yea that’s what they were, little red gems. Quite transporting indeed. (and now you’re laughing at me…)
Pizza with Burrata, Asparagus, Prosciutto, and Onion
It was hard deciding which pizza to get, but we settled with the burrata, asparagus, prosciutto, and onion combination. And then, something terrible happened: I succumbed to my incorrigible vice of ordering the plat du jour (or I guess piatto del giorno in this case), like everytime….why??? why Anisa why?? The Tuesday special was Crisp Duck Leg with Lentils, and I fell for it. It was good, but another pizza would’ve been soooooo much better. After all, we were there to eat what could be (ready?) the greatest pizza in the world, not the greatest duck leg, oops.
Crisp Duck Leg with Lentils
So what’s so great about their pizza?? I want to hear about their pizza!! Ok ok, I hear you. Mr. Levine summed it up pretty well up there (and he better, considering how he called it the greatest pizza in the world, well, almost). But personally, I loved how the crust was perfectly crisp and thin without losing its subtance–you know, it’s like…when it’s just crisp and thin…I hope that makes sense. Remember how I said I’d thought Mozza’s pizza was just going to be a replica of Otto’s? Well, not quite. This Californian baby had a high lip and it’s puffy and blistered at all the right places….so perfect. Ahhh! I can’t stop thinking about it. And the toppings, there were four beautiful dollops of burrata on there, need I say more? People have been debating whether Mozza’s pies should really be called pizzas because of their not-so-pizza-like crust and unconventional toppings (but so novel and delicious-sounding! I really want to try them all). But seriously, who the hell cares when their pizza/flatbread/whatevermajiggle you call it tastes this goodddd??
The menu told us to save room for dessert, so we did. We got the Butterscotch Budino and a trio of gelato/sorbetti. A lot of people have hyped about the butterscotch pudding…now I know why. It was intense–superrich and creamy and…sexy possibly? I’ve had the sea salt-caramel pairing before in the form of candy coated in dark chocolate, but that same powerful flavor is now magnified ten, twenty times, whew! And did you see the little cookies in the picture? Someone raved about them saying how they were the best cookies to be had in Los Angeles–hah, I’m not going to go that far, but I could see where he’s coming from. I usually don’t like rosemary, but…ok, you know what, I’m just gonna come clean: I hate rosemary. But their little cookies with rosemary and pine nuts were the perfect complement to the budino: they were just buttery and crunchy and sweet enough (not so sweet) for the rich pudding. I think you would love this, J. (J loves creamy pudding!)
Gelato Trio – Blood Orange, Riso, Espresso
The gelato was good as always! I was so pleasantly surprised to see riso listed as one of their flavors. D and I had loved the rice-studded gelato at Otto in New York, but then I don’t know what happened…it disappeared from the menu =(. I was so happy to rediscover it here. Oh this would make D very happy too =).
so rich and so dreamy!
Mozza really needs to come to New York, or we’re definitely coming down with a major major case of homesickness…oyyy
641 North Highland Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038
So…I know it’s been a while, but let’s pick up right where we left off, shall we?
The morning after that momentous day D. Chang’s Ssam Bar rose to NYT two-stardom, Sofia messaged me. It went something like:
SYL: I think it’s time for the bo ssam
AH: Are you serious?? OMG. OMFG. Hells yeaaaa! yippeeeee
SYL: YAY. I’M SO EXCITED. YAY PORK BUTT!!!
AH: YEA, ME TOO. YIPPPEEEE. PORK BUTT FEAST!!!
I had been fantasizing about this pork butt business for a while. Everywhere I went, it just seemed like everybody was doing it, you know what I mean? Obviously I felt the need to join the rank. Sofia and I started gather round a group of dedicated eaters, made the fateful reservation, and tada!! I’m proud to announce that this past Friday, eleven of us all got ass, a beautiful bootilicious porcine ass nonetheless. It was an event to be remembered: a decadent pork butt orgy to usher in spring break–how ironically timely, eh?
In case you’re curious, Sofia wrote up a wonderful account of the evening over at her blog. Now I feel no need to burden you anymore with my crappy writing. Enjoy the crappy pictures. Buh bye!
All accoutrements ready, awaiting the main star
Ahahah, gotcha over there! Of course, my loyal readers (like five of you? Thank you. I love you more than my other friends, but let’s keep it secret ;p) would know there’s no way I would end a real entry without hitting that 500 word count. So, since Sofia already recounted the night of gluttony in all its porky detail, I’m just going to do what I do best here: WHINE. The blog is called food and whine for a reason, duh!
Disclaimer: Despite my bitchin’ and moanin’ below, Ssam Bar is still one of my favorite places to eat in the City. All these whines are based on my personal tastes. They are subjective and should not dissuade you from going there (if you haven’t been, that is. Because if you have, you’re hooked, and right at this minute you’re thinking, “Who the hell do you think you are?? You unfaithful bitch,” or something along that line. haha, am I right?
Main Sea Urchin with Tapioca, Whipped Tofu, and Scallion
1. Main Sea Urchin with Tapioca, Whipped Tofu, and Scallion – so this was a very visually pleasing dish. The colors I liked. The tastes? not so much. It’s not that I don’t like sea urchin or foamy whipped thing or tapioca balls; I just didn’t like them together. Actually, I almost liked the dish, but something in there was off for me. I enjoyed the airy texture of the whipped tofu, but oh my god, the yuzu! I hated the yuzu in there. I can see why you would want to have some sort of acid somewhere in that dish to cut through the unctuousness of the sea urchin, but the yuzu tang was just, ugh, too floral for the uni. And the big tapioca balls, sorry but you don’t belong there. They were too sweet and chewy, and they contributed nothing to the dish. Ok, I take that back. Maybe their sliminess did contribute something, but flavorwise, it just didn’t work. I think I would’ve liked this dish if it was just sea urchin, whipped tofu (no yuzu infusion contamination infiltration please!), and then maybe something refreshing and crispy like…hmmm…shiso leaf tempura? or maybe even the Korean kkaennip? or a tempura of some other Asian minty varietal. Or, if we want to keep the acidic flavor, maybe a pickled something…like okra? Will okra stay slimy and sticky if it’s been pickled? Or maybe braised okra will do. Sea urchin needs something slimy. That viscous slime inside the okra would’ve been perfect. Or, alternatively, if we want to stick with the tapioca idea, I think the smaller pearl tapioca would work ten times better, so you would have an island of sea urchin and an island of whipped tofu floating in some dreamy pearl tapioca liquid, ok maybe sabayon (a la Thomas Keller’s Oysters and Pearls. Actually, this dish did remind me of Oysters and Pearls with the seafood-tapioca action going on there). But yea, maybe the pearl tapioca sabayon could be lightly flavored with dashi, lightly being the operative word. Ok, I’m actually really curious now. Perhaps someone can tell me how to whip tofu to get to that texture so I can try out all these combinations? =)
Chawanmushi with Black Truffle, Snails, Edamame, and Scallion
2. Chawanmushi with Black Truffle, Snails, Edamame, and Scallion – aka Tello’s Chawanmushi. Is Tello a real person? If yes, I want to marry him, so he can make this chawanmushi of his for me all day everyday. This dish hit all the right spots for me, from the smooth beyond perfection texture to the delightful bits of edamame at the bottom. TELLO, MARRY ME!!!
Three Terrine Sandwich (aka Banh Mi)
3. Three Terrine Sandwich– still the best banh mi in the City for me. I shall revisit all my favorite bahn mi places in LA now that I”m here and report back whether Ssam Bar’s version is indeed the best of the best.
Aside from those three dishes, we also got my favorite, grilled rice cake + sausage + collard + kimchee, and the grilled sweetbreads, which were cooked perfectly. No whining over there, nope.
4. Bo Ssam – this was massive. I propose that we break it down to its components.
4.1 Oysters – I almost slurped mine down before the pork butt arrived, but then our waiter rushed over to stop the sacrilege from happening, lol. He said to save it for the ssam…and I did. Unfortunately, I didn’t find the oysters to be that complementary to the pork, or the ssam, due to some major salt spill issue to be discussed below.
4.2 Condiments – so along with the oysters, bibb lettuce and rice, we were also given 4 kinds of sauces to customize our ssam with: napa cabbage kimchee, kimchee puree, ginger scallion sauce, and sea salt. My problem was that everything tasted salty. By itself, it was salty ok, but together with the pork (which was quite salty, in a good way) it became too salty. A few people in our party complained that the kimchee was not sour or spicy enough, which I agreed, and I think that would’ve helped the ssam as a whole too. I would love to see another sauce added to the trio, something complex and sweet and maybe tart rather than salty. I think onion marmalade would work quite well too.
Saucage for the Bo Ssam (kimchee puree, ginger scallion sauce)
4.3 Bibb Lettuce – they’re crisp and beautiful. No complaints here.
4.4 Rice – I really wish they used more glutinous rice than whatever kind they had there. The rice got hard towards the end from sitting too long outside. Stickier rice, like Japanese or Korean kind, would withstand the long duration on the table and absorb the pork fat and all other sauces better, I think. I wonder how the ssam would taste like with coconut rice–jasmine rice cooked with coconut milk and a tad bit of brown sugar. Really nutty and fragrant rice with a little hint of sweetness…mmm
Pork butt in all its glory
4.5 HUUUUUGE Pork Butt – our raison d’etre! haha just kidding, more like our raison de trekking down there. How do you say that in French? No whining here. I just wish the crispy skin: mushy flesh ratio were higher, but I know that’s not really within their control…oh, fatty me.
When people tell you, Bo Ssam is a lot of food, you need to believe them, JUST BELIEVE. This meal was a lesson in humility as we quickly realized that our supposedly hyperelastic stomachs weren’t quite that elastic and our appetites indeed limited. *oh gasp* Witnessing your waiter dividing the unfinished pork into three sizable containers for you to doggybag home was an ordeal no self-respected glutton should ever go through, I tell ya.
So bottomline, I did enjoy the Bo Ssam experience a lot and would love to try it again (not anytime soon though and not without a 2-liter bottle of Evian by my side ;p ). You ask, so what’s your problem really? No, no problem. Somehow in my poor little head I had thought that Bo Ssam would be the ultimate Momofuku Ssam Bar experience, but really it’s not, not for me at least. Now I think my ultimate Ssam Bar experience would be to order every friggin item on their menu along with a twelve-pack of Hitachino Red Ale (despite the fact that they don’t come in twelve…but you get the idea)…mMMmMm… who’s in?
Momofuku Ssam Bar
207 2nd Avenue
New York, NY 10003