Small plates are a big thing in Los Angeles these days, which can be a blessing and a curse — if I may be so dramatic. On the upside, small plates lead to greater variety in a meal, and they also engender a convivial social element that comes from sharing food with friends. On the downside, they’re not always a great value. $14 for three shrimp? $13 for a smattering of chorizo? It doesn’t take long to find oneself $30 – $40 in the hole and still suffering from serious hunger pangs.
Luckily, Mezze on La Cienega Boulevard in West Hollywood offers up small plates that don’t insult diners with big price tags and diminutive offerings. That’s not to say the plates are the cheapest. However, the quantity of food is more than enough to leave hungry patrons feeling satisfied (and more importantly — not ripped off).
The restaurant specializes in “Eastern Mediterranean” dishes: flavors culled from both the Fertile Crescent (shawarma, e.g.) and Jewish tradition (chicken livers with challah). The latter influence comes courtesy of Micah Wexler, who oversees a sizable menu full of interesting options. I hit up Mezze earlier this week as part of a media-comped meal, and I can assure you I wanted to order almost everything. However, I had to limit myself begrudgingly thanks to an ill-timed late afternoon burger binge for lunch. I don’t always think these things through you see…
After the jump, check out pics of the restaurant in all its glory.
The menu. The list on the left features small plates, which all run between $12 – $14. There are a few outliers in the $16 – 17 range (quail, prawns) with foie gras being the most expensive at $21. The menu also features a small handful of main dishes in the $26 range, flatbreads in the $15 range, and vegetables at $9.
First to arrive are Grandma’s Chicken Livers, reportedly made from Wexler’s grandmother’s recipe. I love chicken livers, and this one was right on the money. Super sweet grapes (specifically, “grape mostarda”) brighten the dish; although, they verge on being too sweet. It’s nothing that ruins anything though, and the lil’ challah on the side is the perfect accompaniment. We wound up having to order a second one.
Persimmon salad with almonds, leeks, goat’s cheese, and house bacon. This is a delightful dish and a perfect counterbalance to the supremely rich chicken livers.
A beet salad with sheep’s milk yogurt. Oh, and those aren’t croutons that you see. They’re fried haloumi. Also joining the party are some cripsy garbanzo beans. You really can’t go wrong with a beet salad, and I definitely enjoyed this one, but at the same time, this dish probably made the smallest impression on me.
Maybe it’s because I’m a sucker for this stuff, but this foie gras terrine was my favorite dish of the night. It’s a sizable portion — definitely worth the $21. Take a slice of the shinko pear, add the foie gras, and place it all on some pita… heavenly. I was seriously a happy man with this dish.
Aforementioned pita. When we ran out, I used more of that baby challah loaf to spectacular results.
Shawarma. I have to admit that when it comes to shawarma, my experience is fairly limited to the amazing stuff at Zankou Chicken here in LA. This shawarma is actually fairly different. It’s more delicate and full of bright flavors, not heavy sauce. Definitely a keeper.
Smoked sablefish flatbread (and accompanying shadow puppet). I loved this dish, which features smoky, salty sablefish with tangy lebne (a yogurty type cheese) and bright capers and pickled shallots. Again, the Jewish influence is strong here, and the big flavors are enough to make you want to hoard the entire flatbread for yourself.
Brussels sprouts with soft boiled egg and soujouk. This is a solid side; although, not particularly exciting. If you like brussels sprouts, you’ll like these quite a bit. Thankfully, I like brussels sprouts.
A more impressive vegetable side is this delicata squash with dates and molasses. Now before you enter a diabetic coma, I can assure you that it’s not too sweet. I was a little scurred. I’m not going to lie. However, the kitchen uses restraint, and the result is a great side dish.
Here’s a peculiar cocktail. It’s called the George Dickel Pickle, and it features whiskey, mustard seeds, lemon, celery, and serrano pepper. The result is a strange thang that tastes like whiskey and pickle juice — not what I was expecting at all. Fans of picklebacks will LOVE it though.
Ah. Dessert. This is a little log of chocolate mousse with a sizable quenelle of honey milk sorbet. This was delicious, and the sorbet kind of steals the show. In fact, the mousse sort of gets lost in it all. But that’s just fine. It’s all quite lovely. Question though: is it still sorbet if it has milk?
Two other desserts: labne cheesecake is bright and delicious, especially with a persimmon topping. There are also churros, which are shockingly light and fluffy. I enjoy them, but compared to the other two desserts, I’m not as intrigued.
Also worth noting is the restaurant’s super cozy bar area, which features couches and chairs — perfect for the late night happy hour which boasts half off all cocktails and $3 beers. SHELLO.
As you leave, check out the assortment of jars by the door. Some contain things like matchbooks, others have cookies (I took one — it was lovely), and others have things like star anise and cinnamon. Free spices, yo!
Honestly, I thoroughly enjoyed Mezze and can easily see myself coming back here with friends. The happy hour should not be overlooked, especially if The Roger Room across the street becomes too hectic (as it sometimes does). Definitely go for the chicken livers, the foie gras (if you’re into that sort of thing), and the sablefish flatbread.
401 N La Cienega Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90048