Mezze occupies the former Sona space on La Cienega, with a glassed in open kitchen, a patio running its length shielded from the street by rosemary bushes and a whimsical entry that sees large containers of spice presented like one would find at a candy store. It’s a lively room now where Sona relied on hushed formality. And so far chef Micah Wexler (ex Craft, L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Las Vegas, Mélisse and Patina) is striking the right notes in his revisionist look at Mediterranean cooking.
With eight-fifteen reservations, The Monster still finds himself sitting in the bar at nine and his ire is rising until the manager comes over with the promise of a free appetizer and the next round of drinks. A glorious spring tabouli is brought over with green garlic, fava bean, pancetta (The Monster skirts around this) and almond that features bright, bold flavors. This dish is quick to be finished and with drinks in hand we are brought to the table.
In spirit a cousin to Cleo; featuring flatbreads, mezze plates, larger plates and sides, there is something for everyone to nibble on over the course of a meal that will probably see you looking at the clock and wondering where the time went.
On this evening the order is as follows: flatbread with baby squash, Syrian cheese, zatar; beet salad with chickpea, sheep’s milk yogurt, haloumi; braised Moroccan chicken wings with picholine olives, golden raisons; seabass with chickpea, Manilla clam, green almond; white corn with Moroccan spice, shallot; heirloom bean foul with celery salad, preserved lemon; butterball potato, zhug, aioli; roasted quail, cinnamon consommé, kibbeh; blue prawns, skipjack tuna with tomato vinaigrette and for dessert the labne cheesecake with rainier and brook cherries, rosé. The ever changing menu is meant for grazing and sharing amongst a group, the more the merrier at this restaurant.
There isn’t a miss in the bunch. The corn proves so good we quickly call for another order. The flatbread is demolished. The wings fall off the bone and as done here make a seemingly tired dish new again. Perfectly cooked seabass is a treat. Skipjack tuna here is a reinterpretation of crudo and does not falter. The only dish to skip, and in and of itself it is perfectly acceptable, the butterball potatoes which break no new ground.
Service at Sona always proved an efficiently polished if ultimately annoying affair where servers would reposition your cutlery if it wasn’t in line. The Monster once came inches away from stabbing a busboy with his butter knife at Sona because he moved it so many times. As thoughts of a judge admonishing The Monster for attempted murder with a less than deadly weapon ran through his head, The Monster found a modicum of restraint.
Mezze, in keeping with the vibe and cuisine, takes a less formal and friendlier approach. The only drawback here is the pace of the meal. Dishes are generally brought out one at a time, an enjoyable if belabored dining experience follows.
In a city beset with uninspired Lebanese and dull Armenian restaurants, Mezze is the fun and frolicking newcomer worthy of a visit.
Why go? Your mother taught you sharing is caring.
Monster rating: 4 ½/5 Monsters
401 North La Cienega Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90048