Sunday, October 10, 2010

Obika Mozzarella Bar - There You Are, Mozzarella Mojo for the Masses

While waiting for our scheduled showtime for 'The Social Network' (excellent movie, btw) at AMC Century City, my friend "Cyclist" and I decided to check out food options down the row on the same level.  She had already eaten earlier, so we didn't want to commit to a sit down place, where only one of us was going to order - and with only about a half hour to scarf down the food.  Though Century City hosts one of the most upscale and interesting shopping center food courts in LA, I remembered at the last minute that Obika Mozzarella Bar was there, and I just had to try it! 

As this branch had just opened in September, it seems mall management has not had a chance to update store directories to show where the place is located.  Luckily, a food court worker was able to point us to it - it was right on the row of shops just beyond the food court, on the same upper level of the mall. 

An Italian import, of which the original bar in Rome was responsible for inspiring Nancy Silverton to bring us the amazing Pizzeria and Osteria Mozzas, Obika has arrived to elevate the art of a cheese most Los Angelenos up until now (and prior to Osteria Mozza) had taken for granted as commonplace, with their innovative restaurant concept inspired by Japanese sushi bars.

The space is sleek and modern, with a wraparound bar where diners can watch as their food is prepared - just like the counters at sushi bars.  The decor is upscale, yet accessible - wise given the restaurant's location in a shopping center.  There is a small table placed strategically outside the entrance, inviting guests to peruse the menus, and letting them know their Mozzarella di Bufala is flown in fresh three times a week direct from Italy. 

We sidled up to the counter - the better for ogling at the array of cured meats, fresh greens and plump cherry tomatoes separated from us only by a thin sheet of glass. 

Though not a cheese connoisseur by any means, I just know what excites my own palate. For context, my favorite cheeses are Brillat Savarin, and Sottocenere, both rich in flavor.  I also think the Burrata at Osteria Mozza is divine, which I have yet to find a rival for in LA.  But I was excited about the opportunity to discover the subtle sophistication in artisan Mozzarella via Obika, whose reverence for the cheese is clearly on display. 

Stracciatella di and Burrata with
Tasting of Prosciutto Crudo San Daniele DOP
Oven Roasted Ham and Felino Salame ($18)
What champagne is to France, similarly mozzarella is to Italy - they have a designated status to protect regional / local producers of this specific mozzarella - "Denomination of Protected Origin"  (DOP).  Obika serves their Mozzarellas di Bufala Campana DOP - you can choose from three types: Classica (delicate), Affumicata (smoked), Stracciatella di and Burrata (sweet and creamy).   Having loved the burrata at Osteria Mozza, I was drawn immediately to the Stracciatella di and Burrata.

The next step is to choose your accompaniments - I chose the Tasting of Prosciutto Crudo San Daniele DOP, Oven Roasted Ham and Felino Salame ($18).  The whole thing came with slices of meat on the a plate, with the mozzarella placed in a bowl atop pieces of spinach, with some sliced cherry tomatoes and cured olives thrown in for good measure (and extra bursts of flavor).  We also got a selection of breads and breadsticks interestingly served in a mini burlap sack.

While the salame and prosciutto were deliciously salty, meaty and very enjoyable, the oven roasted ham was a little bland for my taste (though I understand its place in the trio to balance out the portfolio of flavors).  As for the cheese - while fresh tasting, it was not as smooth and creamy as I expected, and definitely not as life-changing as the burrata at Osteria Mozza (which ruined burrata for me anywhere else, no other burrata has measured up).  In this case, I think the 'student has become the teacher' - though Obika was the original inspiration for Nancy Silverton's Mozza restaurants, I find the caliber of the Mozzarella at Osteria Mozza leaps and bounds above Obika. 

The menu also includes organic salads, pasta entrees and rolls - almost all involving some form of mozzarella or other Italian cheese, of course.  They even have two desserts involving cheese - Ricotta Mousse with Honey, Orange Peel and Pine Nuts, and Tiramisu (mascarpone). 

As far as price, at least for my order, it's a bit high for what you are served - while taking into consideration that Obika's cheeses are flown in fresh, I prefer the taste of Nancy Silverton's mozzarella, handmade on the premises, and would rather hold out for the prix fixe menu at the Amaro Bar at Osteria Mozza on Sundays, where you get three fine dining courses and a wine for $35, compared to the $18 for one starter-sized sampling plate at Obika.

I do have to acknowledge the great service - we did not feel hassled at all for only ordering one plate between the two of us, and as requested the food came quickly so that we could make our movie showtime.

So as the name of the place says (Obika translates to) "there you are!".  All in all, Obika does add a refreshing jolt of creativity and originality to mall dining, and provides a lovely space for sampling of fresh mozzarella cheeses flown in directly from Italy, along with a fairly extensive wine list.  Good for those looking for a quick wine and dine in an upscale setting, but not a full blown fine dining experience, while at the mall. 

On a 7 point scale:
Flavor - 5 bites
Presentation - 6 bites
Originality - 6.5 bites
Ambience - 5 stars
Service - 5 stars
Overall experience - 5.5 bites
Price - $$ (2 bite marks)
Probability of return visit - 80%


Obika Mozzarella Bar
Westfield Century City Shopping Center
10250 Santa Monica Boulevards
Los Angeles, CA 90067
Ph: 310 55 OBIKA (62452)
OpenTable: Look for reservations

Obikà Mozzarella Bar on Urbanspoon

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