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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Obika: Step 1 - Order All Samplers, Step 2 - Mix & Match to Great Results

I've been wanting to try Obika, a Mozzarella bar that is an Italian chain with locations worldwide...including two in LA malls, of all places. It was an odd-sounding Italian word, but it turns out Obika means "here it is" in the Neapolitan dialect. The space was quaint and intimate, and we went in famished, longing for some serious cheese pampering (plus some wine, of course).

We went crazy with the sampling: mozzarella sampler alongside a cured meats sampler plus a grilled veggie sampler to save our lives, then onto the dessert sampler. But first things first.

The cheese sampler, called degustazione of buffalo mozzarella, consisted of smoked mozzarella, fresh mozzarella and burrata, which is made from mozzarella and cream and is insanely, well, creamy and delicious. The smoked one was far too smoky for me. Whatever happened to subtlety? The fresh one was fine but didn't blow me away. It honestly tasted close to the store-bought one floating in the water that I get when I make caprese salad. The spinach and utterly flavorless cherry tomatoes and super salty olives didn't help too much. But wait.

Thank God for the match made in heaven -- ham and cheese. We chose as our three cured meats prosciutto, speck and culatello, which came with arugula and cherry tomatoes. Once we started pairing a piece of prosciutto, arugula and a dollop of burrata, forget about it. The combinations were what made this experience so great. The wines by the glass were the icing -- good selection and great pairings.

I also liked that the cured meats where sliced razor thin, just the way I like it! Sure, we only got like two lousy slices for each kind but they definitely did the trick for us. I'd say I liked all combinations of cured meat, burrata plus arugula. The spinach variation wasn't as good, and don't get me started on the bread and quality of tomatoes. I understand it's not tomato season yet but even Trader Joe's has better tomatoes than the ones served here. We'd been warned about the bread, which included different varieties like focaccia and other doughy matter that I didn't care to consume because they were either too dry or flavorless (crazy considering good bakery Breadbar is just downstairs in the Century City mall).

One additional sampler we had was the grilled vegetables one and I do recommend it, and not just because it balances out the meat and cheese. A platter of grilled zucchini, eggplant and radicchio made the ham and cheese experience even better. The vegetables were perfectly charred although they seemed to have been grilled a while back. Still, mix and match the three platters and you'll enjoy the ride. I don't even like raw radicchio but grilled, it has a whole new dimension of flavor and texture. Yum.

We wavered between pasta dishes but ended up getting the spinach and ricotta ravioli. We wanted to compare it to our favorite one from Girasole. Not surprisingly, it didn't come close and we had to salt it because it was pretty bland. I could tell the pasta dough was fresh indeed but the seasoning was virtually non-existent.

The dessert sampler came with a ricotta cheese mousse with honey, orange peel and toasted pine nuts; a torta caprese, which was a flourless chocolate and almond cake; and the classic tiramisu. Of the three, I liked the tiramisu the most, although my only beef was that the mascapone cheese seemed a bit on the overly creamy side. But I loved the moist ladyfingers submerged in the mascapone cheese and expresso, and dusted with some cocoa powder. The cake was dry and tasteless. It should have come with some kind of hazelnut gelato or something. It needs something. Otherwise, they shouldn't make it so dry. The ricotta mousse was interesting but ultimately didn't wow me.

The tables are a bit on close side to each other but nose level is not too bad. I'm not sure if I'd go just to go there but it's an ideal place for a pre- or post-movie hangout to munch on some very fresh (allegedly shipped 3 times a week from Italy) ham and cheese, and sip some wine to boot.

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