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Obika Mozzarella Bar

October 27, 2014

About three years ago, a new restaurant opened up at the mall nearby our house in Los Angeles.  When it opened, I had no idea that it was actually a restaurant.  The name of the restaurant didn’t exactly scream, sit down, dine in restaurant.  In fact, looking at the restaurant’s name, I wasn’t really sure what kind of shop it was.  Then I remember having a conversation with one of my husband’s co-workers and she was raving over the new restaurant that opened at the mall and how she and some of my husband’s other co-workers had just gone there for lunch and had a great meal.  Ah, so it was a restaurant.  However, for one reason or another, it never really appealed to either my husband or I as a place dine at.  Then, this year, as my husband and I were starting to feel like we were getting in a rut in terms food options around our area, we were reminded of this particular restaurant again, and as we’d never dined here before, we figured it was time to give it a try.

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Obika Mozzarella Bar is the brainchild of a native Neopolitan who wished to create a casual Italian restaurant, designed in the form of a traditional sushi bar, with dishes that are made in an open kitchen setting so that guests could watch their traditional Italian dishes, centering around fresh mozzarella, being made right in front of their eyes.  Located on the upper story of an outdoor shopping mall, the space is open and inviting with a wonderful outdoor seating area, and a modern, indoor dining area situated around a bar/countertop that is definitely reminiscent of a sushi bar.

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As the name of the restaurant would imply, and as the concept and idea of the restaurant suggests, this restaurant is focused on great Italian food centered around the art of mozzarella cheese.  The restaurant serves 3 different types of mozzarella de bufala.  As you can see from the picture there is classica, which is delicate in taste, affumicata, which is smoked and imported directly from Italy, and burrata, which is sweet and creamy and made in house.

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Of course, you can’t come to a mozzarella bar, which specializes in this delicious, delectable cheese and not order a tasting plate.  We had hoped for a tasting of all 3 of the different types of mozzarella, however, we were informed that they were out of the affumicata.  Of course, since it’s imported directly from Italy, when the restaurant runs out, they run out.  So the best we could do was a tasting of the fresh mozzarella and housemade burrata.  The mozzarella tasting is served with some cherry tomatoes, arugula and olives.

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In addition to the mozzarella tasting, we ordered a plate of cured meats to go along with it, the gran selezione di salumi plate.  The plate included 4 different types of cured meats which included: prosciutto crudo san daniele DOP, salame feline, mortadella al pistachio, speck affumicato della’Alto adige DOP.  What a better combination than amazing mozzarella cheese and perfectly cured meats.  The mozzarella was itself was amazing, so creamy and smooth and perfect.  The burrata was soft and creamy and slightly sweet with that hint of heavy cream that is used to make the burrata.  Combine that with the amazing cured meat and the combination is a bit irresistible.  The speck affumicato was my favorite.  You could really taste the smokiness of the speck which paired so well with the mozzarella.  My husband enjoyed the mortdella with the pistachio.  The prosciutto crudo was also delicious.  Salty and cured and a great combination with the sweeter burrata.  But then again, when is prosciutto not delicious.

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As starters, my husband and I each picked out a dish we wanted to try.  I ordered the bresaola, which is a cured beef carpaccio served with wild arugula, shaved parmigiano reggiano DOP and dressed with a citronette.  Add in a little bit more lemon juice over the top, and the dish was amazing.  The bresaola was incredibly flavorful and cut thinly that it paired perfectly with the citronette and lemon juice.  Combine it all with the peppery wild arugula and the salty parmigiano reggiano and this was one of the most flavorful plates of carpaccio I’ve ever had.  I loved that they didn’t skimp on the parmigano reggiano and the arugula really had a nice peppery bite to the dish.  But the cured bresaola was definitely the star here.

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My husband couldn’t resist ordering the mozzarella in carrozza for his starter.  Never mind that we already ordered the mozzarella tasting plate, my husband’s philosophy is that you can never have enough cheese in any format.  So, cheese for his starter after we already had a cheese tasting plate really shouldn’t have surprised me.  Mozzarella in carrozza is fried, breaded mozzarella di bufala served with a little bit of baby arugula and some homemade marinara sauce for dipping.  Unlike mozzarella sticks you get at other places where you wonder if it was really just string cheese breaded and fried, mozzarella in carrozza at Obika came out as flat triangle pieces.  When you cut into it with your fork, it just oozed our fresh, stringy, mozzarella that tasted so perfect, especially when paired with the marinara sauce.  This is probably the most authentic, and best fried mozzarella I’ve ever had.

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For my entrée, I chose to order the tagliata di Filetto.  Or in English, the sliced angus filet with oven roasted rosemary potatoes and tomatoes.   Um, for the steak and potatoes lover in me, this was the perfect dish!  The angus filet was so delicious, and perfectly cooked.  The meat was so tender and flavorful I couldn’t get enough of it.  Combine that with the rosemary potatoes and it was a match made in heaven.  Rosemary is just the perfect herb to match up with potatoes.  Throw in a roasted tomato for a bit of sweetness and acidity and some peppery arugula and I fell in love with this dish.  I know, it’s not a completely “Italian” dish when you think of going to an Italian restaurant, but this was the perfect dish for my taste buds.

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My husband, not surprisingly, did actually decide to order an Italian entrée.  His pick was tartufo di Norcia.  Pizza, handmade and tossed and baked in their large oven right in front of the restaurant.  But this wasn’t any old pizza, he chose the pizza made with mozzarella di bufala, ricotta, roasted ham, and black truffle from Norcia.  Truth be told, it didn’t really matter what was on the pizza, the minute he saw the words black truffle he was sold.  The fact that it came with 2 types of cheese, that was just icing on the cake, or the pizza, as it were.  Of course, one bite of food and the first thing out of my husband’s mouth was how terrific the black truffle was.  Ok, I’d hope so since that was the whole reason you ordered the pizza in the first place.  The ricotta added a nice creaminess and texture to the pizza to offset the mozzarella and the ham added that touch of saltiness.  But the star was definitely the black truffle and that’s all my husband needed.

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As if all of this food wasn’t enough, my husband and I couldn’t quite agree on dessert, and of course, we couldn’t pass up dessert, so we had to each order our own.  I went with the traditional tiramisu, which the menu described as being made from the traditional recipe.  And it definitely was traditional.  You could taste the strong espresso and how soft and light the lady fingers were that had soaked up all of this wonderful espresso.  The mascarpone was light and fluffy and that dusting of cocoa powder over the dish just completed it and added that touch of bittersweet flavor to the dish.  I loved that you could tell that the tiramisu was homemade and authentic.  It was made with just the right amount of espresso so that the dish wasn’t swimming in espresso at the bottom of the dish from extra liquid not soaked up by the lady fingers.  Even my husband, who isn’t the biggest fan of tiramisu, said that this was pretty darn good and actually helped me finish off my dessert.

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Of course, he probably needed some of my dessert since I pretty much devoured my share of his dessert.  He ordered the affogato al caffe.  Essentially, this was piping hot espresso poured over gelato.  Served in a beautiful martini glass with a scoop of wonderful gelato right in the middle alongside a small espresso cup freshly brewed and piping hot, the waitress poured the espresso right over the gelato into the martini glass.  You watch the reaction of the piping hot espresso as it comes into contact with the super creamy gelato and it creates this nice thick foamy head as the gelato slowly starts to melt.  One spoonful of the gelato and the espresso, the affogato, and how could you not be in love.  The contrast in your mouth of the strong, hot espresso, and the creamy foam, and the cold, luscious gelato and this definitely rocketed up my list of one of my favorite desserts ever.  My husband and I inhaled this in dessert in record time, having us wish that perhaps we had ordered 2 affogatos instead of trying to just share one order.

What a wonderful experience my husband and I had at Obika Mozzarella Bar.  I honestly walked in there not knowing what to expect and ended up with something completely different than I thought it would be.  I can’t believe I resisted the idea of indulging in this great restaurant for years.  Though, I’m glad I finally listened to my husband and we got a chance to experience this place together.  My husband would say that a restaurant centered around cheese could never be a bad thing, add in some cured meats, and black truffle and his night was complete.  For me, the bresaola opened my tastebuds and the affogato for dessert sealed the deal.  I know, when the time is right, my husband and I will be back at Obika again before long.

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