Saturday, October 21, 2006

Review: MoZaic

MoZaic, at the Inn at Palmer Divide, is an interesting mix of style and food. Part bistro and part fine dining, it takes some risks and generally succeeds at serving food that's considerably more interesting than most local restaurants.

The restaurant is large and warm, decorated in southwestern tones of terra cotta, peach, and tan. Lighting is unobtrusive but more than sufficient for reading your dinner and making sure you were indeed served the correct entree. Tables are spaced a nice distance apart so you don't HAVE to listen to your neighbors' conversation.

One wall of the restaurant is mostly windows, which the website says "features one of the best vistas looking down along the Front Range and over the lights of the city". Maybe the view out from the bar shows the city lights, because the windows were black holes, since the sun sets earlier these days. We'll have to go back sometime during summer months when we can verify the view ourselves.

The menu can be classified as modern dishes with some boring standards, probably to cater to the many folks locally whose tastes run the range from A to B (with apologies to Dorothy Parker). Catering to them are dishes like fried calamari and french onion soup.

Far more interesting were the appetizers we had: duck confit wrapped in a chive crepe, topped with foie gras and a slice of black truffle, and the special, brie en croute with garlic toasts and apple slices. The duck confit was meltingly tender and deeply flavored, but sadly, a little too peppery to meld well with the foie gras and truffle. The chive crepe was lovely, soft and flecked with green.

They used a very high quality brie in puff pastry, flavorful and with a high fat content.

The entrees were equally interesting, if a little less successful. The bison short ribs, served on golden mashed potatoes with truffle butter, smoked chile demiglace, and vegetables, were tender enough, but really needed another hour or three's worth of braising to be as meltingly tender as short ribs should be. There was still connective tissue and fat throughout the meat that had not had the time to disintegrate. They also needed salt, which is something I rarely encounter. The potatoes were wonderful, even if I couldn't taste any truffles, and did an admirable job of sopping up the demiglace, where I also didn't taste too much in the way of smokiness or chiles.

My husband had the wild boar ravioli, a rather deconstructed dish with two sheets of pasta, one folded over the three cheese souffle, the other over the shredded boar, then stacked one atop the other. I thought it was quite flavorful, especially the cheese, but my husband said it never really surprised him, it kept tasting the same the whole way through. It was accompanied by an Asian slaw with plenty of jicama and black sesame seeds and a soy/sesame oil/ginger based dressing.

Desserts are more of an afterthought at MoZaic; mousse, cheesecake, creme brulee. We split their turtle cheeesecake. It was towards the creamy end of cheesecake rather than the fluffy, tasted delightfully strongly of the cream cheese, and had plenty of caramel and chocolate sauce.

I forgot to ask whose coffee they were serving, but the decaf was very tasty with an interesting burnt caramel note in the aftertaste (as opposed to burned coffee bean taste, like Peet's).

Service was friendly if a little pokey at times, but they did a nice job of keeping our water glasses full and refilling the bread basket. MoZaic serves twisted breadsticks with herb butter (definitely tasting of chives and parsley) whose flavors opened up nicely on the warm bread.

We'll definitely be going back because the flaws simply aren't enough to overwhelm the wonderful calm and adult atmosphere, and I want to encourage restaurants that take chances and serve something more interesting than burgers and burritos.

(Date of visit: 10/20/2006)


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