***UPDATE: Mosaic is now CLOSED.***
Before we caught, in every (except the literal) sense, Dengue Fever at the hi-dive last night (if you’re unfamilliar, get familiar: the doll-like lead singer wears what our friend Keith pegged as a gently used prom dress & sings mostly in Cambodian; the guitarist channels some sort of Hasidic Castro; the bassist is a 7-foot-tall black bouncing ball of winningly awkward sexual exuberance; the keyboardist has some sort of Rob-Reiner-as-Meathead thing going on, and every number’s like a cross between a TV spy-show theme, a torch song you’d, if you were a GI in some wartime cabaret overseas, cry in your warm, watery beer over, & early-’80s ska), we drove out to Parker on something of an Open Table–generated whim to check out Mosaic.
To the extent that you can be ambivalent about your own whims, however, we were. Wherefore the dearth of press coverage, the wordlessness-of-mouth? Why stuck way out on the barren corner of a freeway exit in Parker in a squat building whose darkened exterior suggests some sort of industrial paint outlet? Is the guy in street clothes who left his cocktail at his seat at the bar to come greet us at the host stand a customer? Should the lounge be so aura-destroyingly fluorescent? Why is the dining room, much more handsomely if sci-fi-ly mood-lit by this Star Trekkian fireplace
& the fishtank behind it as utterly empty as it is ambitiously spacious? What’s with the spooky video loop of the tropical waterfall on the smattering of flatscreens? Why is this 14-year-old in a Nehru collar—actually, the question could end there—serving us an amuse bouche before we’ve even opened the wine list, & why is he calling it “honeydew, sundried tomato & corn ceviche with a wonton chip”? If it’s fishless, isn’t it just honeydew, sundried tomato & corn with a wonton chip?
But then we tasted it, each little chile-peppered cube producing a burst of juice (& hence a flood of fond memories of this gum—love that squirt!),
& our questions began to yield to answers, doubt to delight. Of the 5 dishes we sampled, 4 totally startled us with their gorgeously wrought complexity, which the menu descriptions rarely even came close to capturing.
This, for instance, is not lamb tempura. This is a lamb fritter, & no less fabulous for that,
thickly but crisply battered, cumin-scented & tamarind-glazed. Nor does “mascarpone & macadamia nut relish” begin to cover what lies beneath;
the smoky-bright, sweet-tart stuff contained dark & golden raisins & bits of orange & fresh cranberry too, here & there mingling with scant dollops of spicy mustard.
What the menu intriguingly calls “Balkan meat & potato stones” are basically croquettes, in themselves crackerjacks—beneath their outer shell the potatoes hot, soft & moist as if freshly whipped, with just a whiff of good old but ever-welcome truffle; the lamb & beef at the center ground to a near-paste that made me wish they made meat-flavored Crest—but especially fascinating for being smothered in a sesame oil–tinged, smoked Thai chili–corn sauce so deliciously elusive we could have sworn it was cheese-based, but no—& yet yes, in spirit, I believe it was:
By the way, those are also called “small plates.” Ditto this “sauteed feta,”
its texture somehow reminiscent of frittata, its saltiness mellowed not only by the cooking method but also by the brown-bread slices the squares sat atop, so thin & crisp they were really hot brown crackers, & of course by the drizzle of balsamic syrup, but at the same time echoed (the saltiness) in the daubs of what the menu lists as baby spinach, pine nuts, raisins & caperberries—which again, given the myriad facets of flavor those tiny baubles of condiment contained, I’m betting was indeed all in there, & possibly olives too, as they clearly evoked tapenade.
While I kept on going strong with a superb signature salad that was like nothing so much as smoked-fish gorp, the Director suffered the only blow of the evening, delivered heartily—the only thing delivered heartily—by what was supposed to be pan-seared salmon & scallops in a smoked onion broth with lobster, corn & potato hash & kiwi-watercress salad but seemed just mostly to be some fish in some liquid, all the rest melting away. Where everything else had been subtly layered & swirled, this was just muddied.
Still. I’d gladly wade through a little sludge to get to another meal as originally conceived, smartly executed &, get this!, fairly priced—the entrees hover around the $20 mark; wines rarely break $40—as this one.