ZOZO at Maison Midi: ‘cuisines of sun’ in home goods store

| May 30, 2024 | 0 Comments

At Chef John Sedlar’s new restaurant, ZOZO at Maison Midi, one dines surrounded by purchasable items in an actual home goods store: colorful bistro chairs from Italy hang from the walls, shelves hold sparkling glass tumblers from Milan, and striped linen napkins are stacked next to sets of cheese knives. A large vase of flowers welcomes arriving guests, beautiful asymmetrical pendant lamps hang from the soaring ceiling, and the dining room’s backdrop is a wall-sized mural of Abiquiu, New Mexico, Sedlar’s childhood and current home, which provides much of his culinary inspiration. I couldn’t help but smile when I first entered the charming space.

Chef Sedlar is perhaps best remembered for Rivera, his acclaimed pan-Latin restaurant that operated in Downtown Los Angeles from 2009 through 2014, after which he moved to New Mexico. Lured back to Los Angeles by restaurateur Bill Chait to open ZOZO to replace the closed Cafe Midi, Sedlar elevates Maison Midi’s former food experience. Tastes developed at Rivera have been reinvented here in celebration of “cuisines of the sun: Native American, French and Hispanic flavors with world accents.” Chef Sedlar personally selected the contemporary silverware, the stunning ceramic plates and the square platters with glass-topped photos of Zapotec statues or colorful Indigenous pottery. Some dishes come with small figurines — one of ours sported a miniature of Aristide Maillol’s “Air” sculpture (an original of which is on view at the Getty Center). Chef Sedlar aims to spark conversation with his tableware as well as his culinary artistry.

Although there’s a well curated wine list, with many by the glass and carafe as well as bottle options, we selected two of their many fruit-forward cocktails. A refreshing rum-based drink mixes passion fruit, lime and pineapple juices, topped with yuzu “air,” $16. A smoky take on a Margarita combines mezcal with grapefruit and lime juices. The $16 cocktail is sweetened with agave, rimmed with lava salt and finished with a soda float. Both enhanced the food that followed.

Appetizers are terrific. Piquillo peppers stuffed with gruyere cheese, golden raisins and chorizo, $11, are a lovely sweet, salty and savory starter. Gorgeous prawns in a mustard seed vinaigrette were accompanied by grilled endive, $21. Duck leg confit in tamarind sauce, $26, was an earthy, flavorful plate. A $15 spring salad of dragon fruit, cactus pear, persimmon and crunchy sea beans was beautiful and refreshing, but I would have preferred a more assertive dressing to challenge the delicately flavored fruit. The starter that most awed us was the cream of cremini mushroom soup, $12. The rich, umami-laden soup was silky and immensely satisfying — a must-order.

Three bread choices were recently added to the menu, including $9 blue corn madeleines, but we went straight for the mains, supplementing with a vegetable dish, a $21 chile relleno filled with minced mushrooms, accompanied by purple potatoes and a Spanish-stye carrot dipping sauce for a sophisticated take on the usually cheese-laden dish.

The entree selections include every manner of fish, fowl and beast: soft-shell crab with green chile aioli, $28; $25 braised lamb neck from the tandoori oven; Berkshire pork chop with red chile pepita sauce, $32; a New Mexico green hatch chile burger, $20; and a $75 Wagyu ribeye with chimichurri, among others. We ordered chicken Jerusalem with olives, za’atar, mint and couscous, $27, a winning combination. A sweet branzino filet was served with honey labneh, feta and minced cucumber, $32, unexpected sides to what is most frequently served grilled à la Italiano. Lamb with chayote chutney and heirloom polenta, $44, was superb. The lamb ate like a medium rare steak and was every bit as delicious as a prime cut of beef. I suspect even those who usually find lamb’s taste too funky will appreciate this meaty dish. The aforementioned Maillol figurine perched on a platter of little sides that accompanied our lamb. The visually arresting display included cold white asparagus, fava beans, crispy eggplant slices, caponata and roasted cherry tomatoes on the vine. A lovely feast!

We skipped the cheese course and went straight to the sweets. I’m partial to fruit-based desserts or ice cream, so I was happy with the $12 tarte tatin and $11 raspberry almond tart. As of this writing, ZOZO will soon offer homemade ice cream — I look forward to trying their promised popcorn flavor!

ZOZO at Maison Midi, 148 S. La Brea Ave., 323-746-4700.

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Category: Entertainment

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