And it's a handsome spot as well, with tall windows and red walls welcoming guests. Mosaic also has taken over the room just to the west, using the same entrance foyer, and put all smoking in an area that is primarily bar.
All the food is in tapas style, small plates, although these are, as tapas go, large servings on small plates, designed for sharing. A platter of cured meat held slices of spicy grilled andouille sausage, prosciutto ham wrapped around sticks of manchego cheese, shaved Spanish chorizo, a slightly spicy ham the server referred to as speck, good olives and some grainy mustard was more than enough for two. So was the generous serving of what the menu terms “North African style” hummus, topped with quadrants of chopped tomatoes, black olives, feta and whole chickpeas. We're not sure what defines it as North African but it certainly was brightly flavored, aided by a lemon note that was flavor-forward without being sour. The pita wedges were soft and warm from the grill, and the effect was an outstanding rendition of a dish that's often routine.
The standout in the next round was a half-pound of well-cleaned, tasty, tender mussels in a coconutty, creamy broth that had enjoyed being steeped in lemongrass and with a hit of pepper as well, an unctuous combination that was a perfect mate for the warm toasted slice of garlic-rubbed country bread. Beautifully cooked, the broth alone would have made an elegant first course in any fine restaurant. We also had to try the pork cheeks. Expecting a braise on the promised white cheddar grits (which were dee-licious), we received something that certainly didn't appear to be anything like that. Two cubes an inch or so across sat on puddles of the grits. The brown exterior seemed to be deep-fried, a thin layer of seasoned dough holding the shredded pork. Between the dough and the grits was a spoonful of an ancho chile sauce, which went nicely. Our only complaint was that the meat itself could have been moister, but it was tender and the overall combination was tasty.
And then there was, again using the menu term, a chicken “wing.” We believe that when quotation marks are used around something, it should either be an actual quote or a way of indicating that what's inside the marks is not what it says it is. Mosaic used the marks correctly, because these wings turned out to be drumsticks. Their meat had been scraped away from the bone almost all the way to the knee, so to speak, some chorizo wrapped around the bone, the chicken replaced, bulging considerably, of course, and the whole thing breaded and deep-fried. Yes, interesting. But wait, there's more. A small container of blue cheese dip rode shotgun, and each leg was garnished with a pipette, like a really long eyedropper, of an agave hot sauce. Sweet, hot, slightly bitter and meant to be dribbled on the chicken, it completed the necessary elements for a take on the Buffalo style.
Mosaic offers a pleasant wine list with a good by-the-glass selection and a proper range of bottles, and to complement what exotic atmosphere there is, a good offering of fancy cocktails including some delicious caiprinhas.
A mole bread pudding arrived crowned with tequila-soaked golden raisins, which added to the complexity of the dessert. The dark chocolate-colored slice proved to be properly sweet and spicy, with a definite hit of chile. The rompopo sauce alongside was basically a crème anglaise, named for the eggnog-like drink popular in Mexico, and a spoonful of a butterscotch ice cream, very full-flavored, but unfortunately studded with small ice chunks from improper storage.
We've always found servers here very knowledgeable about the menu, although on busy nights, it can be a little difficult to hear them. Food arrives nice and hot, but servers bring it as it's done rather than arranged by courses, so it's a good idea to order slowly, a couple of items at a time. The servers are accustomed to this, and often leave a copy of the menu on the table for planning the next round. All in all, very good food for a reasonable price.
1001 Washington Ave.
Lunch & Dinner daily, Brunch Sat.-Sun.
Credit cards: Yes
Wheelchair access: Yes