By Molly Jackel
Editor's note: First Bite is a new concept in restaurant writing. This is not a go-three-times, try-everything-on-the-menu report; rather, this is a quick snapshot of a single experience.
It was a dark and stormy night, and the captain said to the first mate: "Shiver me timbers, matey. I'm famished." And so the hungry sailors set their compass and sextant and quadrant due west, and sailed for Forestville to dine in the uncharted waters of Mosaic Restaurant & Wine Lounge, a month-old restaurant in the space that once housed Chez Marie on Front Street in Forestville.
The most striking thing about the design of Mosaic's main room is the huge frosted glass wall that divides the kitchen from the dining room. At the base of the wall is a pass-through, affording diners a look into the kitchen without a view of anything unsightly. The substantial wood furnishing, colored concrete floor, the fireplace and the colorful stoneware nicely warm up this cinderblock room. In addition to the main room, there's a smaller room that looks ripe for a little party, and a very becoming "lounge" in the back that feels like a small, private club, with leather club chairs and big windows that look on to a lovely garden. There's beer on tap at the bar and very nice stemware.
The bread and butter made a great first impression. The bread was warm, fresh and crisp-crusted, and the butter was sweet and (ahoy!) at room temperature. The mixed greens with Gorgonzola, apples, celery hearts and toasted almonds ($7) was not overdressed and had a certain salty je ne sais quoimiso maybe.
I had the broiled halibut ($24), and my first mate had the pork shoulder ($19), landlubber that he is. The halibut was cooked perfectly and was permitted to shine in all its sweet, flaky glory. It was served with a yam purée that was creamy and not too sweet, and a broccoli rabe, which was crisp-tender and not too bittera nicely balanced plate.
The pork shoulder was pulled off the bone, tender and savory. It was rubbed with coriander and anise, and served with a lot of side dish booty. There was hedgehog-chanterelle polenta, which was fluffy, creamy and rich and tasted of truffle oil, which I'm not complaining about (love the truffle), I just didn't spy any mushrooms.
Then there was a sweet, root vegetable compote of braised parsnips, carrots, apples and fennel. And finally, a perfectly browned, end-of-season, baby-vegetable medley of baby summer squash, zucchini, corn and impeccably roasted cherry tomatoes.
According to my first mate (landlubber and wino), the wine list held many a local treasure, but was a bit on the expensive side (two to two-and-a-half times retail). And even I, a rum-drinking South Seas pirate captain, could see that the pours were a wee bit small for the price.
For dessert, we had a tiramisu with good ratios of mascarpone to cake to coffee to Marsala to chocolate, all the flavors mingling as we'd hoped.
This was a fine meal, especially since it was only Mosaic's one-month milestone. The service was excellent, the atmosphere soothing, the fireplace warmed my weathered, seafaring body and the experience fed my hungry pirate soul. No mean feat, as the old sea captain on The Simpsons once said of my soul brother, Homer, "'Tis no man, 'tis a remorseless eatin' machine!" Arrr.
Mosaic Restaurant & Wine Lounge, 6675 Front St., Forestville. Open Tuesday-Sunday for dinner only. 707.887.7503.
From the November 16-22, 2005 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.
© 2005 Metro Publishing Inc.