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Saturday, December 08, 2007

Mini Reviews

I. PIZZERIA MOZZA

Before my parents left, we had lunch at Mario Batali’s restaurant, Pizzeria Mozza, located on the corner of Highland and Melrose. We stopped by for a late lunch and were lucky enough to be seated right away despite not having made reservations. It was a Thursday afternoon but the place was full and it was shortly after we were seated at the bar that we noticed the lines of walk-ins grew longer by the minute.

Mozza is an intimate, medium-sized restaurant done in neutral but warm colors and decorated in a casual yet refined way. It is a far cry from traditional Italian restaurants that are dimly lit and decorated with empty chianti bottles and red and white checkered tablecloths stained with pizza sauce while attentive Italian waiters hover over you. But one thing they do have in common is Mozza is a bustling place (the noise level was definitely high) and with a pizza bar (and a woodfire stove) in plain view.

We started off with a salad, the tricolore with parmigiano reggiano & anchovy dressing. It was nice and light – the sweet fresh greens, the bitter radicchio, and the slightly salty dressing were a nice balance. We were served long, crunchy breadsticks to nibble on while we waited for our main course. My dad had the Thursday special – fennel sausages, with garlic fried potatoes and sautéed rapini (a bitter spinach-like vegetable). It was very good. My mom really liked her Pizza Bianca with three types of white cheese (fontina, mozarella and one that escapes my mind) topped with fresh sage leaves. But I think I was the one who enjoyed my meal the most. I had the Salumi salami pizza with mozzarella, tomato and Fresno chilies. I had ordered it because I loved the salami we had at Mario Batali’s dad’s deli, Salumi, in Seattle and our server told me it was from the same place. He was right – the salami was less salty than many American-variety salamis I’ve had before and was great with the tart tomatoes, salty cheese and spicy chilies. But the best part was the crust. It was light, crispy, airy and chewy all at the same time. A little piece of pizza heaven! I later wrote in the restaurant’s comment card that it was possibly the best pizza I have ever had in my life.

There is much hype about Mozza, being Mario’s first LA restaurant and all. But the hype is worth it! I would gladly drive all the way to LA, brave the traffic, pay $10.00 for valet parking, wait in line, and sit at the bar just to have that pizza!


II. ENCHANTED

The first night after my parents left, Jojo took me to watch a movie to get our minds off feeling a little bit lonely. We went to the Del Amo AMC and decided to watch “Enchanted”. I picked the movie because it seemed like a nice, light, no-need-to-think-about–the-plot kind of movie while Jojo agreed because nothing better was playing. We settled in not expecting too much. While the movie did live up to our expectations about being nice and light, it exceeded our expectations about being not “too much”.

The movie is a mix of animation and real-life actors. It is a story of how an animated princess named Giselle was banished to the real world of New York by the evil Queen Nerissa. Giselle was sent to New York to keep her from marrying Prince Edward (Nerissa’s stepson) to keep Giselle from taking Nerissa’s throne. In New York, Giselle’s “Disney Princess Persona”, complete with breaking into song and dance, doing household chores with the help of animals (including city rats!), and her almost-childlike belief in true love and happy ever afters, create chaos and mayhem in the life of the staid and cynical divorce lawyer played by Patrick Dempsey. Of course in the end and in true Disney fashion, there is true love and a happy ever after, but with drama and plot twists throughout.

Enchanted is a charming movie, nicely done and manages to hold the audience's attention as it cleverly blurs the fine line between fantasy and reality. It has its moments of true greatness and a strong cast of characters. Amy Adams, in particular who plays Giselle, is a breakout star. I thought she was marvelous and really brought the iconic image of a Disney Princess alive. James Marsden, as Prince Edward, was a joy to watch as well. Disney’s “Enchanted” truly lives up to its name.


III. THE STREET OF A THOUSAND BLOSSOMS

The last few days I’ve been reading Gail Tsukiyama’s novel “The Street of a Thousand Blossoms”. It is an exquisite and heartwarming story of two brothers, Hiroshi and Kenji Matsumoto, set in Japan before, during and after World War II. The brothers’ lives are vastly different - one climbs the ladder to becoming a yokozuna (grand champion of sumo) – strong, tough, resilient. While the other becomes a master mask maker for the Noh theater – artistic, quiet, sensitive. Their lives are shaped by their obochan and ojichan (the grandparents that took them in when they were orphaned as young children), their individual paths of destiny, the women they love and the struggles and triumphs they face.

This is the first book of Tsukiyama’s that I have read but I like her storytelling style. She takes her time in telling the saga of the Matsumoto brothers – a story that spans over 30 years. Her style is deliberate, precise and never seems rushed. The story is very descriptive and you can almost feel that you are amidst the exciting sumo tournaments and in the dramatic setting of Noh theater. Tsukiyama brings to life the beauty and artistry of Japanese culture.

The characters are well-defined despite their complexities. The story highlights the men as strong and dominant while the women soft and resilient as they live in a time where traditional and modern Japan collide. The narration focuses on finding one’s place in this world amidst the backdrop of one’s love for family, filial piety, love for country and pride in culture.

Probably not the best book I’ve read this year but one that I would highly recommend to someone who has the time and who thinks that a cold, rainy day means snuggling in bed with a good book and a cup of hot cocoa.

4 comments:

Leslie Ty said...

Jo... I watched Enchanted also and I really liked it... =) parang it's such a feel good movie ... very light and kind of funny...i love the kid...MORGAN =) she's super adorable! =)

please write me an email if you have time =)

when are you planning to visit manila? =)

jol said...

Your reviews are fantastic; they are very informative and entertaining. How do you get to remember all the details? Do write more regularly as more of my friends are reading your blogs.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy your commentaries very much. though Enchanted and A Street of a Thousand Blossoms are unfamiliar to me yet, I have experienced a meal at Pizzeria Mozza and indeed all that you write describes the place and food to a T. GReat writing. continue it.

Junarakasa said...

Hi Les, I'm sorry it's been so long since I've emailed you. So many things have been happening and work is just crazy. But one of these days, I promise! :) I hope to go home sometime next year. No definite date yet but once we pin it down you will definitely be one of the first to know :)