Too often, Middle Eastern restaurants in this country are predictable or fall sadly short of any promise. So when a young chef like Micah Wexler comes along and approaches the cuisine with fresh eyes, you understand how these flavors can soar. The 29-year-old has drawn much attention at his new Los Angeles restaurant Mezze, named for the small plates traditions of countries such as Lebanon, Turkey, Syria and Morocco. Perhaps his edge comes from using the same high-quality West Coast produce that fuels so many other top L.A. restaurant menus. Certainly, his culinary background helps. He's cooked in L.A. with the legendary chef Gino Angelini at Vincenti Restaurant, and also at Melisse, Patina and Tom Colicchio's Craft. Wexler also was on the opening team for L' Atelier de Joel Robuchon at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York City. All these influences may explain why Wexler pays homage to Middle Eastern cuisine, but is not strictly bound by its customs.
Consider, for example, some of his more creative dishes: sea urchin with Israeli couscous and Meyer lemon; veal dumpling with almond milk and black lime; hashweh risotto with summer truffle, lamb and lemon. Los Angeles Times critic S. Irene Virbila called Wexler sophisticated and smart, and his food alive with flavor. “At Mezze, Wexler is turning out polished, intelligent Middle Eastern cooking. Low-key but serious, this newcomer neatly sidesteps any scene in favor of lusty cooking and authentic hospitality.”
When prepared with finesse, small plates of Middle Eastern food can be truly sublime. They certainly are in Wexler's hands.