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Week in Reviews: Hampton's, Frank Bruni Visits Mozza, Fraiche, Abode, Il Chianti, Campanile, and MORE

(1) This week S. Irene Virbila makes the trek out to the new Four Seasons Westlake Village to check out Hampton's, the hotel's fine dining resto with a healthy slant. She basically says 'don't waste the gas.' From the "stuffy" décor, her choice of seating (always), the overzealous and nervous staff, to what other diners were wearing, the gal was just not happy. She enjoyed some of exec chef Sandro Gamba's menu, but wasn't wowed:

All in all, Hampton's menu is not as compelling as I'd expect from someone who's headed up Lespinasse and who has worked with world-class chefs. Gamba's menu aims for simplicity and freshness, yet many of the dishes seem overworked and are marred by overly reduced sauces. All his finesse and background are not enough to make the dining experience register as anything more than hotel food with typical bells and whistles.
Miss Irene gives Hampton's one-and-a-half stars. We've actually been to the restaurant and think that's a bit low for what's going on there. Look for a Journal soon, but we didn't find nervous service; it was typical of a Four Seasons. The food was better than hotel food. We obviously picked the right chair. Today, the "S." stands for "simmer."

(2) In a very special showing, New York Times critic Frank Bruni makes his way to Pizzeria Mozza, where he had to eat at the ghastly hour of 5pm. And he, like just about everyone else, was completely wooed by the orange walls, the bottles-under-$50 wine list, and the budino. Pizza is the heart of the review, but he finds so much more:

While Ms. Silverton’s pizza isn’t flawless, and while the crusts of a few of the pies had rims so monstrously broad they muscled the toppings out of the picture, I had terrific meals at Mozza. And that’s partly because of what Mozza serves, without much fanfare, in addition to pizza. Its salads and antipasti were fantastic.

A dish that placed shreds of slowly braised lamb shank, olives and capers over creamy polenta was salty, rustic bliss. Fried squash blossoms had a light, crisp shell that underscored the creaminess of the ricotta and mozzarella inside them.

But the most delightful wedding of crunchy and gooey came courtesy of Mozza’s arancine, deep-fried risotto balls without any of the greasiness to which these fritters often fall prey.

Greaaaat. Just what we need, MORE people to fight for reservations. Bruni compares Mozza to New York's Otto because of the Batali/Bastianich influences/involvement. So we asked our NY brethren at Eater HQ, avid Bruni watchers and betters, what Mozza would get if the critic starred it. "Bruni is clearly elevating Mozza to a higher level [than Otto]. This could be a very good Bruni two star review, but it's very plausible it'd be three. And the problem with three is that Osteria would have to be at least that, if not four." Well it's on then, isn't it? [NYT]

ELSEWHERE: Margot Dougherty fills in for Patric Kuh, likes All' Angelo; much love for Fraiche in Culver City; Linda Burum visits Japanese Italian chain Il Chianti in Lomita, as does Mikey, who hates everything; LA.com finds Abode; Potatomato checks out Nicky D's Woodifred Pizza and the new Hollywood Doughboys; and revisiting Campanile.

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