Replacing the Clayton gelato spot Benito’s on Central Avenue, Mosaic Market Bistro is an appealing little spot with tables that spill out onto the bustling street. It has been opened by members of the Schmitz family (specifically sister Ellen), who are building quite a little restaurant empire, much of it in Clayton.
The menu is small but flavorful, with each dish presented almost as a work of art in a palette of colors, textures and tastes. Prices are moderate, but so are portions. We started with the soup du jour, minestrone ($5), which was excellent. Although it was vegetable-based, it was ‘meaty’—thicker than broth and filled with chunky seasonal vegetables.
There are about eight starters, including a wide selection of gourmet cheeses and charcuterie. We opted for the Goat Cheese Tart ($9), a buttery, rich dish that came in flaky pastry dough and was filled with creamy goat cheese, carmelized onions, sun-dried tomatoes and kalamata olives.
We also ordered Seared Salmon Nicoise ($11), which was as impeccable in presentation as it was in flavor and quality of ingredients. Three chunks of salmon were arranged on bits of gourmet greens along a small, rectangular plate. Also on there was a sprinkling of haricots vert, kalamata olives and fingerling potatoes, all covered with a delicious ‘blood orange vinaigrette’ that had intense orange flavor. Additionally, the salmon was lightly seared, imparting a pleasant crustiness. The only thing lacking was the toasted fennel promised on the menu.
There are about eight entrees, representing seafood, fish, chicken, lamb, rabbit, steak and vegetarian (Wild Mushroom Ravioli). The menu will change seasonally as different produce is available locally, management says. Our picks were Butter Poached Maine Lobster Tail ($24), Chilean Sea Bass ($21), Herb-Roasted Chicken Breast ($16) and Day Boat Sea Scallops ($19). The bass was beautifully presented, with the milky flesh attractively pan-browned, and a mound of sautéed baby spinach anchoring it. A foamy parsley emulsion bubbled on top. The fish was very good in flavor, and the slightly dry and crusty lentils added a wonderful texture to the dish.
The tender lobster was also good, and a decent-sized portion. The poached tail had excellent flavor, thanks in part to its butter bath, and it sat atop celery root puree with slivers of leek shredded as garnish and exotic Asian mushrooms (hon shimeji). Bits of roasted carrot, pea and zucchini artistically dotted the plate, and a thin, brown ‘sherry elixir’ was drizzled over all.
The chicken was the sleeper dish, as it was surprisingly rich in flavor, thanks to a drizzling of truffle oil and its nicely crusty skin. The gruyere orzo it was served on was positively divine, filled with creamy flavor. Also on the plate was a flavorful medley of roasted mushrooms and some asparagus tips.
Our scallop dish also was wonderful—and surprisingly generous for such a premium food. Four very large bivalves, perfectly browned on both sides, were on the long plate. Nearby were a decorative swirl of yummy pea puree, bits of bacon, a few baby carrots and fresh, sauteed pea pods.
On the night we visited, the house-made desserts included Apple Tart Tartin, Lemon Curd Tart, Chocolate Espresso Pot du Crème with Goat Cheese Custard, cookies and various gelato flavors. We had the tasty tart tartin ($6), which was filled with apples and came with mascarpone gelato. We also tried the lemon tart, which was flavorful and mouth-puckering lemony, however its pate brisee shell tasted commercially made. But the custard was very good, with the sour playing off the sweet and the whipped cream.
Mosaic is a wonderful addition to the Clayton dining scene. It has that hip combination of casual vibe and gourmet food that is widely appealing. Furthermore, the kitchen puts out dishes that consistently preserve tenderness, flavor and moisture. And prices are fair, really more than fair when you consider what you’re getting.
Courtesy of Mosaic Market Bistro
2 T olive oil 1 T unsalted butter 1/4 c diced shallot
½ c vegetable broth 2 cloves garlic, minced (2 t)
½ c roasted mushrooms
¼ c oven roasted tomatoes 8 asparagus cut into ½ -pieces 1 c cooked orzo ½ c grated gruyere cheese
¼ c fresh cream
Heat olive oil and butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add shallot and sauté 4 minutes, or until soft. Add garlic, sauté 1 minute. Add asparagus and sauté 5 minutes. Add orzo and cook until lightly browned and thoroughly heated. Stir in 1/2 c vegetable broth if necessary, and simmer 2 to 3 minutes, or until orzo has absorbed all liquid. Remove from heat, and stir in gruyere and cream. Stir and reduce to desired consistency. Season to taste.
Chocolate Pots de Crème
Courtesy of Mosaic Market Bistro
6 to 8 servings
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 c heavy cream
1/8 T salt
6 egg yolks
1/2 c plus ½ T sugar
1/2 c heavy cream
1/4 T freshly grated orange rind
Place the chopped chocolate in a bowl. Heat cream and salt until scalded, then pour over the chocolate to melt it. Whisk the yolks with 1/2 c of the sugar. Temper the yolk mixture with the hot chocolate mixture then place on the stove over medium heat to thicken slightly, until it coats the back of a wooden spoon. Pour mixture into ramekins and bake in a water bath at 300 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes until mostly set, but a little jiggly in the center. Chill covered.
To serve, whip the cream with the remaining 1/2 T sugar and orange rind. Dollop onto the pots de creme.