I was very excited to try Santa Cruz’s newest eatery Mozaic – so excited, in fact, that I dined there at lunchtime Aug. 12—just the second day it was open. It was quite wonderful, and I know it can only get better, so that bodes extremely well for Santa Cruz’s future. I can’t wait to go back; next time I’ll go at dinnertime and try some of the meat dishes (It was a warm day so I was in a lighter mood and ended up ordering all-vegetarian).
Two of Mozaic’s co-owners, Ben Khader and Faisal Nimri, also run Dametra Cafe and Yafa in Carmel and Dametra Fresh Mediterranean in Monterey (opened in December 2014). In December, after a morning expedition to Monterey Bay Aquarium, I went to Dametra Fresh Med and enjoyed a wonderful lunch where I could taste how fresh the ingredients were. That restaurant falls under the fast-casual category; it’s in Del Monte Mall and you order at the counter from a limited menu. It seems designed for affordable-yet-delicious food on the go. The variety of choices, including flavorful sauces, is impressive. Let me add that I was with my mother and my then-three-year-old daughter and it satisfied all three generations.
Back to my Mozaic lunch yesterday in downtown Santa Cruz. A few minutes after sitting down, fresh bread and a pesto dipping sauce were brought over (a few minutes apart—but I didn’t mind; it was their second day and that was the main kink in service). The bread and dip were delicious.
I ordered a few dishes: hearty lentil soup (comforting and satisfying without being too heavy), a vegetarian combo platter with several tasty components, and a watermelon-feta-walnut salad that turned out to be a gorgeous and refreshingly flavored tower. I would recommend all of these dishes. The vegetarian platter included—among other things—spanakopita, falafel, creamy hummus, smoky baba ghanoush, tzatziki, an aioli with a good kick, rice pilaf, and Greek salad.
I also relished the ending of the meal: flaky, moist baklava plus sweet Moroccan tea whose ingredients included fresh mint, green tea, and honey.
Mozaic’s team welcomed my dining companion and I like old friends—and we’d never met. Literally from the moment we stepped foot in the doorway, the staff were incredibly gracious—including our waitress, the busboys, and co-owner Nimri, who was going from table to table making sure everyone had what they needed. It’s obvious that they really care about making people happy. This includes co-owner Jay Dib, who I later realized was the smiling, attentive and enthusiastic man who first greeted us. Mozaic is definitely lucky to have him on the lookout; I feel like Santa Cruz is in for some very good service, not to mention delicious food. Like I said, I can’t wait to go back and try more selections. I noticed lamb shank on the menu, a grilled octopus appetizer, gyros, chicken shawarma, butternut squash ravioli…Wait, what am I doing still writing? See you there!
Location: 110 Church St. off Pacific (former Louie’s Cajun Grill & Clouds location—in fact, a staff member mentioned that Mozaic’s management kept on a bartender that’s “been at the site for 14-15 years and really knows his stuff”)
Hours: Open at 11 a.m. daily, and closing time varies depending on how busy they are. For now, they’re estimating 9ish for weekdays and 11 or midnight on weekends.
More: Contact Mozaic at (831) 454-8663; restaurant web site is coming soon
On Twitter? Follow me @santacruzfoodie.