It may be ill-advised to judge a book by its cover, but at MoZaic restaurant, the name pretty much says it all. "Mosaic" a seemingly disconnected assortment of materials, fused together appropriately characterizes the interesting and eclectic menu, and the construction of individual dishes.
Tucked into the Inn at Palmer Divide, on the edge of Palmer Lake, MoZaic offers a relaxing environment from which to embark on a gastronomic adventure. Booths line the back wall, and tables surrounded by wooden lattice-backed chairs spill forward toward the floor-to-ceiling windows. Unusual fabrics, industrial carpet and acoustic ceiling tiles intrude somewhat upon the warmth generated by warm red paint and a glass water wall, but the commanding view quickly distracts the eye. MoZaic's high perch offers sweeping southeasterly vistas of Palmer Lake, Monument and Colorado Springs.
Creating food good enough to match the view is clearly the challenge facing the kitchen. As far as appearances go, each dish passes muster. An artistic hand plies a vigorous trade in colors and textures, visible in presentations of the steakhouse salad, bison short ribs, and the prettiest plate of spicy wings ever served.
Beyond their eye appeal, MoZaic's creations (ranging from $13.50 to $29 for dinner) are mostly tasty, although many are one layer too complicated for their own good. The braised bison short ribs were rich and tender, but the advertised smoked chile flavor didn't really register. The combination of duck confit, truffle and foie gras, though impressive-sounding, didn't amaze. Even the most successful assemblage, the beautiful winter MoZaic salad, required that each of its elements grilled romaine, goat cheese, citrus chunks and peppery vegetables be pulled together in every bite to bring balance.
In addition, my dining companions and I found something to nitpick in almost every dish. The fettuccine Fra Diavolo arrived cold, and the giant pasta pillow encasing wild boar was a bit gluey. The boar meat itself was a shade overdone, as was the foie gras atop the duck confit crepe. Although elegant, and surrounded by a peppy hot sauce, the batter around the aforementioned spicy wings had hardened to a nearly impenetrable shell that prevented sauce absorption.
I want to stress that these shortcomings hampered otherwise good dishes, and did little to diminish our generally pleasant experience. In fact, the kitchen's skill in combining flavors, textures and quality ingredients shone through in a relatively simple entre salad of mixed greens, caramelized onions, two perfectly cooked Colorado lamb chops and an excellent balsamic vinaigrette.
An outstanding wine program contributes to MoZaic's overall success. Arranged by price, the user-friendly list proffers interesting wines that are categorically well-chosen to match MoZaic's fusion food. Values abound from top to bottom, with all whites checking in below $40, and most reds falling between $25 and $60. Look for the Schug Pinot Noir and Gustavo Thrace Zinfandel, both around $40 and further enhanced by the professional-grade stemware.
All mosaics reveal imperfections when inspected closely, and this one is no different. Nevertheless, MoZaic's creative approach to food and romantic surroundings make it an attractive destination for a mid-week escape or weekend date.
443 Hwy. 105, Palmer Lake (inside the Inn at Palmer Divide), 481-1800
Tuesday-Saturday, 5-9 p.m.; Sunday brunch, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.