It was lunchtime, and that dish is usually only on hand at night. So it must have been a special customer who wangled the exception. I wangled a taste too (at top), luxuriating in the salty, briny intensity that worked magic on a plateful of angel hair.
Bottarga is the roe of the grey mullet (and sometimes other fish), sun-dried and encased in wax to protect it. The taste is so powerful that you eat it gingerly, a slice or two with bread perhaps, or as an appetizer with lemon or grated sparingly over pasta, as if it were truffles.
But don't ask for pasta with bottarga at Got Kosher? There, it's known as pâtes à la boutargue and defined on the menu as Tunisian caviar. French is common at the restaurant, because chef/owner Alain Cohen lived in Paris, where his family operated a restaurant. Above, he's grating bottarga over an order.
Born in Tunisia, Cohen described how thrifty Mediterranean travelers would pack bottarga along to slice and eat with bread, providing protein at much less cost than eating out.
Bottarga is more reasonable in that area, close to where it is produced, but here, it is costly. Cohen sells the wax tubes (above left) for $40 to $60, depending upon how much they contain. At dinner, pâtes à la boutargue will set you back $28, but then caviar, Tunisian or otherwise, is never cheap.
Got Kosher? Cafe, 8914 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90035. Tel: (310) 858-1920.