Monday, March 11, 2013

Mezze Place – “Mezzed Up” on Goodness

I just had to steal this funny phrase, "mezzed up", I heard from Mackenzi’s girlfriend Kellner, who loves this place so much. Mackenzi is a big fan too of course and the two have been spreading the good word about Mezze Place ever since it opened a few months ago.

Meg and I were really curious to try it, and when the time came, we organized our bi-monthly We Heart Astoria Queens Blogger social there. Hurray for that, as we all really loved it and felt extremely welcome by the gracious staff. I’m definitely understanding why it’s become such a quick favorite for a lot of folks in the community – especially vegetarians.

If you think back on the old Mundo space, you’ll remember how intimate it is, and in my eyes, that’s a good thing. The experience here feels really private and personal and although I’d recommend coming to Mezze with 1 or 2 other people, it’s OK for larger groups too, as long as you make a reservation.

While most of the décor doesn’t differ too much from Mundo, there’s one really awesome (and huge) distinguishing factor, which is a beautiful “Mezze Place” mural on the wall that’s closest to the kitchen. I kept turning around to look at it, as it was created by a local and exemplified what Mezze is all about – interesting Middle Eastern flavors, hospitality and fun. It almost looks like an infographic that you just want to snap a photo of and share with your closest Facebook and Twitter friends.

Besides the food tasting absolutely delicious, I was really happy with the pacing of it and found myself feeling pleasantly satiated after the entire experience – not uncomfortably full.

Mezze – There were many mezze shared around the big table, which was a lot of fun. And just when we thought they were done, they kept on coming. First came the refreshing, yogurt based dips (labaneh) with black sesame and oregano. They were both delicious and ultra creamy, which was perfect for spreading on the fluffly house-made pita bread that was served in a rustic fashion (aka inside a brown paper bag).

Next came the red lentil kofte (similar to Mundo’s red sonjas), which you wrap in buttery pieces of lettuce and spritz with fresh lemon. I loved them…and even more than Mundo’s version because of the friendly, bite-sized pieces.

The tabouleh salad was simple but looked really vibrant, and I adored the healthy sprinkling of blood red pomegranate seeds on top. I loved this touch, as it’s a very Israeli thing to add, the pomegranate being a symbol of life and love. Additionally, the salad incorporated plenty of fresh parsley, garlic and scallions, providing some nice bite.

Two other mezze, if you can believe it, were their homemade falafel and roasted cauliflower. The falafel stood out to me for its perfectly crisp exterior and soft (almost creamy) interior, which was paired with yummy pickles. It didn’t need a side of tahini or anything, but we couldn’t resist dipping it into the labaneh.

While I liked the cauliflower as well, I think it begged for more seasoning such as salt. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful dish and a healthful one at that.

Entrees – Each ordering our own entrée, I went for the lamb sania (sort of like moussaka) that was served in a rustic, round metal pan. I loved the layering of it, which made it look very beautiful, with the sprinkling of nuts and fresh herbs that you see on top. The lamb itself was really interesting, albeit a little chewy, flavored with a Middle Eastern spice mix called ras-el-hanout.

I also had the pleasure of trying my friend Dayna’s short ribs, which were absolutely spectacular. They fell apart upon contact with a fork and tasted rich and juicy. The sauce that coated them boasted a lovely texture that did a great job of soaking into the side of whole wheat cous-cous.

Dessert – There were three desserts we shared, but two in particular put me over the edge. The Middle Eastern cheesecake was my favorite, followed by Mezze’s version of rice pudding.

The former was almost savory, combining mozzarella cheese with ricotta and another cheese I can't remember. Topped with pistachios and some pretty-in-pink rose water, it had a unique taste that almost reminded me of Slovak-style fried cheese with a sweet finish. The best part for me was the well done, golden crust that was fun to break with a fork.

Service and Cost:
As I mentioned, the pacing of the meal was perfect, and I was glad that we didn't have to wait too long for anything. There always seemed to be something new and exciting coming, it was just a matter of time before it arrived.

We also loved interacting with Mezze’s staff, including their owner Youad, who was friendly and treated us with the utmost amount of hospitality. At the end of the meal, he thanked each one of us, and I couldn’t help feeling that our visit meant a lot to him. It’s something that makes me want to return here soon.

Costs are very reasonable and include:

Mezze - $5-$15
Entrees - $11-$19
Dessert - $8-$10

3 Mezzy Mmmms

Mezze Place – 31-18 Broadway #E, Astoria NY 11106
718. 777.2829
N/Q Train to Broadway

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