Monday, October 16, 2006

Tapas at Mezze

Not since Chris Paternotte left Kali’s Court in Fells Point to open Vin in Towson had I been there, or more specifically to the small plates operation of Kali’s Court, known as Mezze. On a recent unseasonably warm early Tuesday evening in early October, Mrs. Yi and I were extremely lucky to be able to enjoy Mezze’s fare al fresco on the busy Thames Street sidewalk at one of just a few outside tables. Before checking in at Mezze, we peered through the door inside the main Kali’s Court dining room. That quick glance revealed it to be packed with all the appearances one might associate with a special occasion and/or power scene. Then we entered Mezze, which was similarly packed. Having made our reservation but an hour earlier, we found ourselves waiting uneasily for a couple minutes before the Maitre’ D could seat us. That an outdoor table became available before any others was our reward. With as pleasant a dinner setting as I’m aware of anywhere in Baltimore, we were very happy. I like to think of Mezze’s menu in terms of Guzarias, which are to Greece what Tapas are to Spain. However, since fried Blue Point oysters and Jumbo Lump Maryland Crab Cakes are also included on it, the restaurant is on target in describing its menu items as small plates. It is divided into categories: two soups; 27 vegetables that also include cheeses and salads; 16 seafood choices; 13 meat and poultry selections; nine desserts, as well as categories for Wines by the Glass and Wines by the Bottle. All the wines are European. With the exception of Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes at $13.95, prices range from $3.50 to$9.95. Because Unique Culinary Adventures posted two different recipes for dandelion greens, I ordered Horta, which means “dancelion greens” in Greek. Braised and prepared with lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil, to Mezze’s credit they were the least bitter dandelion greens I’ve ever tasted. For me, this was significant enough to forgive the presence of perhaps one or two grains of sand that accompanied them. I also ordered Tarama at $4.95, which was described as a cured cod roe dip with olive oil and fresh herbs. It was always my understanding that Tamara is the roe from which the dip, known as taramasalata is made. Regardless, whatever it was that Mezze served up was notably smooth, creamy, delicate, and most pleasing. Among our other choices, I tasted Mrs. Yi’s Cheese Ravioli simmered with garlic, cream and herbs, which at $5.50 was very basic and very good. I also tasted Mrs. Yi’s Beef and Lamb Meatballs, prepared Mediterranean style and served with tomato and dill sauce. As far as I’m concerned, and for $4.95, they had to be as delicious as any meatballs of such genre can get. My one other dish was the Tsipoura or Royal Dourade at $4.95, which is a Mediterranean sea bream fillet grilled with herbs, lemon, and olive oil. Beyond simply describing it as fresh and cooked just right, I’m personally curious as to whether the source could have been the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute’s Columbus Center, where research regarding the farming of sea bream for restaurant consumption is in its advanced stages. Within the next five weeks, Unique Culinary Adventures will seek to present both a post and a podcast on what’s happening at the Columbus Center, so stay tuned. Oh, and one more thing: our bill. With the six food items that we ordered along with a glass of wine apiece, the total before tip was $53.00. Despite Kali’s Court being legitimately known as an expensive destination, I can’t help but wonder whether for the likes of what we enjoyed there could be a better deal anywhere in Baltimore.

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