Mike and I had visited Mezze a couple of years ago and we'd been underwhelmed; we felt the food did not justify the high prices and I said so in the review I wrote at the time. Some time after that, I got an angry e-mail from a purported patron who disagreed with my review (and my right to review restaurants in the first place!) and later I read that the restaurant had closed down. Apparently this is not true, as a couple of months ago I received an e-mail from Mezze's manager informing me that the restaurant was still open, albeit with a new chef and a new menu, and inviting me to revisit it.
When our friends C&B suggested we go out dinner out one Friday night in August 2003, I decided this was as good a time as any to give Mezze another try. I'm glad we did; although the dinner had a few minor problems, it was very good - indeed the best dinner out I've had in quite a while.
We went to Mezze without making reservations which proved to be a mistake - albeit not a fatal one. The restaurant was packed and we had to wait about 10 minutes for a round table near the open kitchen, which worked well for us as it put us out of the way of most other patrons. When we eat out with our daughter, we like to be as far away as possible from other people in case our daughter gets rowdy. I also appreciated that the table was actually prepared for us, a high chair had been set on top of a plastic cover, so that we didn't have to worry about picking up any food Mika might drop. The waiters also promptly brought paper crayons for Mika, and while she was still a bit too young to be drawing (she's doing it now!), this helped distract her for a bit. Mika's privileged position with a view to the comings and goings of the waitstaff may also have contributed to her wonderful behavior that night; we were able to get through a three-course meal with barely a complaint from her. We were so proud of our little girl!
While service was generally good, and we felt the wait staff went the extra mile to make us feel comfortable, the restaurant was very busy and perhaps understaffed. At times we had problems stopping a waiter to get an extra fork or more ice.
The restaurant hasn't physically changed. It's still consists of a long room, divided in two, with a large bar on one side and an open kitchen at one end. It has a pleasant bistro atmosphere, the kind of place you get together with friends for food and conversation rather than for romance.
The new menu presents dishes that are both familiar and a little different, marrying Mediterranean food with Californian influences. As an appetizer, Mike and I shared the foie gras, which we both enjoyed very much. C. had a salad which she also liked.
As an entree I had the Duet of Maple Leaf Duck. The duck was very good, nicely seared and very flavorful. While it wasn't as expertly cooked as the best duck I've had at Bay Wolf , it was certainly better than the duck I'd had at Bay Wold earlier that week. I didn't care for the lentils that came with it - but then again, I don't like lentils in general - but the Foie Gras Beurre Mont was excellent.
Mike had the Moroccan Braised Lamb Shank and he really liked it. It was, of course, very tender and the wine sauce complimented it very well. C's Caramelized Onions & Brie Pizza was another winner; she was very pleased with it. B's Coriander Crusted Ahi Tuna was the disappointment of the evening. The crust gave the tuna an unpleasant grittiness without contributing much in terms of flavor. In addition, it wasn't a very substantial meal and B. was still hungry after completing it. He would not order it again.
B. was once again unlucky when it came to dessert. Both B. and I ordered the Vanilla Bean Creme Brule with Warm Ricotta & Orange Beignets. I liked it well enough, but B. wasn't too fond of the beignets.
Mike had the trio of ice creams. He found the raspberry sorbet particularly insipid, but he absolutely loved the lemon sorbet. Then again, he's a lemon sorbet aficionado. The shortbread-like cookie that came with it was dry and tasteless. I don't remember what C. had (I think perhaps the Chocolate Decadence Cake) but I think she also liked it.
One notable change from my last visit is in the presentation of the dishes - much more attention seems to be paid now to the look and feel of the food.
All in all we had a very pleasant experience and we'll probably go back to Mezze sometime.
3407 Lakeshore Ave.