La Mediterranee

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La Mediterranee (known to locals as "La Med") is a Berkeley institution, serving good Middle Eastern food at very reasonable prices. For one reason or another (mostly how hard it is to park in that area and how crowded La Med tends to get) I hadn't actually been to the restaurant since I was in college, well over a decade ago. So when our friends and frequent dinner companions C. and B. suggested that we go there for dinner one Sunday evening in December 2003, we were of course, game.

Parking wasn't too much of a problem, but the place was packed. Still, we were able to secure a table (and a highchair) without having to wait more than a couple of minutes. Getting service was another matter, however. While it took a relatively short time for the waiter to take our order, we had to wait for what felt like forever for our appetizer to arrive (and it didn't come until we reminded the waiter at least once), one of our entrees came with soup instead of the salad we had ordered, and again, we had to remind the waitress to bring us the promised salad. C., who used to frequent the restaurant, said she had never gotten such bad service; I hope it was a glitch and not just an unfortunate decline.

The restaurant itself is very nice, sporting a very Mediterranean look, with tiles and arches. It's a pretty loud place, which can be an advantage when you have a small child. In any case children seem welcome and there were several toddlers there when we visited.

The menu offers standard Middle Eastern/Greek food at very reasonable prices. There is hummus, baba ghanoush and tabuleh, soups and salads, kibbeh and kebabs, and a couple of other items (including a vegetarian platter). They also offer "fillo dough specialties", good size savory pastries that come accompanied by hummos and soup or salad. Nothing on the menu is more than $10.

We all shared hummus and pita bread as an appetizer (the hummus was quite good, the pita bread less so), and C., B. and I ordered different combinations of the "fillo dough specialties", while Mike had the kibbeh. It took so long for the food to come to the table, that my pastries were getting a bit cold. Still, they were very good. The chicken cilicia (chicken chunks with almonds, chickpeas, raisins, cinnamon and spices) was particularly delicious; it reminded me very much of Moroccan bastilla. Mike's kibbeh was also very well done, very light (as kibbeh should be) and flavorful.

C. and I had a glass of the house wine, and while I think she enjoyed it, it didn't work well for me and left my tongue quite irritated. Next time I'll just have water.

And there will definitely be a next time, the food is to good and the prices too reasonable to let another decade go by before visiting again.

La Mediterranee
2936 College Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94705
(510) 540-7773