Friday, May 20, 2011
A few days ago some friends suggested that I would really love the Mediterranean Grill in the Westview Shopping Center because it has so many of my favorite foods. In the past few years I've become a big fan of more exotic foods (exotic for my house, anyway) like hummus, tabouleh and bruschetta and I'm always looking to try new samples, so I stopped by to check it out. I had it in mind that I would try a little bit of all of my new favorites just to see how they would do it differently, but when I got their interesting menu in my hands, I realized that I had barely scratched the surface of Middle Eastern/Mediterranean cuisine.
On their appetizer menu, I discovered for the first time that hummus is actually part of a larger family of food called mezze dips which are made from all manner of mashed up vegetables, cheese, spices, juices, and oil to create flavorful sauces for dipping bread. I found myself in a bit of a conundrum because I came to the restaurant to see how the items on their menu with which I am familiar from other sources measure up to what I know, but at the same time I wanted to explore things I had never even heard of. Because my sister, Meg, was with me, I figured that I could get away with ordering two appetizers and sharing them, so I decided to order one familiar to me for the sake of comparison, and one totally new to me for the sake for adventure.
For the familiar dish, I ordered the bruschetta, which consists of tomatoes, onions, olive oil, garlic, fresh herbs, oregano, crumbled feta cheese, and capers spread over pieces of garlic bread. One of the things that I have noticed about this dish is that it varies widely from one restaurant to another, but the Mediterranean Grill competes for the best I've ever had. The tomatoes here are large, fresh slices as opposed to the diced, salsa-like ones that I'm used to. And feta, which I think is one of the most interesting cheeses I've ever had, is not a standard ingredient at other places. I liked how the tomato-mix and toasted garlic bread slices came separately so that my sister and I could cover them as much as we wanted and in different proportions from each other.
The new mezze that I ordered, called tirosqlata, consisted of roasted red pepper, pepperoncini, red chili peppers, crumbled feta cheese, lemon juice, and oregano served with an enormous piece of pita bread for dipping. A big fan of each of those ingredients individually, save for pepperoncini which I had never heard of, I had to give it a try. It was presented on a large flat dish in something of a swirled pattern, with a big green olive placed in a tiny pool of olive oil in the middle. I have never been good at describing the intricacies of flavor, but it was delicious to say the least. It's a little spicy, but just enough to make it interesting.
I was really tempted to try one of the entrees that I hadn't encountered at other restaurants, such as the Istanbul pizza covered in creamy feta or the shawarma, which is chicken, lamb, or beef marinated in red-wine vinegar and slowly roasted. But it had been so long since I had had a good gyro that I decided to stick to the classic. I'm really glad that I did because it's definitely the best one that I can even remember having. Rather than the thin shavings of lamb meat that I'm used to, this had thick savory chunks smothers in feta and all manner of delicious seasoning.
Meg and I didn't have room for dessert, which is an enormous shame because I'd love to try their tiramisu or baklava with one of their custom made espressos. Speaking of which, not only are they a great place for lunch and dinner, they have a full menu of Italian-style specialty coffees. In fact, they offer a lot of special items and I have barely began to scratch the surface.
In addition to great ethnic food, they provide a charming atmosphere. They have a copper-color theme, with copper-covered table tops and strange-looking copper fountains attached to the wall. Meg and I were a big fan of their outdoor seating area that sits at a particularly busy pedestrian area right near the movie theatre. Add all of that to their extremely attentive and friendly waiting staff, and I have no choice but to give Mediterranean Grill an A+ for interest and excellence.
5221A Buckeystown Pike
Frederick, MD 21704
Phone (301) 620-1666