There was a time, around a decade ago more or less, in which a vegetarian restaurant patron had to settle for a limited selection from the first courses and desserts listed in the menu. In those olden days vegetarians were considered to be a group of eccentrics in Birkenstock sandals (this was before the days of Crocs), females, mostly with an American accent, and remnants of the sixties who were still sticking to the trends of their generation. Years have come to pass, ages even, and in the meantime, hordes of travelers have visited Ashrams in the Far-East, most have returned, we have meditated, reconnected to our inner self, switched over to mineral water, and we have learned that grains and legumes, when combined, form whole proteins. So someplace in between meditations and health snacks, in between yoga and sipping purifying wheat juice, we have become familiarized with fresh terms, tastes, and concepts regarding nutrition. Call it the health trend.
While I was waiting for my friend Bruria at Mezze, I was hit with an epiphany. The health trend is dead. Dead but not buried: it has just become the norm. Mothers feed their kids buckwheat and whole grain rice, quinoa has a permanent home in the cupboard between the beans and silan, and I was surrounded by men(!!!) from the surrounding offices who popped out to have lunch. Vegetarianism has become a way of life, a hard fact of reality, and vegetables are the new meat.
‘Mezze,’ as the name suggests is a place for snacking, and snacks are in plentiful amounts here: tabouleh and quinoa-mujaddara, green shakshuka (popular Israeli egg dish), sprouts, cloves of garlic in honey, lubia with tahini, saut?ed mushrooms in herbs, and eggplant in yoghurt - Hard to choose from it all.
For openers we chose secret tahini and stuffed grape leaves. The tahini, thick and somewhat sweet (the secret is, I think, orange-juice instead of water), was perfectly balanced, neither too sour nor too salty, and the seasoning with fresh herbs – possibly the coriander – left a craving for more. The stuffed grape leaves - all homemade (not your sticky out-of-the-jar store-bought variety) and served with yoghurt – were delicious.
For our main course, we chose the special of the day and green shakshuka. The special of the day is written on a board on the wall. Today it was a whole-grain-rice risotto, with herbs and greens. The greens were lightly boiled and gently roasted, precisely prepared, and the rice was sticky as it should be and tasty. The meal, however, is perfectly suited for a cold and rainy day. In actuality, outside was autumn weather with the last traces of summer hanging on, taunting us. As long as the weather is still warm, it is best to stick to the variety of tasty mezzes.
The green-spinach shakshuka is a combination of spinach with two-eggs and covered with mozzarella. Spinach, as every Jewish mother knows, releases its juices during cooking. The mozzarella combined with spinach juices made for a finessed and harmonious meal. It is hard not to take notice that someone in the Mezze kitchen staff knows their work inside and out – in other words, they got the touch. Every dish showcases the precision and harmony when it comes to the use of seasoning and especially when adding those two simple yet critical ingredients, salt and oil. Terrific.
Accompanying the entr?es was a fresh vegetable salad, thinly chopped, with coriander leaves and onion (yummy!), and a selection of spreads and extras such as green spread, red-pepper spread, and cloves of garlic roasted in honey. What can I say? The plates and saucers, the platters and bowls all returned spotless to the kitchen.
Eating vegetarian food will leave you less stuffed at the end of the meal than when eating non-vegetarian. This is great because you will feel light and ready to continue your workday, but mainly because you will, for a change, have room for dessert. The house dessert dish here is the pistachio pie, accompanied by a scoop of sour cream, and halva fibers. It has been crowned the greatest pie west of Rothschild Boulevard. Like many other dishes on the menu, this dessert is gluten-free. The Malabi, based on coconut-milk, berry syrup, and pistachios, is a wonderful variation on the usual thing. Local, as well as hip, light and sweetened to a proper degree, it makes for a fun dish.
There is no need to be loquacious. It all makes for a light and pleasant meal, a no-less pleasant atmosphere, and a fair price. What more could we ask for? See you next time.
51A Achad Ha’am, Tel Aviv