Mezze: more than just a bar

All things considered, I’d say my dinner at Mezze was pretty boring: I was neither verbally assaulted by an inebriated chemistry major nor arrested by the Williamstown Police. Oh well, at least the food was good.

Most Williams students think Mezze is just a bar, a place to have traditional beverages and start trouble. And although pandemonium may break loose at the Halloween bash tonight (costume required), I hope more Ephs keep in mind that Mezze is also wonderful restaurant.

In fact, some of my fondest dining memories in Williamstown have taken place at Mezze. A fabulous brunch with my parents of bagels and lox comes to mind. And I’ll never forget the one-year anniversary dinner where my girlfriend and I barely made it home because we’d eaten so much. I think everyone has a Mezze story; the one that follows is less wild than usual, but it’s a lot tastier.

Appetizers ($6 – $10):

When I told my physical therapist that I was reviewing Mezze, she insisted that I try the mussels. At first I thought she was just making a bad pun, but when I tried the Prince Edward Island mussels in a saffron and coconut broth I could see why she was so insistent. The dish, also featuring chorizo sausage, corn and cilantro, was undoubtedly the best I had all night – and that includes the mozzarella sticks I bought at the snack bar with my dinner points.

I also tried the lamb empanada, whose corn sauce with its hard-to-place flavor dwarfed the filling of lamb, feta and olives. Yes, this sauce nearly drove me mad as I tried in vain to pick it apart. Do I detect oysters, perhaps oyster mushrooms? Is that a slight aftertaste of wasabi? How embarrassed I was when the wasabi turned out to be chipotle peppers, and who knows how the blend of coriander, cumin and turmeric led me to think of that famous shelled aphrodisiac. In the end, I was able to swallow my pride and bow down to this delectable appetizer, which I would recommend to even the most conservative of culinary crusaders.

Although I didn’t sample them this time, I recommend the duck confit quesadilla and the sesame seared tuna. The fact is that Mezze has some of the best appetizers in town. And before you dive in to your main course, don’t forget to have a salad ($5 – $7). You might even want to try the roast fennel and tomatoes for a change of pace. Just make sure you like fennel.

Main courses ($16 – $22):

Although I would recommend both the filet mignon and flank steak to any red-meat lover, this time I decide to try the beet risotto for a change of pace. As any of my friends will tell you, I am a risotto fanatic; many a night has been ruined by one of my famed risotto rampages, and certainly a disaster would have befallen Mezze had this risotto not been as good as it was. Along with being extremely tasty, the presentation was wonderfully dramatic. The beets gave the whole dish a color so pink that it would have made a flamingo jealous. The butternut squash imparted a welcomed sweetness without being too mushy, and a generous amount of Parmesan cheese and infused oil rounded out this magnificent magenta masterpiece.

My dining companion opted for the chicken breast with oyster mushroom panzanella, and we both agreed that the panzanella far overshadowed the dry chicken breast. For those who don’t know, panzanella is an Italian dish that makes use of day-old bread. One just tosses the bread with fresh vegetables, balsamic vinegar and olive oil to make this beautiful and simple Italian staple. Once again, Mezze’s execution was fabulous; the diced cucumbers cleverly alluded to Korean kimchee, a delectable subtlety that I thoroughly enjoyed but my dining partner did not seem to appreciate.

Although it is true that the main courses were delicious, the appetizers were definitely the high point of the evening. I’d go as far to say that you might just want to order three or four appetizers and call it a meal. Of course, you could only do this if you promise to go back and try the filet mignon some other time.

So next time the weekend rolls around, go to Mezze early – while they’re still serving dinner – and have a great meal before you hit the bar. You won’t be sorry.