Mediterranean cuisine at Pera misses the mark

Pera, a new restaurant in town, offers Mediterranean cuisine. --Alex Marshall/Photo Editor
Pera, a new restaurant in town, offers Mediterranean cuisine. –Alex Marshall/Photo Editor

Another flavor has been added to Spring Street’s global palate: Pera. The new Mediterranean bistro adjacent to the post office opened Wednesday, and students and local residents have already been crowding the eatery.

Upon entering, the small restaurant is immediately warm and inviting. Dimly lit with an autumnal color scheme, Pera has a charming and cozy atmosphere. There’s a variety of seating options: lots of tables, several booths and a couple of high pub tables. Soft music plays in the background and tea candles gently illuminate the different tables – a more romantic setting than most of its neighboring restaurants.

As a large party of 10 (shout out to the ladies of Armstrong 3), we called in advance for a reservation and were immediately seated. Pouring over the menu, it was hard to choose from the extensive list. The broad variety of appetizers, salads, pasta, soup, sandwiches, wraps and meat dishes was overwhelming. Prices ranged from about $9 to $30 and the choices expand beyond Mediterranean cuisine. Several Italian dishes are available, along with the atypical options of nachos and burgers, which we opted not to try.

To start off the meal, we decided to order the sample of four different appetizers ($13.95). Beautifully arranged, the dish came out with small portions of hummus, tabouli, stuffed grape leaves, sautéed falafel and a basket of lavash, which was supposed to be an Armenian flatbread but seemed like warmed up pieces of tortilla. Though the hummus and falafel were a little bland, the grape leaves and tabouli were savory, tangy, chewy and delicious. Holistically, the appetizer was satisfying – a solid starter sufficient for four. So far, so good.

With our taste buds pleasantly primed, we eagerly anticipated our second starter, the mussels du jour. But an hour passed by and our food still hadn’t arrived. Pera was understandably pretty crowded, with a line forming at the door. But just as the wait was getting unbearable, our food finally came.

The mussels ($9.95) arrived in a large stack in a pool of sauce. Our table was divided on the taste – while some devoured the slightly salty and juicy seafood, others just ate the bread that accompanied it.

We ordered two kinds of salad, the Greek salad and the Pera salad. Both dishes were small in portion, but they were coated with the perfect amount of dressing. The Greek salad was more savory, with a nice balance of feta cheese, olives, tomatoes, red onions and pepperoncini. The Pera salad was sweeter, with the combination of dried cranberries, goat cheese, toasted walnuts and sherry vinaigrette.We also ordered the soup of the day, the sweet potato bisque ($5.50). Although a nice orange color, the soup was a little bland and needed heavy salt and pepper to finish it.

From the wrap and sandwich variety, we tasted the falafel wrap ($8.95), the grilled portabella mushroom sandwich ($9.95), the sautéed vegetable wrap with hummus ($8.95) and the chicken kabob wrap ($9.95). All of these dishes were tolerable, with the falafel wrap being the most disappointing. The falafel, wrapped in two pieces of lettuce, was drenched in a wasabi yogurt sauce that ruined the flavor. The portabella mushroom sandwich was slightly better.The wraps and sandwiches were given in extremely small portions, especially considering the price, and their lack of special favor made it neither worth purchasing nor remotely Mediterranean (except for the hummus).

Among the pricier meals, we ordered the glazed salmon filet ($18.95) and two pasta dishes, the calamari fra diablo ($16.95) and the linguini marinara ($13.95). The salmon was well grilled, not too dry and well seasoned with a light balsamic glaze drizzled on top. Accompanied with rice and a meager handful of mixed greens, the fish was pretty satisfying. The calamari fra diablo was also one of the better dishes we chose. The pasta contained a huge serving of linguini topped with a white wine and tomato sauce and  diced squid. Although the calamari was chewy and the sauce a bit spicy to those with more sensitive tongues, this Italian dish was enjoyable and a little confusing to see on the menu for a Mediterranean restaurant. As for the linguini marinara, it was basically spaghetti.

Despite being a Mediterranean restaurant, Pera is more of an Italian and American cuisine with dishes that contain a varying degree of Mediterranean flavor. The serving size also has a huge disparity – the cheaper dishes in the $10 range are too small to be filling while the more expensive ones between $10 and $20 are too much for one person.

The restaurants on Spring Street usually have the reputation for being “good for Williamstown,” and Pera falls under that category. If one ever has ample time, the ambiance serves as a nice setting for a fancier date or even just a place to talk with a group of friends or visiting family members. Just know that you’re paying more for the environment than the food quality.


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