The Undercover Vegetarian: Mezze
It's a slight paradox for a vegetarian, this menu at Mezze. On the one hand, it's an extremely vegetarian-friendly menu. On the other, the things vegetarians usually count as tried-and-true safe zones are, at Mezze, decidedly not. The tabbouleh has bacon in it. The falafel comes over a stew of braised tripe. The fries are draped in brisket.
Anne Fishbein Roasted apriums with honey, zatar, noyaux ice cream at Mezze
But for the vegetarian looking for a dining experience beyond the basics, you might be glad Mezze pushes you away from the standards.
It would be easy to make a meal of the vegetable sides -- recently, the asparagus with Manouri cheese and hen of the woods mushrooms was by far my favorite dish of the evening and probably week and possibly month. Asparagus spears -- some of them shaved to ribbons, some of them left whole -- tussled with the earthy, perfectly oiled mushrooms and the salty shards of cheese. It was one of those dishes that was as visually arresting as it was delicious.
White corn with Moroccan spice, chili and parsley was served cut off the cob and cooked to caramelization, all sweet and char and spicy and delicious. The heirloom bean foul gave the bassy mush of beans their treble match in tangy preserved lemon. These are all dishes you'll wish you knew how to cook -- the type that make vegetables interesting again.
There's not much on the small plates that's meat-free, but the fennel salad is a standout, the fennel bulbs cooked until sweet and melting. And there's much to choose from on the flatbreads menu. I wished there were more of the beautiful tiny summer squash on a recent summer squash and goat milk ricotta version with Calabrian chili, but the generous milky balls of ricotta more than made up for it.
This is a restaurant where almost any vegetarian, barring only the most picky of eaters, could find delicious solace.
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