The culinary charms of Greece are very much in evidence at Meze, a Dyker Heights eatery that specializes in the vibrant cuisine of that island nation.
With a focus on small plates – the meze of the eatery’s name – as well as seafood, this charmer delivers exquisitely prepared, traditional Greek food utilizing a wide range of ingredients imported from its gustatory homeland, including seafood flown in daily from the Mediterranean, according to staffer Jennifer Orellano, who stressed that reputation, rather than location, has been a key reason for Meze’s success.
“We’re in the middle of nowhere, so it’s really just word of mouth,” she said of the restaurant launched by Mike and Koula Sophocleous in 2004. While the couple had planned, Orellano said, to open “a little sandwich place,” their commitment to quality and delicious food had customers “asking for a full menu,” and Meze was born, based largely on Koula’s family recipes.
Adding icing to the culinary cake is the fact that, while casseroles and stews are obviously made beforehand, many of the dishes on Meze’s menu are put together once a customer places an order.
“It’s really just home cooking,” noted Orellano.
But, what home cooking!
I sampled several of the restaurant’s specialties, and can attest that – from appetizer to dessert, the flavors are bright, clean and bold, exactly what you would expect from a Greek taverna – except that this one is located, not on a rocky isle, but on the East Coast of the United States.
Nonetheless, the atmosphere is spot-on, from the blue and white décor to the Greek music playing in the background to the fishing accoutrements scattered about. While you are at Meze, you definitely feel like you are in Greece.
While the appetizer menu contained many temptations (including Meze’s famous marinated and char-grilled octopus, one of the restaurant’s prime attractions), I sampled the show-stopping Saganaki ($11.95), melted kefalograviera cheese that comes out of the kitchen aflame thanks to high-proof vodka. A squeeze of lemon quenches the blaze, and adds a delightful tart note to the rich goat’s milk cheese, which is also lightly caramelized on the top.
I also enjoyed the sweet and succulent sautéed mushrooms, Manitaria ($10.95), which are enriched by the addition of Metaxa brandy, as well as Spanakopita, spinach pie ($6.95), whose generous spinach and feta cheese filling was encased in a light and flaky crust of many-layered, crispy filo.
Continuing the small plate theme, I also tried three dips: The refreshing Tzatziki ($8.95), a garlic-infused yogurt sauce rich with cucumber and parsley, as well as the sweet and savory Melitzanosalata ($9.95), an eggplant dip flecked with parsley and studded with chunks of cooked garlic. I also enjoyed the special Meze Dip ($10.95), which was like a Greek salad in miniature, meant to be scooped up with triangles of warm pita bread.
As an entrée, I settled on a classic Greek preparation, the Moussaka ($13.95), and was delighted. A huge portion – layering eggplant, potato slices, a fragrant and flavorful ground beef preparation and a cheese-inflected béchamel on top – came to my table, accompanied by a fresh Greek salad that featured feta cheese, wedges of gorgeously ripe tomato, ribbons of dark green lettuce and arcs of red onion, all enhanced by a generous sprinkling of oregano.
For dessert, I sampled the restaurant’s Baklava ($7) and was delighted by the lightness of the confection, the wonderfully flaky filo pastry rolled round a filling of chopped nuts and drenched with honey.
I also tried one of the restaurant’s house-made Kourambides, dense, tightly textured cookies rich with chopped nuts that are enveloped in a velvety coating of powdered sugar. These are brought to every table after dinner, and truly they are well worth waiting for, the perfect punctuation mark for a perfect meal.
6601 13th Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11219
Free delivery in Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Bensonhurst
Open daily, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.