A health fan and (non-extremist) animal welfare activist at heart who has dabbled in veganism, amongst other raw/whole/macrobiotic food lifestyles, I was pleased to hear Mezze’s name mentioned and warmly recommended by a number of sources. One of the rare vegetarian restaurants in the city–not to mention the only one I know of that doesn't bombard you with anti-meat-eating propaganda with your side of salad–the 9 year old institution seems to portray exactly what it stands for: basic, bold, fresh and creative veggie grub.
Mezze doesn't quite fit into the Bistro or Chef resto category, nor does it pass up for cafe or fast food. It deserves a class of its own, really. Pleasantly inviting what with its small yet enchanting front garden, the clean, humble establishment radiates a sense of ease and comfort, despite the constant construction work its neighbouring buildings have seen (and which, consequently, for the last two years, Mezze has heard). Friendly and personal, the service here is a fair reflection of the general energy proliferated throughout, inciting regulars to enjoy their three meals daily, while inviting newcomers to get the lowdown on the place contiguously.
Mezze's front veranda, airy and fervently illuminated by a row of hanging light fixtures, has room for couples and larger groups alike, while the interior offers sofa seating options and a few intimate tables. The mild November weather still permitting it, my dining companion and I settled outdoors, claiming a corner area for four (as we anticipated needing all the table-top space we could get!).
Slurp, swallow, smile
To start, my partner and I were accorded two glasses of Louisa iced tea–a cool herbal concoction whose main ingredient is Verbena (12 NIS per serving)–a fresh and tasty alternative to water I could easily live on. We drank a hot rendition of this, additionally infused with sage leaves, at the end of our meal. But before the end came other liquids: a very gulp-able Chilean red by the glass (32 NIS)–one amongst a generous assortment available by the glass and/or bottle–and Arak-grapefruit with a hint of mint (25 NIS), which made menu meandering easier to attempt.
As Mezze is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, it has three separate menus to browse through. My partner and I opted for dinner and thus perused the loftier of the few. As its name suggests, the restaurant serves mezzes in addition to its starters, mains and salads–the Middle Eastern term for smaller, appetizer-like dishes, resembling tapas in size.
In order to encounter as much palate stimulation, and thus as many dishes as possible, we opted for a selection of mezzes. The Tahini Trio, including red pepper tahini, "health" tahini and secret tahini (made, in my opinion, with lots of herbs and spices, giving it a tangy taste and green colour) was served with spelt pita triangles and proved very good (22 NIS). I highly recommend the Mushroom, Walnut and Cashew Pate–the veg version of the carnivorous favourite (24 NIIS), served with whole rye toasts and drizzled with silan (date syrup) to achieve the perfect meld of sweet, salty, smooth and chunky.
Mediterranean flavour was further implemented with the delicious Roasted Okra–with fresh and sun-dried tomatoes, mint and a whole lotta panfried cheese (28 NIS)–and the Beets and Manchego goat cheese, tossed with marinated onions, mint, balsamic vinegar and sesame oil (26 NIS). The Sauteed Spinach, with garlic, yogurt and tahini (a popular dish at 24 NIS) rather surprised me, lacking in the garlic department and perhaps a tad soggy to my taste.
Tasters of some of Mezze's hot dishes came on well; the restaurant serves a few grain-based meals that make use of spelt, buckwheat, quinoa or rice, lentils, beans and vegetables, all of which are nicely spiced and hearty, although not a havoc on the digestive system. I also suggest asking what the soup of the day is (served hot or cold at 24 NIS per bowl)–we tried their sweet potato and jerusalem artichoke blend; it was super!
Best for last
The wonderful thing about plant-based food is that it fills you up and nurtures your body without weighing you down and tiring you out. And, leaves you room for dessert, which at Mezze is something you definitely don't want to miss out on. Gluten-free and vegan, we were wooed by the homemade Malabi pudding–made of creamy coconut milk and verbena, topped with berry syrup, crushed pistachios and toasted coconut shavings (24 NIS), and Chocolate truffles–dark, decadent and filled with sweet pine-nut and almond marzipan–at 28 NIS for four. Dessert is a forte of Mezze's, mark my words.
Till next time
Like I mentioned, Mezze isn't some fancy food institute to rave about, but it's certainly a bargain for your buck and indisputably very high quality. A conversation I had with Gal Barzilai, chef of Mezze and co-owner of the restaurant with his wife Efrat, really won me over. A vegetarian since childhood and lover of all things living, he expressed his open outlook on food. There is no need, nor any good, in implementing harsh extremes when it comes to consumption. Mezze isn't around to make a point or change your habits. Rather, it exists to offer just what the chef himself is partial to: tasty, fresh, and healthy food.
51 Ahad Ha'Am, Tel Aviv
Open Sunday-Thursday from 8:00 to 24:00
Friday from 8:00 to 17:30