Do the words grape leaves, pomegranate molasses, sumac, pine nuts, kibbeh, tabbouleh and baklava make your taste buds sing? If they do, pay a visit to Fez Turkish Meze where the rich aromatic flavors of the Mid East combine for healthy, wholesome and very tasty dishes, in a warm friendly setting. Fez occupies the space that for many years was another very pleasant Turkish restaurant. The new owners are the welcoming Khaled Daas and his wife Ahoud Bata. Seating about 60 guests, Daas was proud to inform me that the simple space was completely redecorated by his family and himself, from the stucco walls, dark wood beams, vintage copper cooking utensils on the walls, and turquoise recycled water glasses on the tables, the color reminiscent of the Mediterranean. The dining rooms are separated by a large entrance area. Mid Eastern music was playing in the background, setting the scene for the meal to follow.
Daas indicated that, “I love the social aspect of restaurant ownership. Many of our guests have become friends. We consider every guest a VIP and we make them all feel at home at Fez. Our goal is to grow gracefully and maintain the family feeling. “Busy in the kitchen, is Chef Ahoud Bata. The Turkish and Mid-East cooking is a reflection of her time spent in the kitchen with her mother and grandmother. At Fez, Chef Bata instills her dishes with her love of food and her desire to prepare her dishes for the pleasure of her family and guests. The dishes are traditional and many are adapted to modern techniques. “We are aware of the need for gluten free and vegan dishes and offer many in those categories. Our food is very healthy. Vegetables, grains and lamb are important ingredients in our cooking.”
France may have its hors d’oeuvres, Spain its tapas, China its dim sum and Italy its antipasti, but Turkey and the Mid East has its meze. At Fez, the selection of meze is so varied that several of the selections can certainly constitute an entire meal. The meze here is truly a miniature feast. First, there are the dips, served with a basket of warm pita bread. Some are familiar such as the hummus with chick peas and tahini and lebne a rich strained yogurt. We sampled a superb baba ghannoush. The eggplant is roasted and blended with tahini, yogurt and seasonings. It was addictive with its chunky texture, smoky flavor and sprinkling of fresh parsley. Yet to be tried are modammas with fava beans, garlic and fresh lemon juice, and mhammara, a walnut red pate with spicy red pepper paste and walnuts, walnut lebne yogurt with garlic and walnuts and lentil pate. Next we sampled some of the finger foods. There was zatar pie, cheese puffs, falafel, kibbeh balls and zucchini pancakes. We chose lahmacun. These were 6 inch rounds of homemade dough topped with ground beautifully seasoned lamb. They are baked and are Turkey’s answer to individual pizzas. Phyllo pastry is the wrapper for many fillings from minced lamb, spinach and cheese to simply feta cheese. Rolled into cigar like packages the sigara borek, fresh out of the oven were hard to resist. Dolma, grape leaves are enjoyed throughout the mid east. Here the leaves are softened for easy eating and filled with a rice and vegetable mixture. They are served at room temperature. Hints of lemon and pomegranate molasses were evident. In my home the grape leaves are served in the Syrian style filled with ground meat and rice and cooked with dried apricots and pomegranate molasses. The third section of meze at Fez includes a variety of vegetable stews or soslu. They are served cold with pita or hot with rice. The varieties include eggplant, okra, butter beans, potato and coriander, and cauliflower with garlic, coriander and lemon juice. On cool day you may wish to try homemade red lentil, hearty vegetable or chicken noodle soup.
There are about 9 salad choices ranging from tabbouleh with bulghur, parsley, tomato, onion, lemon and olive oil, to the ever popular fattoush with romaine, tomato, cucumber, pepper, radish, onion and lemon juice. Olives, pita chips and a sumac vinaigrette complete this salad. The salads can be topped with meat, vegetables or fish. For a light bite, wraps are offered.
Fez entrees run the gamut from chicken or lamb adana or kefta shish kebab or a mixed grill of several skewers. We enjoyed the kefta shish kebab. The finely minced lamb was lightly seasoned and mixed with onion and parsley and threaded onto skewers and grilled. Basmati rice and a nicely tossed salad shared the plate. These kebabs are an example of simple cooking at its best. We also sampled the eggplant pot pie. Here eggplant was roasted with the skin intact and layered with minced meat, tomato sauce and Fez tahini blend. This was topped with toasted pine nuts and pita chips for a rich combination. Other entrees include grilled lamb chops, branzino, salmon, lamb shank, cabbage rolls, moussaka. Several chicken dishes and mujaddra, a lentil and rice dish.
If you wish, bring your own wine to enjoy with dinner.
Homemade baklava, rice pudding chocolate pudding and semolina cake are dessert offerings. I simply ended my tasting with a cup of Turkish coffee served in a gold leaf decorated demi tasse cup. In the mid east tradition, I let the coffee grinds settle at the bottom of the cup so my fortune could be read. It appeared to say you will return to Fez soon.
Share a meal with family and friends at Fez soon. The meze selection is perfect party fare and Fez will be delighted to cater a party for you.
Fez Turkish Meze
409 Mount Pleasant Avenue
Mamaroneck, New York
Recipe: Baba Ghannoush
2 Large Eggplants
½ Cup Tahini
½ Cup Plain Yogurt
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
2 – 3 Tbsps. fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil for garnish
Ground sumac for garnish
Roast the eggplants. Cool and peel off the skin. In a bowl, mix tahini, yogurt, garlic and lemon juice until it is creamy. Cash the eggplants and add it to the tahini mix. Add salt and pepper to taste. Place in a serving dish and garnish with olive oil and a sprinkling of sumac.
Unusual ingredients are available at mid-east markets.