Your first impulse is to duck when the waitress comes gliding into the room with a frying pan full of fire. But once the alarm wears off, customers at Meze, a cozy Greek restaurant on 13th Avenue, can’t help but swivel around in their chairs to watch the server daintily douse the flames with a squeeze of fresh lemon.
This mesmerizing fire dance is bound to occur several times throughout the evening, because apparently you don’t go to Meze without ordering the saganaki, or broiled cheese.
I first learned about the Dyker Height gem on Seamless. Taking a cue from the eatery’s name, I absently ordered a sampling of meze, which is Greek for appetizers or small plates. But what arrived on my doorstep in takeout dishes was not your average Greek diner fare.
From the juicy New Zealand baby lamb chops (chargrilled and served over delicately dressed water crest and pine nuts) ($15.95), to the Greek salad topped with grilled pork, to the lentil soup, every single item was exquisitely textured and flavored — despite the humble packaging.
Thought the food is on the pricier side, I kept ordering from Meze. Even Meze’s casual plates, like their burger or their lemony, un-battered chicken strips ($14.95), bumped the finger foods to a new level of sophistication. Meze’s thin Greek fries are particularly heavenly, as they come spattered in feta and fresh herbs.
Finally a friend and I ventured out to restaurant itself. The light-wrapped evergreen trees and royal blue exterior somehow conjured both the Cyprian Sea and the Dyker Heights’ world-famous holiday lights. Inside, Meze’s decor succeeded in transporting us to another land with soft, acoustic music, nautical details, and a flat screen television playing a soothing loop of Greek island photos.
“We have taken the liberty of trading the view of 13th Avenue with the view of the harbor at Hydra, an exquisite small island not far from Athens,” the restaurant’s owners explain on Meze’s website.
Meze’s lengthy dine-in menu can only be described opulent. There is succulent grilled octopus, tender filet minion, an extensive selection of fish and sea food, and of course their signature broiled cheese. We went with the grilled haloumi ($10.95), a Cypriot cheese which — though it didn’t arrive aflame — was charred at the edges and buttery on the inside, making for a great accompaniment to Meze’s delicious crusty bread.
We also order the seafood salad ($14.95), and the moussaka, a baked casserole made of eggplant, ground beef, and topped with a cheese bechamel sauce ($13.95).
The seafood salad was pink and pretty, lightly dressed in herbs and olive oil, with diced celery and carrot adding some crunch. By contrast, the casserole was rich and luxurious and paired well with a light house salad. We rounded out the meal with a vibrant Pinot Noir that turned out to be on the sweeter side.
The food was luxurious and the ambiance was magical, but it wasn’t until those flaming trays of kefalograviera cheese started coming out that we fully understood the transcendent, multi-sensory dining experience that is Meze. Somehow the repeated ritual of watching servers subdue the violent flames in a delicate, citrus juice succeeded in transporting us from our stressful New York lives to the far-away isles of Greece.
Meze, 6601 13th Avenue, (718) 234-6393.
Food Stuffs is a column exploring the gastronomic landscape of Bensonhurst and the surrounding neighborhoods. Each entry will cover anything and everything remotely related to food. Because here in Bensonhurst, food is always news.