Last time we went to Beckta, we noticed a 'new' (Summer 2006) restaurant on Nepean, the A'Roma Meze. May, ever curious, decided that last night was the night to discover this new venue.
Am I ever happy she did! The place is relatively small and awkwardly divided (the servers do not have a lot of room between the tables and the kitchen divides the space between the two dining rooms). The decor is modern-movie-greek inspirated with faux stone and pillastars, which makes it quite dramatic. I found the effect however, to be one of warmth and coziness which lent itself to appreciate the menu and the company of friends. Those are easthetics... however, the food, ooohhh, the food! Read on.
The staff is still working out the kinks of operating a new restaurant and our server scrambled to get us menus. The person I believe to be the owner came a chatted for a bit about the meze concept and wished us a happy meal. I could truely feel that he was genuinely interested in us having a good time. That certainly started the night well.
Meze is the greek/turk equivalent of the Spanish tapas. That is, little appetizer-sized dishes. The idea being to sample a lot of various flavours without overgorging (Wikipedia has some history on meze: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meze).
The food was superb: fresh produce, bold tastes, very high quality ingredients make every bite a pleasure for the senses. I found the meze presentation to be simple, yet elegant. I won't get into a lot of details or critique of every single dish since there were nine of them. Suffice is to say that everything was excellent. Actually, it was probably the best mediteranean food I had in Ottawa ever. Here's what we ordered:
Melitzanosalata dip; Roasted eggplant, garlic, onion, lemon and parsley.
Water Buffalo Mozzarella; tomatoes topped with incredebly fragrant micro-basil leaves, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I want to know where they get their mozzarella; it was so good!
Calamari two ways (not pictured); grilled calamari stuffed with orange, olives, feta cheese, and battered fried calamari.
Garides Me Ouzo; Black Tiger Shrimp cooked in Ouzo, with tomatoes, bell peppers and onions.
Fileto Exohiko; "Char-grilled filet mignon with a blend of peppers, feta and kefalograviera cheese fired with Ouzo and encased in phyllo pastry with garlic foam". I love everything exohiko!
Quebec Rack of Lamb; broiled rack of lamb in a traditional Greek marinade.
Keftedes; Ground meatballs with a hint of mint, with roasted garlic puree.
Seasonal vegetables; I just felt that we needed some extra veggies in there...
One thing I have learned in those foodie years: if a restaurant can make good vegetables, then it is more than likely that everything else will be good. It speaks to the sourcing and freshness of the produce and to the attention of the kitchen in preparing them. A'Roma's veggies are excellent.
Sea-bass skewers; with roasted tomatoes, garlic, and caper-olive aioli.
... and some sweets...
The Heavenly Trio; Halva (sort of a honey almond flan), Kataifi (shredded phyllo rolled with nuts and honey) and Baklava (grounds wallnuts and honey in phyllo pastry)
I think that the owner has captured the right balance of good food, a good wine selection, good ambience and a genuine desire to provide a great dining experience in a relaxed context. I predict we will be back to A'Roma a few times this summer...
For the three of us, with taxes and before tips, the total came up to $267.25, which is very reasonnable considering that $110 of these were for wine.
239 Nepean Street