Mezza Mediterranean Grille
Baba ghannouj, an appetizer I sampled recently at the new (since March) Mezza Mediterranean Grille in Southfield, completely lived up to the restaurant group’s descriptive bywords: “Healthy. Fresh. Delicious.”
I’ve never enjoyed a better rendition of the smoky chargrilled eggplant dip made with tahini, lemon juice and garlic. It’s available a la carte or as part of the Mezza Starter, a trio of appetizers I recommend that includes wonderfully creamy hummus, a blend of chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice and hint of garlic, and tabbouli, a mixture of fresh parsley, tomatoes, scallions and cracked wheat tossed with a house-made olive oil and herb dressing.
Accompanied by a basket of hot pita pockets from the onsite stone-hearth wall oven and its irresistible zatar — a dipping mixture of olive oil, herbs and sesame seeds —there’s no better introduction to Middle Eastern cuisine. You and a companion could share the bread and appetizer plate, then order soup and call it a very fine meal.
But wait, there’s more! A lot more.
Mezza’s complete menu of Lebanese-style food and raw juices, smoothies and elixirs helped make a customer favorite of the spacious, original West Bloomfield location. It opened several years ago at 4189 Orchard Lake Road at Pontiac Trail. Appealing to all tastes, Mezza also offers selections in the categories of pizza, pasta, stir-fries, seafood and “Mama’s home cooking,” which lists stuffed cabbage and (Tuesdays only) lamb shank.
Realizing they were on to something, husband-and-wife owners Samir and Louann “Mama Lou” Saleh opened more Mezza brand restaurants.
The lovely spot I visited on Southfield Road, south of 13 Mile, is in the same retail strip as Bake Station. Peter Said is the manager. Mezza’s designer/contractor Mark Minier gave the 55-seat room an upscale decor featuring natural materials like limestone, granite and glass, and bringing in the corporate logo’s five spice colors. Strikingly lovely are the small, handmade glass lamps from Turkey.
When it comes to Mezza’s most popular entrees, Samir makes it simple: “If you like beef, our beef kebab is to die for. If you’re a chicken lover, our chicken kebab is to die for. And our lamb chops are also to die for.”
Don’t die — order one of them for lunch or dinner!
Other dishes recommended here are deboned chicken and fattoush (a type of salad) with grilled chicken. The chicken is uniformly juicy and flavorful. Portions are generous here and, by the way, the servers are efficient and friendly.
The same array of soups is offered daily. They are crushed or whole lentil, perennial favorites in Middle Eastern cuisine, but also tomato basil and lamb vegetable. I tried the latter, a delicious, hearty stew of potatoes, peas, carrots and other vegetables with lean lamb chunks.
Mezza Mediterranean Grille also has a location at 1001 Welch at Pontiac Trail in Commerce Township, and a Mezza Express & Bakery (carryout) at 1413 N. Adams in Rochester Hills. A fifth Mezza, offering beer and wine, will open in May at the shopping destination called the Village of Rochester Hills, Walton at Adams. Coming in September or October will be the largest Mezza restaurant to date, inside the new Ernst & Young headquarters in Downtown Detroit.
Would the Salehs ever expand Mezza beyond the local market?
Samir, a Lebanese-American and former chief area director of the Max & Erma restaurant chain in Detroit and Toledo, said, “Never say no to an opportunity.” He and Louann, originally from Canada but “all Lebanese,” are in their mid-40s now and presumably possess enough energy along with ambition to keep growing their brand.
Open daily, Mezza’s business includes catering for every occasion. With most of its dishes suitable for a vegan diet, Samir counts Temple Israel in West Bloomfield as a regular and satisfied customer.
30720 Southfield Road
Southfield, MI 48076
$$ 1/2 out of $$$$$