Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sweet as Meli

by Xani

I don't know how many of you out there know this, but EP and I, well, we're pretty close. We spend a LOT of time together. And we're lucky to live close to one another (even closer now that I've moved-- we live on the same street!), and during the school year we work/go to classes only blocks away from each other. This makes it easy to get together for coffee breaks, lunches, etc, etc. But this summer, with EP all the way in Ft. Meade for her summer job, and both of us super-busy with various work, school, and personal obligations, it seems like there is hardly time for a catch-up email or text! WTF?!? So, last week we made a date to have dinner together and officially catch up. This was also a perfect excuse to try another restaurant on our list!

We decided to try Meli, the newest offering from the Kali's Court restaurant group. Meli is also located in Fells Point (right down the block from Mezze and Kali's Court), in a super-chic, multi-level space that includes a dining room, a cozy downstairs lounge, and a patisserie featuring a variety of sweet treats and coffee (and they're open for breakfast!). Also, the whole space is tied in with the over-arching theme of the restaurant: honey. Meli means honey in Greek, so in addition to honey appearing in many of the dishes, there are flowers on the walls and chairs, and honeycomb patterns on the ceiling and railing of the stairs. Sounds like it could be pretty tickity-tack, but we actually loved the decor and vibe of the whole place. It was upscale but we didn't feel under-dressed in our standard summer attire-- business casual clothes and Reef flip flops! (We know, it's "a lotta look," but after a day in heels, you can understand.) Lighting was nice, and service was friendly and super-helpful; we both agreed that the techno-ish music was out of place, as was the Vegas-casino-style carpeting, but we soon forget these small flaws as we dove into the menu!

While enjoying the bread (served with honey butter, natch), we decided, with the help of our friendly waitress, Danielle, to share a few starters and one entree. It was a tough decision! We finally ordered and after a tasty amuse bouche (tomato and cucumber with marinated onions on top) began with the soup du jour, a sweet corn chowder with old bay creme fraiche and a mini-crab ball.

This was excellent! So sweet and rich, with the fresh, summery taste of corn shining through. EP dug in first (tough to share a bowl of soup) and I was literally counting her spoonfuls, ready to stab her with a fork if she took more than her share! The mini crab ball was excellent, leading me to believe that the crab cakes here are a safe order, if you are into that type of thing. We ate every. last. drop. of this soup, and anxiously awaited the next course, which was grilled tomato salad, with m√Ęche, Fleur de Sel, balsamic honey, halloumi cheese, and a lobster mac and cheese, with cheddar and gruyere, Parmesan crust and cripsy onion rings.

Um, ok. This tomato salad was AWESOME. The tomatoes were perfectly ripe, sweet, and delicious, with a great smoky taste from the grilling. The salty, smoky cheese and tart balsamic were perfect complements. I was surprised they didn't grill the accompanying bread slices, too, but I didn't even WANT the bread, the tomatoes were that good. This dish and the soup were just everything wonderful about summer-- tomatoes, corn, crab, grilling. Just made me feel like summer is the best thing ever, and forget for a moment how bitter I am that my air conditioner is STILL broken!

I guess being in this summer mode made me slightly less excited about the lobster mac and cheese. It was good-- the crispy onion rings were perfectly crunchy, the sauce cheese-tastic and the pasta (a very intricate shape that EP and I had never seen before and couldn't identify) not over-cooked. But it didn't blow me out of my seat the way the truffle mac and cheese did when we were in the islands, mon. I will say it was a substantial portion and could be a satisfying meal in itself on a cozy fall or winter afternoon.

Finally, the entree: seared veal hangar steak with chantrelle mushroom ragout, asparagus, mashed potatoes and yucca chips. I was really excited to try this because I've never even heard of veal hangar steak before, although I really enjoy the beef version. We ordered it medium-rare (of course!) and it came out perfectly cooked, tender and flavorful. The mushroom ragout was fantastic as were the crunchy grilled asparagus, and yucca chips. The mashed potatoes were good, if a little dense, and they were the only thing that remained on the plate when we threw down our forks in defeat!

After dinner we continued to chat about EP's day in prison, her upcoming birthday, friends, family, and of course, FOOD! We lingered over a coffee and an espresso, as we were "too full" for dessert. But apparently Meli just couldn't send us away without something sweet, because on our way out, as we examined the various interesting honeys for sale in the bakery, an friendly employee offered us a box of homemade cookies, gratis! How lovely!

Somewhere between finishing our coffees and leaving the restaurant, we miraculously found room for a cup of sorbetto from Pitango, right around the corner. Half-lemon, half-Granny Smith apple was the perfect end to a lovely summer evening. I was so glad that EP and I could find time to share a great meal and spend some QT together. Let's do this every week!

Happy summer everyone!



  1. Damn does that all look awesome!! And I just ate!

  2. That tomato salad looks amazing. Tomato season hasn't hit here yet.. waaaahhhhh

  3. So what shape was the pasta? Curly, wiggly, round? your fans want to know.


  4. Meli is on my list too. (Even closer to the top after reading this!)


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