Review: Mediterranean Grille

Discussion in 'Food' started by ClearThunder, Aug 20, 2018.

  1. ClearThunder

    ClearThunder VIP

    Nov 23, 2012
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    After several exhaustive months of eating fine food at Alfredo's Mediterranean Grill & Steakhouse in Charles Town, I have come to the enviable conclusion that you don't have to leave home to sample and enjoy the great cuisines of the world. Or, at least the cuisines of countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea.

    Alfredo, the owner, serves up an eclectic menu that represents the 'comfort foods' from Iran and the Middle East, Greece, Italy, France, Spain, and Africa (Morocco), plus a Lebanese vegetarian dish. As a tribute to the former Turf restaurant that was once at this site, some elements of their old menu still survive. But to come here and order a steak is like going to a crab house and ordering a hamburger.

    The stars here are the incredibly complex and pleasing flavors and aromas that come from the main courses, starting with a trip to France. French food is one of my favorites, and the Mediterranean doesn't disappoint. The Coquilles St Jacques ($19.99) takes large scallops and turns it into culinary heaven. Served over rice, which was perfectly cooked, it was covered in a thick, rich, butter and white wine sauce made with whole cream and plenty of fresh herbs. The scallops were buttery and tender, and the white wine they were sauteed in added a hint of sweetness. The dish was pure ambrosia.

    There are only two French dishes on the menu. And honestly, after enjoying this one, they don't need to add any more. If you want decadent French food, this dish, or it's counterpart, made with shrimp ($18.99) instead of scallops, is a no-brainer.

    Before dinner, me and my guests shared several appetizers, which I normally shun away from since it leaves less room for the entree. But then, that's why God made take-out boxes. And I didn't mind taking some leftovers home because the appetizers were almost a star until themselves. We tried the Sausage-stuffed Mushrooms ($9.99) and I could have honestly had them for my dinner. Large caps were stuffed with a mixture of Greek-spiced sausage and melted feta cheese. I also sampled the Dolmeh ($7.99), a popular dish in the Middle East (and especially, Israel), but scaled down to appetizer size. Grape leaves were steamed and rolled with a special mixture of ground beef, cooked with onions, garlic, minced cucumber and tomatoes.

    Having had Middle Eastern food right from the source before, I was eager to try Alfredo's rendition of those dishes and found that they were the same foods your average family in Iraq, Iran or Jordan would serve at mealtimes. Lamb and Chicken are the predominant foods of the Middle East. And either one is a sure bet here. While Kabobs are served as snacks and appetizers in the Middle East, Alfredo makes them meal-sized. I just had to have the Kabob Chengeh ($13.99) --- a 'comfort food' (in Iraq, anyway) that featured two-bite chunks of lamb, perfectly grilled, with chunks of onions, squash and tomatoes. Although not traditional with this dish, I ordered mine served with Basmati rice --- an especially flavorful side dish until itself. The kabobs are served sitting atop the sweet rice, and make a pleasing and colorful presentation.

    I also sampled the Khoresht e Bademjan ($11.99), another dish that is popular in the Middle East ----- for those well-to-do people that can afford beef, which is extremely expensive there. But here, it's one of the least expensive items on the Persian menu. Marinated steak is grilled to order and served in a thick lentil 'soup' made from beef stock and chocked full of sliced eggplant, then served over Basmati rice. Although I don't really like the dish (I'm not a big fan of eggplant), I found it to be very authentic. Pungent herbs gave the steak a bold flavor, and the lentils --- eaten with the rice --- make for an interesting texture to say the least. The eggplant was ….. well …. I'm sure it was good for those who like eggplant. My friend did, and it was given a thumbs up.

    One of my guests was a hopeless lover of Italian food. So I ended up sampling a bite (to my delight) of one of my favorite Northern Italian dishes; Veal Marsala ($16.99). The veal portion could have been larger, but it was tender and redolent of Marsala wine – a dish sauteed with sliced mushrooms and a thick wine and olive oil sauce. It came served over pasta, which puzzled me because a true Marsala is not served over pasta, but rather, pasta is served as a side. My guess was the pasta added the extra bulk needed to make it a filling dish (and justify the price) since the veal is authentically pounded thin.

    My last two visits were a quest to complete my culinary journey around the Mediterranean Sea. On a recent Lunch outing, I had a hunkering for some Greek food. I've always liked Greek cuisine, and am hopelessly addicted to Gyros. Unfortunately, the Gyro ($8.99) here wasn't to my liking. The pita (flatbread) was too thick and chewy, and it spent about ten too many seconds on the flat grill getting toasted. The Tzatziki yogurt sauce had a very strong cucumber taste that stayed with you long after you exited the parking lot. But the lamb was juicy, tender and flavorful. It saved the dish. Skip it if you decide to drop in for Lunch, and opt instead for the Chicken Kabob ($9.99), a traditional, quickly prepared skewer of juicy, Saffron-marinated chicken breast, divided by root vegetables. Accompanying the kabob is your choice of Basmati rice or a Greek salad. The latter was a bit too tart for me, which means it was the real deal.

    The Mediterranean region also includes Spain. So a culinary trip isn't complete until you enjoy Spanish cuisine which, for some reason, isn't something Americans have embraced, possibly because they relate it to less-expensive Mexican or Hispanic dishes. The fact of the matter is that Spanish food ---- dishes indigenous to southern Spain, are almost gourmet. And at the Mediterranean, they are gourmet.

    Pollo a la Castellana ($15.99) blends a juicy, marinated and sliced chicken breast in a decadent lemon cream sauce loaded with butter and sauteed with capers, artichokes (absolutely essential for authenticity) and red bell peppers. The flavors of the capers and artichokes were complex but satisfying, although the lemon flavor of the sauce maybe was a bit (?) overpowering. Like all Spanish dishes on their menu, you have the choice of having your meal served over rice or pasta. My guest opted for the rice, which was the Basmati rice normally served with Middle Eastern dishes. Not authentic Spanish, but a meal that is worth languishing over. If you normally don't eat chicken when you're dining out, I'll suggest that you should make an exception for this wonderful Spanish dish.

    They know seafood in Spain, too. A lot of people don't think of the words 'Seafood' and 'Spanish' when talking about that cuisine. But since Spain has 3000 miles of coastline, I think it's fairly safe to say they probably know how to prepare a 'few' dishes from the sea. And with a meal like Camerones al Ajillo ($16.99), you'll see (and taste) why. An amazingly simple dish of large Shrimp sauteed in copious amounts of thick, extra virgin olive oil and minced garlic and served over a choice of rice or pasta. The shrimp was a bit chewy for me, but had a wonderful, grilled taste that made me look past that transgression. The olive oil, butter and garlic sauce was just viscous enough to coat all the pasta, spreading the flavors throughout the dish, with the smokey shrimp being the star.

    Vegetarians will find plenty to savor at The Mediterranean, which also serves African cuisine from Morocco, and a Lebanese salad called Falafel ($11.99). The latter being fried garbanzo beans (aka 'chick peas') served over fresh greens. From Morocco, the classic Couscous ($11.99) is served with steamed vegetables, cranberries and walnuts. Made with Lamb stock, the Couscous (thanks to the server for the sample!) is as good as anything you'd get in Rabat. There's also a house pasta dish with peppers, artichoke hearts, olives, sun-dried tomatoes and zucchini. The portions are huge.

    Service was attentive without being intrusive. Our water glasses were kept full, and I didn't have to ask for a second cup of coffee.

    For those who do not have adventurous palettes, you'll be glad to know that some of the most popular dishes from the old 'Turf' restaurant are still on the menu, such as their Filet Mignon and NY strip steak, to their lump crabcake, fried oysters and fish & chips. Unfortunately, no Prime Rib. Kind of odd since Alfredo touts his respect for tradition at the old 'rib room,' yet still omits a dish that was once the biggest draw, albeit their namesake. Maybe later it will reach the menu, again? perhaps?

    There is a full liquor bar and several bottled micro-brewed beers. The wine menu naturally offers wines from the Mediterranean. Spanish, French and Italian wines are all represented, and round out your culinary adventure.

    The Mediterranean is a gem for Jefferson county. To experience foods that people on the other side of the world enjoy all the time, authentic, and without venturing far from home, is a real treat. The Mediterranean is located at the site of the former Rib Room, at 741 East Washington Street. Hours are Monday through Saturday from 11:00am – 10:00pm, and Sundays from 11:00am – 7:00pm. Their telephone is (304) 724-9992. They have a take-out menu, and they cater.

    CT's recommendation; This is a must-dine in Jefferson county if you want food that is truly different and incredibly delicious.
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2018
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