Does the mention of iced green juice, a trio of exotic dips with pita bread and spicy homemade vegetable soup served hot set your stomach grumbling? What about pita stuffed with warm falafel, Israeli salad, and a generous drizzle of tahini sauce? Stuffed pepper filled with sautéed mushrooms, a “mélange” of greens, and wheat berries that pop in your mouth when you bite into them? Will and I enjoyed all this and (just a bit) more when we ventured into Meze 119, a tiny vegetarian bistro located in the heart of St. Petersburg, FL.
Cozied up into a corner booth accented with colorful pillows, we started our meal with aforementioned green juice and then proceeded to nosh on a platter of dips including olive hummus, fava bean dip, and hummus topped with schug (a hot pepper paste that I love). The restaurant offers a variety of starters, including even more dips. The one critique I have is that I wish the spreads were brought up to room temperature, but then I realize I am being picky.
After appetizers we enjoyed a small bowl of soup that (gasp) actually came hot! How many times have you had soup come only warm, or worse–arrive cold? We have certainly experienced our fair share of this phenomenon, and so were delighted when we sipped our soup hot through to the last spoonful. This was soup from Mama that warmed you on the inside and held no pretenses. Squash and eggplant were cut large, and softened sundried tomatoes floated in each bowl. Though the portion seemed small, it proved satisfying while still leaving room for our entrees.
In somewhat of a reversal of the norm for us, Will ordered the stuffed pepper and I ordered the falafel pita. Both meals were delicious in different ways. Will’s entrée tasted earthy and yet looked so elegant with the wheat berry filling sort of neatly overflowing onto a plate drizzled with balsamic reduction swirls. My own meal had a roundness of flavor that seemed to satisfy every taste craving at that moment — think nutty, mellow, creamy, crunchy, warm.
The last two indulgences deserve a space all their own in this post. I will begin with the potato wedges that came with my meal. I cannot say that I have ever eaten or cooked such flavorsome potatoes in my life! Again, I must give credit for their arriving hot. Yet freshness aside, they tasted unbelievable. Think crisp on the outside and light and airy on the inside, with bits of garlic clinging to their golden exteriors. Think, vinegar? Is that vinegar? These potato “chips” had an elusive tang that both Will and I loved. The hot tahini dipping sauce served with them took this apparent side over the edge and really made it feel like a satisfying meal of its own.
Finally: decadence. Two generous scoops of vegan vanilla ice cream sandwiched between two vegan chocolate chip cookies that the cooks somehow baked soft and fudgy. Cold, melt-in-your-mouth vanilla set against chewy chocolate bliss. We were giddy at this point, filled with mirth that would last us into the evening. Thank you, Meze 119!