Saturday, January 5, 2019

Montclair's Zeugma Mediterranean Grill

I am not prone to gushing, but when I say “you need to get to this place,” believe me!

I was a guest at a press dinner (my meal was complimentary) a few weeks ago and visited Zeugma for the first time. They’ve been open over a year, and while I had seen clippings and heard chattering about it, somehow I never got there. This is  Mediterranean cuisine kicked up a notch. Read on for more details.

Executive Chef, Can Alp, who was born in Turkey, has designed a menu that blends middle Eastern dishes with European influences. For instance, his delicious “muhammara” is made with a sweet pumpkin puree instead of the usual red peppers and has a slightly spicy finish.
Beet Heaven

In his “beet heaven” dish, he takes labneh, the creamy yogurt spread popular now at many restaurants, and adds organic baby beets and lemon for a wonderfully bright and flavorful dish. 

Rip a piece of his homemade pita bread to drag through the “sauced eggplant,” redolent with green peppers, onion, and garlic, and you’ll be in heaven.
Turkish Dumplings

I could have made a meal of the “manti,” and the “borrek,” two dishes I was not familiar with. Manti are terrific little Turkish dumplings stuffed with shiitake mushrooms in yogurt sauce, and drizzled with paprika oil and parsley oil. Chef Alp rolls pastry and stuffs them with spinach and feta to create the delicate borrek. 

Not to be missed if you are a fan of grilled octopus is Zuegma’s version. A hearty serving with grilled zucchini topped with roasted pumpkin seeds, roasted cherry tomatoes, and a fabulous Kalamata olive dressing. 

Looking for a salad but something a bit different? Try the Roasted Artichoke and Kale Salad and you won’t be disappointed. A beautifully composed dish of baby arugula, artichokes, kale, mixed greens, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, sunflower seeds, blended together with a light lemon balsamic dressing.
Roasted Artichoke and Kale Salad

For my entree, I chose the grilled lamb chops. Although they were cooked slightly more than my requested medium-rare, they were seasoned perfectly, and served with a delicious black garlic roasted eggplant puree, a bit of harissa sauce, and a delightful side of fresh mint, arugula and parsley.

Chef Alp does double duty as Zeugma’s pastry chef, and wowed us with what’s known as “Z-Chef Special.” You can definitely see how his experience in Paris has influenced him here. He takes delicate French meringue, whips pastry cream with strawberries, and plates it on a gorgeous lake of raspberry sauce. 

As if that wasn’t enough, he brought us a delectable warm, dark chocolate fudge brownie topped with pistachio gelato and crushed pistachio. And then, the pièce de résistance a beautiful poached pear soaked in a spiced red wine with “floss” halvah, vanilla bean gelato, in a sangria reduction! Magnifique!

I loved that much of Zeugma’s menu is designed for sharing. Take advantage of the menu sections labeled “mezzes” (small appetizers) and “in the middle,” (slightly larger plates) and craft your very own Mediterranean feast.

To re-confirm my original sentiment of “Get yourself to this place!” a couple of weeks later I went back anonymously. And I’m happy to report that the food and service were just as good as I originally experienced. 

Zeugma is BYO but is also a retailer for California’s Domenico Winery, selling both full and half bottles (no wine by the glass).

They are open for lunch Monday-Friday, dinner every day, and brunch Saturday and Sunday.

Zeugma Mediterranean Grill
44 South Park Street

Hours and menu items subject to change.

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