On my first night back in the Philippines for business, my co-worker Adam and I headed over to Greenbelt 2 to check out the restaurants. After walking up and down the row of restaurants, checking out the various menus, we decided on Mezze Restaurant and Bar, a small plates restaurant I had seen on previous trips to Manila, but had never tried.
All of the restaurants in the Greenbelt area are tastefully modern in their decor. Mezze was fairly empty when we arrived, with only two other small groups having dinner. We were a bit early, so the lack of a crowd didn't worry me. After being seated, our waiter brought by the menu. The page of small plate dishes was pretty extensive, and reflected a wide variety of ethnic dishes (Spanish, Greek, Mediterranean, Filipino). We decided to stick exclusively to the small plates, and ordered up a selection for our meal which included patatas bravas, a croquetta sampler, a gambas sampler, spanakopeta (note the generally accepted spelling should be spanakopita) , stuffed squash blossoms, salpicao, and a Mediterranean sampler called hors d'oeuvre mezze. The waiter asked if it was ok to bring out each plate as it was ready, which we agreed would be a good idea.
First up was the hors d'oeuvres mezze, consisting of hummus, baba ganoush, and a roasted pepper dip served with toasted pita chips. The hummus was unremarkable, as was the roasted pepper dip. The baba ganoush, however, was an excellent standout. It was much smoother than most baba ganoush I've had, and it had an excellent roasted eggplant flavor.
Almost immediately after the first dish arrived, our waiter returned with a large plate full of spanakopita, topped with parmesan cheese. The phyllo was light and crispy. My first bite, however, was also my last. In addition to spinach and feta cheese, Mezze also stuffed their pies with basil, which added a strong bitter taste to what would otherwise have been decent spanakopita. Basil isn't typically an ingredient in spanakopita, and a little might have added an interesting twist to the dish, but Mezze went overboard with it, ruining the dish completely.
The third dish to come out was the patatas bravas, consisting of crispy fried potatoes with herbs and a garlic-mayonnaise (ajo) sauce drizzled on them. These were great. The potatoes were perfectly browned and crispy as advertised. The ajo sauce added a nice balance to the potatoes, providing some additional moisture to the starchy potatoes.
After the potatoes came the croquetta sampler - two each of croquettas tres quezos (three cheese), croquettas jamon (ham), and croquettas chorizo (sausage). The three cheese croquettas contained swiss, edam, and cheddar cheese. They were steaming hot on the inside, and very cheesy. The cheeses blended well together, making it hard to identify the individual flavors. The ham croquettas also had mushrooms and truffle oil. The ham and mushroom went well together, but I couldn't taste the truffle oil. The third croquetta was stuffed with three types of sausage, bilbao, barbacoa, and pamplona. This was by far the best of the three, with the sausages really adding a nice punch to the croquettas.
Our next dish was another sampler. This time, it was shrimp. Four small bowls containing shrimp swimming in various sauces were presented to our table. They were shrimp in coconut curry, shrimp sauteed in spicy chili, garlic, and olive oil, shrimp cooked in pesto, and shrimp in crab caviar. The curry shrimp were good, but the other three varieties were not as exciting - it tasted as though the shrimp were undercooked. Further, the sauces overpowered the shrimp. A few more shrimp in each dish, or less of the sauces would easily solve the problem.
The second to last plate we ordered was squash blossoms stuffed with chicken sausage, and mozzarella, then breaded and deep fried and served with a romesco sauce. The breading and frying was well executed, but unfortunately, the chicken sausage had an overly livery taste that proved too distracting.
Our final dish of the evening was the salpicao oriente - sauteed pork tenderloin with garlic and spring onions. The pork was succulent and flavorful, although a bit salty. That's typical for salpicao, though, so I thought it compared well to other salpicaos I've tried.
All in all, our meal at Mezze was ok, but not spectacular. It started off fairly well, but there were enough poorly executed dishes spread throughout the meal that I probably won't be coming back during my next visit. There's definite potential in the menu, so I do hope that the chef comes to the same realization and makes some adjustments in the future.