Mezze - Cozinha do Médio Oriente - Mercado de Arroios, Rua Ângela Pinto, 12, Lisboa, 1900-067
They fled Syria to Portugal and brought a piece of their culture with them: gastronomy. And of course the traditions of their country.
I am talking about the Syrian refugees who founded Mezze, a Syrian restaurant that opened in Lisbon in 2017 and has become one of the highlights of the Arroios area. The space was created by Pão a Pão - Association for the Integration of Refugees from the Middle East.
Only recently I had the opportunity to eat here so it is today's highlight.
After several unsuccessful attempts to get a dinner table (they don’t make reservations), I changed my plan and took my mother to Mezze for a midweek lunch. In fact, she was the one who piqued my curiosity about the restaurant after reading an article in Timeout about Syrian food and insisting non-stop with me that we had to try it out.
I have never visited the country that is now in ruins but I have been to many countries in the Middle East and I’m a fan of this type of food that mixes so many vegetables with tasty olive oil and sauces and the secret ingredients that make this food so characteristic and tasty.
So, sunny day in Lisbon. The Arroios market was vibrating with life around it and Mezze isn’t full. Lucky for us! This is a good sign considering that the restaurant is always full for lunch and dinner. The space is very cozy, with light brown tables and chairs that match the brightness that comes through the large glass windows that look outwards. The white painted walls give a warm feeling of peace and harmony.
We were greeted with a smile by one of the employees who directed us to one of the tables. The menu looks long but it’s understandable. After all, there are five menus, each with four dishes that can be shared. For those who like to know in detail what they are going to eat, don’t worry cause it’s explained what ingredients go in each dish.
We chose option 5 which comes with babaganoush (roasted eggplant puree, tomato, walnut and pomegranate syrup), kebseh (smoked rice with peppers), tabbouleh (chopped parsley salad, bulgur, tomato, and onion), meshawi (lamb kebabs). with yogurt sauce) and Khubz which is flatbread. The concept of Mezze is interesting: food only comes to the table when all four dishes and bread are prepared. This is how you eat in Syria and here the goal is to keep the tradition.
From everything I tasted, I was glazed with babaganoush. Eggplant is not a vegetable I approve but in this case, it was delicious. The flavors are fantastic, fresh, refined without exaggeration. A nice surprise that could convince a skeptic of eggplants, like me.
Gradually the space began filling with people, distinct from each other, which gives the feeling that Mezze is a truly multicultural space where people are welcomed and accepted as they are. The attention of the employees to the customers and the dedication of the cooks only added more pleasant to the satisfaction of a delicious meal. I got to tell you, the rice is a kind of secret weapon of the restaurant. I had never tasted anything similar and it goes so well with everything. You can fill a piece of bread with it and just eat it.
The idea of the dishes coming together gives an interesting feature to the meal since some dishes are hot, others cold, others with refined flavors and others even quite simple. This mix of sensations makes the experience never dull.
The price was incredibly affordable for two people.
Now I understand why Mezze always has a full house and I’m really happy I could be part of it.