I grew up on the North Shore, so that meant when we went out for Chinese, we split a pupu platter and some fried rice, along with a Scorpion bowl. This meant negotiating for the two fried shrimp, and cutting up the single egg roll. We learned about fairness, and justice, and duck sauce. As my tastes grew up, I found out that most decent Chinese restaurants offered richer pleasures than chicken fingers. However, I recall bringing an old friend to a nice Asian restaurant, and she was dismayed about the lack of a pupu platter, or even combo plates. “I don’t want to order just one dish!” she wailed to her Mai Tai.
I know how she feels. Tapas, antipasti, meze — they all offer samples of different flavors, textures, spices, to accompany some fine drinking with friends. I love to share food, because that means variety. And something else to talk about besides work and relationships. Sharing food isn’t for everyone, but it certainly seems more communal, more social, more global.
That’s what Committee is going for. This new Fan Pier meze bar offers Greek, Turkish, North African and other Mediterranean small plates (Meze is Turkish for taste, flavor, snack, relish) to accompany some fun and sophisticated cocktails. Many of the dishes are meant to be eaten with the table’s warm basket of pita bread.
This spot is by George Aboujaoude and Demetri Tsolakis of Cafeteria Boston on Newbury Street and the Bijou nightclub in the Theater District. The inside is all edison bulbs, wooden walls, wine cases hanging from the ceiling, and large plate glass windows, for a rustic, industrial design, says Tsolakis. The bathroom floors are heads-up pennies laid into concrete, and much of the wood was recovered from the nearby, now-closed Anthony’s Pier 4 restaurant.
What the restaurant team is especially proud of are their communal tables, where friends and strangers alike mingle at long tables in the middle of the room.
“The whole concept is to bring people together through food and drink,” said Tsolakis. “Those tables are very popular. We don’t have TVs either.”
In the front of the restaurant are cozy sofas and soft chairs, like a living room, perfect perhaps for a quick conference between lawyers and clients taking a break from the nearby courthouse, stopping in for a quick cocktail but reluctant to venture deep enough to hit the long bar near the back. There’s a room set off in the back, perfect for private parties. There are also patio seating outside, along the less-busy side street. What’s nice is that this side of the Seaport District is more after-work mellow rather than the long lines and party atmosphere down the street.
One night we sat at the community table, which was lively although a bit too noisy for me. It was a party, so we ate whatever they brought us. Another night, we sat in a cozy corner by the window, and asked our waiter for advice. Our waiter, David Quiroza, was enthusiastic and knowledgeable about all of the dishes and drinks. Quiroza pronounced the dishes perfectly. (He’s also an actor, so yeah, skills. But the wait staff gets tested on the menu, said Tsolakis.)
He explained that we should just order as we go, starting with cold meze, because the dishes will come out quickly. You’ll want to keep the menu nearby.
The table’s house snack was a big basket of pita, which went with most of the meze, and a complementary dip, tonight which was bean and artichoke puree.
We started with some cold meze to go with our cocktails, and worked our way up to some warm meze. For two of us, we were filled up after ordering about 5 dishes, plus the table snack, but we made room for dessert. I wished I had had room for the olive salad ($6) with hazelnut dukkah, and sesame oil; the salt-roasted beets ($7) with tahini and mint; and the Egyptian carrot salad ($8), coffee roasted with cardamom and tahini, white baby carrots, cardamom seeds. Oh, and if there’s a group, maybe the smelts, both of which were highly recommended. Next time…
For those looking to make their chunkier, spicier North African version of hummus, see chef Geoff Lukas: http://www.whdh.com/clip/11688506/whats-cooking-north-african-style-hummus
The bartenders are from Greece, Austria, and other parts of the world, so it’s an interesting cultural mix of mixology. Local beer and cider includes Maine Beer, Downeast , Mystic Brewery, Pretty Things, Cambridge Brewing, Opa Opa; and from Greece, Lebanon and Germany. We didn’t try any wine, but there’s 4 glasses of Sparklers and seven varieties of full bottles; five Roses, two by the glass, and a long list of white, including Retsina and other varieties from Greece. The restaurant actually sent Demetri Tsolakis off to study wine pairings, so if I can get past the fabulous cocktails next time, it may be worth asking for some advice.
See slideshow for what we ordered.
Baba Ganoush ($8, cold), was creamy and whipped to a light consistency. The flavors were mild, almost sweet.
The Kibbe Nay ($11, cold), is spiced raw lamb, emulsified harissa, and bulgur; it took a few beats for me to come around to the raw aspect, but it was delicious.
Calamari ($12, cold) marinated with tomato, shallots and caper relish, was buttery and melted in our mouths.
Saganaki ($14, hot) was fried greek cheese called kefalograviere, with gooseberry compote dressed in Metaxa, which was lit afire dramatically by the waiter.
Artichoke moussaka ($14, hot), artichoke, caramelized onions, potato, three-cheese béchamel, which is like Greek lasagna;
Manitaropital ($12, hot) spring mushrooms, green garlic, and phyllo
Lahmajun ($13, hot), spiced lamb with charred tomato, grilled black onions called nigella, and anise seeds.
Basturma Kaisarias ($13, hot) I couldn’t get enough of, a meat pie with yufka (paper-thin leaves of a phyllo-like dough), kasseri cheese, and air-dried beef.
The souvlaki ($16, hot) is marinated lamb, regain ?, and lemon, was also delicious
Yogurt marinated chicken skewers were tender and rich ($13 hot) with a spicy honey sauce.
One of our favorite dishes was the grilled octopus ($14) with orange, fennel, and caper berries. Meaty, sweet, chewy with that grilled smokiness flavor.
For dessert we devoured the Galaktobourekakia, (We had the waiter say this three times, and he never faltered) which was custard, phyllo and honey ($8), three pieces with blueberries and strawberries, and powdered sugar.
The Cuban Affair ($13), Dos Madera rum, fresh lime juice, vanilla syrup, and balsamic vinegar,not too sweet
Blood Orange Old-Fashioned ($14), Bullleit rye, blood orange syrup, grapefruit oleosaccharum, (an emulsified liquor) and old fashioned bitters
Mandarine Sour ($14) with Mandarine Napoleon, cognac, dry curaçao, vanilla syrup, fresh lemon juice, egg white, anorexic and orange bitters — it tasted like a creamsicle.
Bitter Mendez ($13) with Milagro tequila, pineapple juice, fresh lime juice, and celery bitters, for a grown-up kind of drink.
Pins & Needles ($13), Avua cachaca, a brazilian liquor, Lillet Rose, pineapple syrup, fresh lime juice, lemon and angostura bitters. juicy, rich, not too sweet.
50 Northern Avenue