551 J Street, Downtown San Diego
(Has gone out of business since this article was published.)
I had just enough forethought to book reservations at Mezé the night of the Paul McCartney concert at Petco Park — and it was a good thing I did, because the sign posted above the hostess stand warned potential walk-ins that they were out of luck.
When I say "just enough," I mean I went looking to get reservations at a couple other Petco Park area restaurants first, but was too late. With demand high that evening, I took a chance on this Greek-fusion spot I'd heard nothing about. I guess the family-owned restaurant has been there a couple years, and I'm starting to wish I'd heard about it sooner.
Encouraged by our waitress, we started with the baba ghanoush. I'm always optimistic when I order this dish, and yet so often underwhelmed when it arrives. Not this time. The eggplant spread was pure and smooth, the sliced pita warm with a slight char, perfectly suited to capture the garlic and sesame rich dish. Just about worth it at $9. According to the menu, containers of the restaurant's spreads are available for purchase, and I can see picking some up whenever I pass through the neighborhood, as I've rarely had it this good in San Diego.
For dinner, we bandied about a few different ideas — the Fiery Feta Mac'n'Cheese with Greek sausage and pita crumbs sounded mighty tempting, but ultimately we opted to share a Lamb Tenderloin Kabob ($28) and Combo Kabob ($16).
The combo mixed chicken and filet mignon, along with lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickled turnip, and lettuce, wrapped in a pita. It was pretty good — nice and sloppy with hummus and tzatziki, to the extent it fell apart in my hands, spilling tender chunks of meat onto my plate.
Better was the lamb. Beautifully grilled, succulent and tasty, served with basmati rice and grilled vegetables, and a side of tzatziki. It's with good reason this is the priciest menu item, as it was delicious. With a menu full of great sounding, more affordable alternatives, I can see most veering away from this lamb — opting instead for the falafel, beef and lamb mixed gyro, or a burger combining ground lamb, beef, pork, and feta. But I wouldn't hesitate to go for the lamb again. It's a winner.
Between the excellent, conscientious service and satisfying dishes, I like to think I was just a tiny little bit happier to be walking into that McCartney show than the other 40,000 in attendance. At the very least, more pleasantly surprised that I'd put together a pretty solid evening in East Village.