Mezze: Refreshed & Reinvigorated

February 13, 2018

When Mezze went on a brief hiatus recently, its fans wondered what changes would come for a restaurant that's been a beloved bulwark of Bukit Damansara for nearly a decade. But a few weeks out of the public eye can't halt Mezze's momentum: The place is back, bigger and remarkably even better than ever.

First, bigger: While the main street-level restaurant remains the same ravishing venue, balancing its lively buzz with a lovely sense of intimacy, the lounge upstairs has been completely refurbished, taking up a much more sprawling space with multiple sections for both dining and drinking. It's simultaneously soulful and sleek, cosy and cool - perfect for an evening of kicking back with your closest companions. Customers at the lounge can order from both Mezze's kitchen downstairs as well as the new Fincch Sushi Room next door, accompanying an array of beverages with a focus on wines, whiskies, cocktails and sake.

Next, better: Mezze has long nurtured a reputation for bringing both rustic and sophisticated flavours from across Europe to KL, but its kitchen now transcends continental and cultural borders, reinforcing a global traveller's perspective of how food can tempt and thrill. Start with the Crispy Sushi Rice (RM36), twinning slick, luscious fish with crunchy grains for a textural treat, punctuated with the pleasures of tobiko, wasabi mayo and a sweetly mellow glaze.

Seafood also shines through the salmon ceviche, a killer interpretation of ceviche, with invigoratingly rich, pure flavours emerging from the ensemble of salmon cubes, mango and red onions with finely chopped herbs and lime juice. This could currently be our favourite ceviche in the Klang Valley.

To complete this triumvirate of triumphs, order also the Josperised Aubergine (RM36), with the eggplant charred for a tantalising smokiness in a charcoal oven, jazzed up with pomegranate, feta cheese, puffed quinoa, chilli lime yogurt and sour cream for an elaborate visual masterwork that tastes every ounce as terrific as it looks.

Chicken, beef or pork: Mezze proves versatile with all manner of protein - chicken thigh is marinated with Korean chilli flakes and partnered with pickled red chillies (RM28), beef pastrami is chopped and layered with a marmalade of streaky bacon bits on thick, crusty sourdough slices (RM28), while the sticky pork is succulent perfection, rounded out in a nuanced preparation with toasted cashews, buttermilk, pickled shallots and apples in a tamarind BBQ sauce (RM28). Lip-smacking to the last chew.

For main courses, customers have plenty to pick from. Need a light nibble? The mentaiko pasta seems prudent, not overwhelming in portion but pulling more than its weight in terms of flavour, saturated with pollock roe, butter, tobiko, lemon juice and parsley (RM38).

The grilled sea bass is a wholesome choice, marinated with Asian spices and coupled with Thai-style mango salad for extra vibrancy (RM54).

Perennial favourites like pork ribs and beef steaks receive their due here, and then some. Four hundred grams of the former are slow-cooked for no less than 24 hours, with tender flesh marinated with a smoky whisky BBQ sauce, finished off on the Josper grill and served with mashed potatoes for a can't-beat-that combo (RM82); the latter might be best ordered as a French rib eye, showcasing the Charolais cattle of Burgundy (RM98 per 100 grams), a paragon of meat at its confident prime.

Mezze will operate as usual throughout Chinese New Year, with a host of seasonal specialities that span classic yee sang to French-inflected 'bak kut teh' (infused with honey and sage, simmered in beef stock with Granny Smith apples). 

But the piece de resistance is probably the roast piglet, prepared with a mustard marinade, served with mustard-and-horseradish sauce and a mixed salad; it might be one of the most memorable platters to share this season, blessed with both flavour and texture, mighty meaty in a worthwhile change from the Chinese-style suckling pigs that typically reign over the Lunar New Year (RM388; requires advance order of at least 24 hours). The restaurant takes so much pride in the piglet, it plans to continue offering this even beyond Chinese New Year.

A slice of the now-famed Spanish-inspired burnt cheesecake from Mezze's sister venue, Huckleberry, and Crepes Suzette, authentically executed with Grand Marnier, butter, caramelised sugar, orange juice and zest, wrap up our feast on Mezze's comfortingly familiar Euro notes.

While we've long loved Mezze as a destination for wining, we've never truly thought of it for cocktails. That changes now too, with the Huckleberry Hospitality Group's new Director of Mixology, James Estes, having crafted a selection that makes Mezze a viable contender for some of our favourite cocktails so far in 2018.

Whisky and sake cocktails headline the highlights, alongside the likes of the Tamarinda (RM40), which is heady indeed, a compound of Colombo gin and vanilla that's lengthened with soda, pink grapefruit, kaffir lime and tamarind, for the sort of wickedly potent potion that'll revive the sweatiest soul on a sultry, sweltering night.

Many of these creations convey a rich appreciation of the history and heritage of cocktails - comprehending the past in order to construct a better future. Las Ramblas (RM55) is a twist on the nearly 100-year-old Boulevardier, classically made with bourbon whiskey, vermouth and campari, not terribly far off from a Negroni. Here, Mezze makes the Las Ramblas with (deep breath) a blended Scotch and a smoky Laphroaig 10 Year Old single malt, ready to mingle with artichoke bitters, creme de mure blackberry liqueur for an initial sweetness and coffee beans for a final bitterness, with umeshu bringing it all home. There's a lot going on in one drink, but it comes together in heavenly harmony. Bonus fun fact: This 21st-century take on the Boulevardier is named for James' favourite boulevard, Barcelona's most celebrated street.

It's clear that even the cocktails merit their own write-up, especially since there are a few Chinese New Year cocktails available through March 3.

Gwai Lo Means Gringo might raise a chuckle for its witty name alone, but it's also well worth ordering - as its name implies, it marries Oriental and Hispanic elements, this time reinterpreting Mexico's Paloma cocktail, taking the traditional tequila base and substituting grapefruit with pomelo, allied with house-made hibiscus syrup that delivers both a lustrous tartness and a light redness to represent the Chinese colour of prosperity, enriched further with egg white and double cream. A cocktail that succeeds on every level, auspiciously priced at RM38.

Dog Day Afternoon (RM38) is also ideal for ushering in the Year of the Dog, suitably refreshing, blending oolong tea-infused gin with aromatised wine, orange liqueur, lemon juice and a breath of baijiu, the strong Chinese distilled spirit that's introduced here in an easy-to-enjoy fashion, in a beverage with a soothing sort of sourness. More trivia: The cocktail's name is also a nod to one of James' favourite movies.

Five more for the road, from Mezze's regular cocktail repertoire: Sake It To Me (RM45) casts the spotlight on sake, made complex, crisp and citrusy with lemongrass-infused vodka and calamansi, embracing an uplift from a little lava salt and a splash of depth from pink peppercorn.

Japanese Dream (RM40) is a elegant companion piece to that, a medley of Ocho Blanco tequila with jasmine tea syrup that also serves to showcase the sparkle of sake, elevated with plum bitters that demonstrate how delight can be discovered in the details.

Penicillin (RM45) is medication we wouldn't mind a second round of, merging blended Scotch and Lagavulin 16 Year Old with the healing properties of honey, ginger and lemon, while the Geisha Martini (RM55) is as graceful and gorgeous as its namesake, wedding vodka with vanilla, lime, passionfruit and sparkling sake.

For a final nightcap, have the McIlroy Sour (RM65), named after the golfer for a reason. James met Rory while he was experimenting with making a drink at a London club in 2012, and Rory helped him to fine-tune the balance for what turned out to be this riff on a whiskey sour. Teeing off with Eagle (heh) Rare Bourbon, Bacardi 8, Benedictine, Ceylon tea, lemon and egg white, it's the bartender's equivalent of a hole in one.

Many thanks to Mezze for having us.

132 Jalan Kasah, Medan Damansara, Kuala Lumpur. 
Open Mon-Thurs, 4pm-1am; Fri-Sat, 12pm-12am. Tel: 03-2095-0122

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