Fort Worth Magazine — April 2012
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Restaurant Review
Courtney Dabney

Mezza: to nibble, savor, taste or relish

At Chadra Mezza, that means hitting the buffet line for an exotic array of tastes and textures at this Southside restaurant.

If you only like one particular Middle eastern dish and that is all you care to eat, then by all Means, order off the Menu. But, if you want to partake in one of the most mouth-watering and entertaining feasts in town, then i suggest you go with the full buffet. What better way to explore all that chadra Mezza has to tempt you with?

Chadra is a village in northern lebanon. It is the hometown of nehme ebitar, who is both chef and owner of chadra Mezza & Grill. He took the tastes of his childhood and presented them to an initially hesitant local audience. The first restaurant he opened was basically italian, where he added a few Mediterranean dishes to introduce them to his patrons slowly. Now locals in search of true lebanese fare seek him out and come in search of the real deal.

I could make a meal out of the crunchy fried pita chips and dips alone. But that would be such a shame with roasted lamb shanks and chilled king crab legs calling to me. The buffet is $8.25 for lunch on weekdays and $9.95 on saturday, while the evening buffet served on friday and saturday nights runs $15.95.

The babaganouj (pronounce it however you like — it depends on who you ask and what part of the Middle east they call home) is a roasted eggplant dip. This one is so light it seems almost whipped. You will find a version of hummus on most menus, but this one is heavy on the garlic, so share the love and make sure your dining companions get a spoonful on their plates too. Something you won’t find anywhere else is the red pepper and walnut dip called Muhammara, which is an invention of the chef and has a lovely natural sweetness to it.

Chadra Mezza is known for its heavenly chicken, which has nothing to do with lebanese cuisine and everything to do with sheer decadence. The chicken is stuffed with cream cheese and f loating in a rich cream sauce with sautéed mushroom caps and fresh spinach, all topped with bacon crumbles. A little goes a long way, but you just can’t help yourself. Another house specialty is the variety of hand-tossed brick oven pizzas. You may have already tried a generously topped slice at the rahr brewery, where chadra Mezza caters from time to time.

You will find two different kinds of lamb.

One is a fall-off-the-bone roasted lamb shank coated with Mediterranean spices. The other is a char-grilled thick cut lamb chop that is amazingly crusty and blackened. Help yourself to some Tabouli salad and soft, not too crunchy, Falafel with hints of ground cumin. There are fresh green salads, sliced fruits, and roasted vegetables to round out your feast.

You might choose to wash it all down with a refreshing Tamarind Margarita, which is sweet and tangy and almost punch-like. Tamarind spice paste is used liberally in Lebanon, and it is very traditional to mix this paste into summer-time drinks.

Whatever you do, save a little room to explore the ice-cream flavors of the night, ranging from Avocado Honey to Rose Petal to Turkish Coffee. The chef is a little like a mad scientist, and coming up with new and interesting versions has become his hobby/ obsession. Or, you might like to taste some of the most outstanding Baklava I have found anywhere in our area.

No matter what you are looking for, stamp your passport and take the full tour.
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