Meze is the term for small plate dishes served in the Middle East and Balkans. At Ezmé (an anagram for meze), all dishes are served in this style. Usually I’m not a fan of small plates restaurants because they aren’t college-student-budget-friendly, but my mom was treating – Hvala Mama! – so I was well fed!
Our party of four shared three spreads served with their homemade bread, two salads, one “garden” appetizer, four meat dishes and four desserts. It was the perfect amount of food and it was really fun to be able to try a little bit of everything. We asked for everything to be brought out at once so we could be in full control of mixing and matching all the dishes. This is a long post though, so I’m organizing it by appetizers, salads, meats and dessert to make navigation easier.
For our spreads, we ordered the Ezmé ($5.95), Muhammara ($6.95) and Babaganush ($6.45). They were served with a delicious, warm loaf of the restaurant’s homemade bread, which was cut in a matrix pattern, making it really simple to pull apart and share.
The Ezmé spread was made of diced tomatoes, red peppers and onions and was served with olive oil and crushed red peppers. It looked and tasted like mild salsa.
The Muhammara spread was my favorite because I love roasted peppers. It was a roasted red pepper spread mixed with walnuts, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic served like a scoop of ice cream.
The Babaganush spread, a popular Mediterranean dish, was made of eggplants and tahini paste, flavored with garlic and red pepper sauce and garnished with an olive.
We also ordered the Sigar Boregi ($5.95) from the “garden” section of the menu. The boregi are “Turkey’s favorite cigar-shaped pastr[ies] stuffed with feta cheese, parsley and dill.” Serbia was once ruled by the Ottoman Empire, so it made sense that this dish was similar to the cheese-and-phyllo dishes my grandma makes. Unlike my grandma’s dishes, however, I thought that the cheese in the boregi was way too bitter and overpowering.
We ordered two salads, the Ispanak Salatasi ($7.95) and the Yesil Salata ($7.95).The Ispanak was a spinach salad served with fresh strawberries, mozzarella and pine nuts, dressed with an olive oil-pomegranate dressing. I liked the Ispanak salad, but I loved the Yesil salad. It consisted of mixed greens, sun-dried apricots, cucumber, cherry tomatoes and asparagus dressed with a basil vinaigrette. The apricots, a fruit not usually seen in salads, made this dish really special. They gave the salad a light touch of sweetness. The basil vinaigrette really reminded me of pesto sauce, a favorite of mine, making the salad even more amazing!
For the meats, we ordered Kofte ($7.95), Tavuk Kebab ($6.95), Sis Kebab ($9.95) and Kulbasti ($9.95). All of the meats were really fresh and delicious.
The Kofte were flattened beef and lamb meatballs that reminded me of mini versions of Serbian hamburgers, or pljeskavice.
The Tavuk Kebab was a grilled chicken dish served with a tomato relish on the side.
The Sis Kebab was a classic lamb skewer dish served with taztziki sauce.
My favorite was the Kulbasti, a lamb dish served on hot lavash (a tortilla-like flatbread) and with a side of ezme salad. The meat was so juicy and fresh. I really liked picking up the meat chunks with the lavash and dipping them into the ezme salad. It was kind of like a Turkish taco!
Dessert was definitely the highlight of the meal.
I ordered the Kanafeh, a traditional Turkish dessert made of wheat noodles, cheese and pistachios, doused in syrup. I was a bit skeptical when ordering this dessert, but the menu guaranteed that once I’d tried it, I’d be hooked. Indeed, the menu did not lie. I was served a golden brown dish that looked like a noodle pancake. When the waitress poured syrup over it, the kanafeh sizzled and crackled, absorbing the sticky sweetness throughout. I ate the dessert with afork and knife, like a personal pizza sans crust. The cheese, which I was worried about, was definitely prominent, but more for its texture than its flavor. The cheese had a light, neutral flavor that worked well with the dessert, acting as a binding agent to bring together all the flavors. The dish reminded me of a thin, sweet version of gibanica, Serbian cheese pie. Overall, the kanafeh was an amazing combination of textures – crunchy wheat noodles and gooey cheese – and tastes – smokey pistachios and saccharine syrup. This dessert is a must-try!
We had three more desserts on the table.
The Baklava was a tasty rendition of the Balkan favorite served with powdered sugar and a strawberry flower.
I don’t remember the actual name of the dessert pictured above, but it was basically a Greek yogurt parfait served with fresh strawberries and blackberries, sprinkled with ground pistachios and drizzled with honey. It’s a great and simple idea for a DIY parfait at home, but it was underwhelming as a restaurant dessert.
Another very memorable dessert was the Poached Pear, which was served with a scoop of lemon sorbet. The pear was soaked in wine and tasted like a cinnamon-spiced apple. The flavor was amazing and the fruit was so soft that you could scoop it with a spoon. The sorbet tasted homemade and was a nice complement to the pear.
Bottles of wine line the brick walls of Ezmé, making you feel like you’re in a wine cellar. Just like an underground cellar, the atmosphere is intimate and cozy, as this restaurant is fairly small. Beautifully painted Turkish tiles add fun pops of color to this otherwise earth-toned establishment.
Ezmé is truly a gem of a restaurant nestled in Dupont Circle; I strongly recommend it even if you just come for dessert!