Oh Boy! There are several new restaurants that have opened in Ocean Beach that I want to try. The first one I watched getting ready for opening day was quite a surprise. I thought it was going to be an extension of the Italian restaurant next door. Imagine my surprise – and I would venture to guess that many others were surprised also – when a “Northern Mediterranean” restaurant by the name of Kecho’s Cafe opened up at 1774 Sunset Cliffs Blvd. It is just a few steps away from the “Olive Tree Market”, and is owned by the same people.
It is very small, with limited seating in the front of the building and a long hallway opens into a patio where there is also limited seating. When we arrived at 5:15pm, there was a large party in the patio area, and only two tables available in the front part of the restaurant. We chose to eat in the patio.
The hostess was pleasant enough and told us we could sit anywhere we wanted to sit. We chose a table that was at the extreme back of the patio, and although it was a chilly night, we were comfortable.
As we were being seated, we were asked if we wanted water and olives. A strange question we thought, because we did not know if we would be charged for the olives, and/or the water. I noticed that everyone when being seated was asked the same question. We said “yes” to both and the water was served from a large carafe, and 7 olives were served from an olive dish. I have never been able to understand why, if there are two people dining , an odd number of items (olives) are served. The physical plate was interesting: The plate, tiny, was sectioned off into two areas; one with the 7 olives and the other section empty for the pits. I couldn’t help wondering how sanitary that was.
We should have been prepared for the meal, for one of the first things we noticed on the menu was the following: “Small plates, only small plates, and nothing but small plates.” Believe me when I say this was certainly the case. I apologize to the reader because I did not have my regular camera with me and had to take pictures from my cell phone. They do not show the size of the plate adequately, nor do they do justice to the attractiveness of the ordered dishes.
The menu was not what we expected for a “Northern Mediterranean” restaurant. The first items on the menu were salads/soup, ranging from $5 to $8.50 for a spinach salad that boasted sautéed field mushrooms, crisp Pancetta, dressed with a gorgonzola balsamic vinaigrette. There was only one soup listed, a Cannellini Bean Soup with sausage, carrots, onions, celery and herbs for $5. It should be pointed out that the soup was Gluten Free as were many of the items on the menu.
We ordered the Horiatiki Salata, which consisted of ripe tomatoes – 5 slices – cucumbers – 3 slices – red onions – 2 slices – bell pepper – sliced so thin it was difficult to get it on the fork; Kalamata olives – 5 – feta cheese, which we elected not to have – and dressed with herbed red wine vinaigrette. This was served on a very small plate, and cost $7. We had decided to share it before we ordered it.
The next item on the menu was a variety of Flatbreads. My friend had the “Salsiccia Spicy Italian sausage”, caramelized onion, roasted red peppers and mozzarella flatbread for $8. Sad to say it was not very spicy; was dry when biting into it and left a “greasy” feeling after the meal was over. It should be noted that Flatbreads, when fixed like Pizza’s, do not taste anything like a Pizza. There were six slices of flatbread, served on a very small plate. This flatbread actually didn’t taste like anything.
There was a section of “Vegetarian Mezzes”, which included Spanikopita, Polenta, Bagna Caoda, Gnocchi and Piatro to Tiri. We did not order from that section, but we did order from the last section, “Meat and Seafood Mezzes.”
Listed in this section was Kalamarakia (Calamari); Grilled Spicy Italian Sausage, A chicken dish; Braised pork loin with fig and port sauce, served over sautéed spinach. Also available was a Scampi dish, Grilled sea bass and grilled lamb chops. We ordered the Braised pork loin at $11. This, too, was served on a very small plate. The pork was not very tender and the sauce of fig and port was just too sweet for the dish. The spinach, although cooked well, was tasteless. There were two medallions but we did not finish the second one – not because it was too big – after all, the plate was small – but because it was, quite frankly, not very tasty.
My friend, when asked what he wanted to drink asked if they had ice tea and he was told that they did. However, when it was brought to the table it was a $3 bottle of Passion Fruit ice tea and he turned it down. We were told that was the only ice tea they serve.
The menu states that the Chef, William McRae, “ . . . . believes that to eat ‘Mezzes’ style is to eat free from rules. We have taken that small piece of European and Greek culture and made it work for our life-style.”
When we arrived home, I looked up the definition of “Mezzes” and found the following:
is a selection of small dishes served in the Mediterranean and Middle East as an appetizer course, with or without drinks….
I did not know that I would be eating only appetizers. (That accounts for the fact that I was hungry two hours later.) But would I go back knowing that now? I’m afraid I wouldn’t. Although the presentation, albeit small, was attractive, the food tastes were not to my liking. And lest someone say that I am a “meat and potatoes” type of person, I need to point out that I have written two cookbooks, with a third “almost out of the oven.” I fancy myself a gourmet cook, but would not make, or serve, any of the recipes we had this evening. All in all, the $28 that we spent tonight could have been better spent.