Wider Curry Reviews New Northern Mediterranean “Kecho’s Cafe” in Ocean Beach

by on April 25, 2012 · 19 comments

in Culture, Ocean Beach, Popular, The Widder Curry

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.

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Brittany Bailey April 26, 2012 at 9:11 am

Thanks for the review, Judy! I didn’t know this place had opened. I’m kind of morbidly curious just to try it myself to see if the flavors are more appealing to my palate– the pork loin sounds really good!


Jon April 26, 2012 at 9:45 am

Everuthing I’ve tried there has been excellent! I would take this review with a grain of salt. The reviewer obviously did not know what they were going out for. The flatbreads didn’t taste like pizza?? That’s because it’s not pizza. It’s a flatbread. 7 olives?? Seriously? You’re counting how many free olives you get? The list goes on. Cranky, uninformed review. I encourage everyone to try kechos. The staff is great and the food is excellent!


judi Curry April 26, 2012 at 10:36 am

Hey Jon, I only reported on what I tried at Kecho’s. I know that flatbreads don’t taste like pizza. I wrote that for others that may expect a similar taste. Yes, I am counting the “freebies” like I mention that at some restaurants you are served fresh bread and butter before your meal. I went there expecting a great meal. I do a lot of grocery shopping at the Olive Tree. I like them and their products and was waiting for the restaurant to open. I was greatly disappointed. I hope others have your experiences
rather than the one I had. And, by the way, I never add salt to my meals.


OB Mercy April 27, 2012 at 8:56 am

Small plates are also called Tapas. The Joint on Newport has very good Tapas and a surprisingly good sushi menu. I also like the new Raglan Public (where The Vine used to be…I miss that place!) where I had a very good organic burger and sweet potato fries. And some decent items on their all you can eat Sunday brunch. Not cheap, but good. I also love Mothers (in the old Dreamstreet location) on Bacon. Speaking of Bacon, they have a somewhat Bacon centric menu. The bacon wrapped shrimp stuffed with cream cheese with a tasty dipping sauce, and an amazingly good mac and cheese with Andoullie sausage and jalapenos are delish. Also very good burgers. Yumm!


dave rice May 3, 2012 at 10:05 pm

Aw, I miss The Vine too…especially since Christina and I only discovered it a few months before its demise and only got to enjoy it a handful of times.

Still, I’m excited to try The Joint, Mother’s (even though it’ll be bittersweet, I spent many nights humping band equipment in and out of the old Dreamstreet), and Raglan (even though it’s a re-branding of a PB [ugh!] hotspot), and even Kecho’s.

Alas, dinners out are largely a thing of the past in la casa del Dave – we’re going cheap trying to kill debt and save for the down on a condo, and I’m left too lazy to do much outside the house after the three-job shuffle. But the only thing worse than being too busy is not being busy enough, I’m having a blast getting to play in the kitchen for a while on my break every night, and our daughter is expanding her taste buds helping me harvest herbs and veggies from our little garden patch (if she grew it, she’ll eat it).

Even though I’m taking Judy’s review with a grain of salt (and that salt’s only place in my kitchen is in a pot of water boiling pasta), I still trust her taste and Kecho’s is probably going to end up dropping a couple spots on the list of new local places in line for me to try.


Dottie May 1, 2012 at 6:54 am

To quote my mother upon reading your review, ” looks like someone was having a menopausal moment when they sat down to write this…can’t understand her overly negative review of the best restaurant to open in OB in over a decade…maybe she’s got an inner grudge match raging because she couldn’t cut it in the kitchen and now sits at home marinating in her own sour grapes writing bitter reviews.”


judi Curry May 1, 2012 at 11:28 am

Hi Dottie, I’m not going to belabor this review but I want you to know that I had high hopes for the restaurant. OB needs more good restaurants that fit within the incomes of our residents. I WANTED to like this place; I had talked it up to my friends since it opened. I was disappointed. And…I called it as I “ate” it. BTW – haven’t had a “menopausal moment” for 30 years! What’s it like?


OB Mercy May 1, 2012 at 7:56 am

I haven’t tried this cafe yet, but let me just defend Judi here…she’s a published writer and in the middle of writing her THIRD cookbook. Either way, she IS entitled to her own opinion, just like your Mum.


Dottie May 1, 2012 at 5:04 pm

Judi, I’m a 22 year old who was readin the article for here visually impaired mother. Can’t comment how menopause is, but given your “long in the tooth” status, maybe you can give me some pointers.
Also, where are you cookbooks for sale? I’ve looked you up online with not one hit for a cookbook…just unjustly negative reviews.
Honestly, I don’t think your palate was up to par the night you visited…because the 12 times I’ve eaten there since opening in March, have been brilliant, mouth watering, and unbelievably delicious dining adventures!
Check them out again…but leave your attitude at the door…and seriously, stop counting the freebies…there FREE!!


judi Curry May 1, 2012 at 7:02 pm

Don’t quite know why I am responding to you, but perhaps it is because my credibility is being questioned and I resent it. I particularly resent it coming from a 22 year old. Menopause is funny – it affects each woman differently. (Read Patty’s column from a week back to see her experiences.) I think that you deserve to find out all about it by yourself – sort of like the pains of labor.

My cookbooks are out of print at this time. I am a breast cancer survivor of 17 years. I have two daughters that walk the Susan G. Komen 60 mile walk every year. The registration fee for each of them is $2600. It doesn’t take much to realize that amounts to $5200 for both of them to walk. I got tired of them asking my friends for donations every year, so I wrote the books – 2 years in a row – and donated all the proceed to their walking. I am out of the first book but do have a few copies left of the 2nd book. If you will send me your address I will be glad to send you a complimentary copy of the book, and I will even sign it for you. I’ll be nice in the dedication to you. In fact, if you would like to meet – say in front of Kecho’s – I’ll hand deliver it to you. I might even show you the copy of the first book.

Please remember that I was with someone the fateful evening of dining at Kecho’s.
We purposely ordered 4 different items so that we could taste different things. We were in total agreement about everything we ordered and had the same opinions about what we were served. It is true that my friend is older than you – but he is younger than me so I doubt if there was something wrong with his taste buds.

I hope you keep in touch with me as you age. A freebie can be an insult at the same time it is free – which you will learn as you age. Far be it from me to tell you how it is – you’ll learn.

Now….tell me how you want the cookbook to get into your hands.


judi Curry May 1, 2012 at 7:08 pm

Wish I had checked this out before I answered you. Put “Judi Curry cookbook” into your Google search. You will find it listed there.


Don Ridgway May 3, 2012 at 1:13 pm

We have enjoyed Kecho’s three times, and are headed back tonight. I say no more.


judi Curry May 3, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Enjoy tonight too.


Dottie May 3, 2012 at 4:05 pm

Sorry for the delay in response, but I’m a busy full time college student, who is her visually impaired mothers primary care giver, I train with Team in Training, and participate in 50-100 charity races a year.

Kudos for kicking cancer. And thanks for trying to pull the passive aggressive philanthropy card, well done. You aren’t the only one who gives back to the community, but again, nice try for trying to tug at heart strings.

And if by challenged, you mean threatened…that’s all on you and how you perceive yourself and your work. I merely asked where I could find your books so I could see where your flavor profile lies. Some people prefer light meals, with fresh herbs and citrus notes, while others prefer heavy cream sauces infused with fresh ground nutmeg.

Peace out and leave the food reviews to someone who actually likes food and appreciates the hard work that goes into every dish served.


OB Mercy May 3, 2012 at 10:14 pm

Bitter, party of one! Geez Dottie, stop being such a hater.


Frank Gormlie May 4, 2012 at 8:17 am

This made me chuckle, because I can remember when Jon – the 2nd commenter above – used that same expression on someone else – long ago.


dave rice May 3, 2012 at 10:12 pm

Ouch, sick burn yo!

-29 year-old who’s nowhere old enough to have the wisdom of a true grown-up but still remembers what a prick he was in his early twenties when he thought he knew everything


Gristmiller August 7, 2012 at 5:56 pm

I have eaten at Kecho’s several times and have found the food to be consistently excellent! I have some knowledge about well prepared food from lucky experiences paid for by someone else, (French Laundry, Chez Panisse, Travine, Domaine Chandon) and can say, without hyperbole, what they have going at Kecho’s is in the same league.


judi Curry August 7, 2012 at 6:52 pm

We are all entitled to our own opinion. I have been back, and the results, to my palate were the same as the original visit. Over priced for little food, that was not, IN MY OPINION, not that great.


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