The Mediterranean, Concord CA
We couldn’t decide what to do for dinner tonight, so we flipped a coin and The Mediterranean in the Concord Park-And-Shop won. Besides having a great dinner, we also met the gracious owner and learned about her restaurants (we didn’t realize there is another location in Walnut Creek, and there used to be one in Berkeley).
This hummus was great, made from fresh ingredients prepared in house. It was very creamy in texture, and tangy with mild garlic. Even though Zach could make it himself, it’s something we would get in a pinch, say, if August had to provide snacks for an afterschool meeting. Of course it was great for scooping with the pita bread, and we imagine it would be a good spread on a sandwich, too.
Nearly 2/3 of the menu is vegan, including all the fresh salads. The tabbouleh was strongly green and very refreshing with parsley, tomato, green onion, cucumber, bulgur wheat, and lemon oil dressing. The mujaddara, totally new to both of us, was a lentil salad with rice, golden fried onion, tomato and cucumber. This was much more savory and earthy; as August put it, what tabbouleh is to summer, mujaddara is to autumn. August really enjoyed the lemon and bulgur wheat elements of the tabbouleh, and Zach particularly liked the mujaddara, especially for the onions and lentils.
Either she’s getting good at identifying flavors, or the house-made dolmas were that simple yet tasty. “Lemon, olive oil, rice, grape leafs, and some spices,” said August. When the ingredients are that easy to identify, you know they are quality.
Keeping with the vegan theme, we got the falafel deluxe. Falafel, eggplant, potato, cucumber salad, seasoned onion, parsley, and tahini sauce arrived wrapped in lavash bread (both vegan and Passover-friendly). August was happy that the falafel wasn’t overspiced, yet you could hardly call it mild. The sesame, chickpeas, and curry blend gave it a very rich meaty texture, kind of like liver or pate. The grilled eggplant added a velvety ribbon through the wrap.
Now, for some meat! August is forever loyal to lamb; as long as it’s treated well and not mislabeled as mutton, she’ll eat it. Zach is the picky one, and this passed the test. Some people might be fooled into thinking the lamb is grass-fed beef, because it had a very mild flavor. The way the shawerma was wrapped, we were left with meat on one side and vegetables on the other, which was great for switching between bites of the spiced lamb and the cooling tomatoes, parsley, and onions with tahini sauce.
The traditional desserts are delicious and two of them are vegan – even the baklava that the owner makes herself with oil instead of butter. August has had baklava before that was sopping wet with honey, and she’s also had it so dry that it stuck to her teeth on the first chew. This, though, had the texture like a perfect Butterfinger. It was flaky but not crumbly, and crunchy yet still with some pull to it. The Turkish Delights, the other vegan treat, were like nuggets of floral, flourless, gummy fruitcake. With plentiful nuts and bergamot orange-flavored jelly, these were dense and flavorful bites. The burma had a pistachio filling and the shredded filo dough shell was halfway between a cookie and a pastry, but all the way tasty.
Freshness, quality, and economics combine for a great meal to satisfy your taste buds, stomach, and wallet. If you can find a spot for your car (because it’s tough a lot of the time), it’s worth the frustration of the inadequate parking lot to come to The Mediterranean.