Mezze Bistro & Bar
WHERE: 777 Cold Spring Road, Williamstown, Mass. 413-458-0123, www.mezzerestaurant.com
WHEN: 5-9 p.m. Sunday and Monday; 5-10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 5-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
OTHER INFO: Handicapped accessible. American Express, Discover, MasterCard and Visa accepted.
We had a lovely dinner at Mezze Bistro & Bar’s new home on a recent Saturday evening after a matinee at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, and while the overall experience was excellent, I keep having flashbacks about this little cookie.
For dessert, we shared a trifle ($8.50) consisting of white and chocolate mousse layered in a parfait dish with whipped cream and cake, but it was this little chocolate cookie served on the side that captivated us. It was so good that we asked our server what it was, and the answer was a chocolate salt cookie. The salt made the chocolate flavor really pop, and I would have traded the whole trifle for another crispy salt cookie in a heartbeat.
Mezze moved to its current location in June, and it now occupies three acres in a country setting with a pleasing view of the Berkshires’ Sheep Hill. The restaurant itself overlooks the lower parking lot and Route 7. On the walk up the hill to the entrance — and if you don’t want to climb the hill, you can park up top — there is a waterfall cascading over rocks and a placid pond with a little dock, reinforcing the feeling that you’re in a special place, as do the BMWs, Mercedes and Volvos lined up out front.
NEW AMERICAN CUISINE
Mezze Bistro & Bar specializes in new American cuisine and offers a seasonal menu that is, in part, based on the local produce available from the farms and artisan producers that are partnered with the restaurant.
There is a lot of dining space here — including tables around the full-service bar, a main dining room and an adjoining room and an outside deck which would have beckoned to us had it not been so humid. As it turned out, the air conditioning wasn’t functioning well on this particular evening, and the windows at our table were open, and we were quite comfortable.
The menu is not extensive, but it has intriguing offerings like beet greens and truffled goat cheese and the housemade pastrami from Black Queen Angus Farm with rye bread, coleslaw and a gherkin, from the small plate and the appetizer sections.
Entree choices included pan-roasted flounder with a tomato coulis and organic spinach ($28), a ribeye steak from Northeast Family Farm with creamed hakurei turnips and hen-of-the-woods mushrooms ($36), a roasted Amish chicken with local chanterelle mushrooms and fava beans ($23), or a flat-iron steak from Boyden Farm with roasted zucchini, squash and walla walla onion ($27).
Two appetizers — a cold beet soup ($8) and Bill’s Cherry Tomatoes ($7) — caught our attention.
The soup, a brilliant purple against the white china, featured citrus highlights from preserved lemon and came with a generous dollop of crème Chantilly, which was a good foil for the slight tang of the soup, as dinner date Beverly noted after swirling the creamy white into the purple.
The tomatoes were interesting. They had their skins removed, which seems like an arduous approach to cherry tomatoes, and were stewed and served in a slightly salty Parmesan broth with a cellophane-like topping of lardo, which is Italian cured pork back fat. The result was an interesting melding of unusual flavors that I found pleasing, but I wouldn’t have minded if they left the skins on the tomatoes.
Beverly chose the Housemade Tagliatelle ($21) for her entree from the casual fare section of the menu. Besides the buttery ribbons of pasta, the dish consisted of grilled chicken that had been shredded, hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, kale, pecorino cheese and sherry vinegar. The kale gave the dish bursts of slightly sour, slightly bitter flavor which complemented the pasta and mushrooms well.
My choice was the Seared Diver Scallops ($30) — four large sea scallops that had been caramelized and cooked to succulent perfection. They were served atop crushed peas and organic carrot puree. The peas were flavored with fresh mint and topped with pretty pea tendrils, and the carrots were infused with orange zest or orange juice (or both). It was an interesting updated take on good old peas and carrots.
PLENTY OF BREAD
Throughout the evening, a server passed among the tables refreshing patrons’ bread plates. Mezze serves a crusty peasant-style bread and they’re generous with it. We were grateful that it is a light bread because they kept it coming right up to dessert.
We concluded our evening with a pot of coffee, which was served in a French-style coffee press.
Service at Mezze Bistro is excellent. Elise, who took care of our table, patiently answered all our questions and was clearly knowledgeable about all the dishes on the menu.
Dress style for Mezze Bistro is business casual, but we found it was quite relaxed on the evening we visited. Our tab for dinner, appetizers, coffee and a shared dessert came to $100.97 with tax and tip. We found it reasonable considering the quality of the food and service.
Lardo, which was served in a film-thin, translucent sheet over the top of Mezze Bistro’s cherry tomatoes, is not to be confused with lard or lardons, the former needing no explanation and the latter being morsels of crispy fried fatty pork like bacon or pancetta. Lardo is an Italian specialty made by curing the whitest and creamiest pork back fat and is served sliced very thin. It might be used as a topping on crostini or wrapped around fish where it melts and adds moisture and flavor during the baking, or it might be sliced thinly and presented with antipasti.
Once considered a poor man’s meat, the cured and sometimes spiced fat is regarded as a delicacy in sophisticated Italian cuisine today.