Scrumptious hummus spreads fill a serving dish as Dave Kirsammer serves up fresh pita bread, while six ground lamb koftka meatballs line a plate.
At Meze Morada in Islamorada, enjoy an evening with friends or family with sharable plates, kebabs grilled over hot coals and an array of vegetable dishes. With meze translating to small plates, Kirsammer says people can come and munch on a selection of hot and cold dishes.
“A couple can come in and order skewers and some fried cauliflower,” he says. “Or, a group can enjoy our spreads, some seared halloumi cheese and beets and labneh. Here at Meze, they can sit down and enjoy different things with our selection of beer and wine.”
Kirsammer and Callie Lecakes are the owners who opened the restaurant at MM 80.9, Oceanside, earlier in March. The two met 13 years ago in Washington, D.C. and decided to come to the Keys three years ago. Callie, who’s traveled all over the world, spent some time in Key West. Kirsammer, who grew up in Detroit, worked in the corporate world with ConAgra and Nature Vitamins.
Kirsammer remembers turning down a sous chef job some 20 years ago, but that never stopped his passion for cooking. As for the cuisine that he’s brought to the Upper Keys, he said Detroit had a large Middle Eastern population.
“I was exposed to the cuisine during my younger life,” he said. “Over the past five years, there’s been a resurgence and you’re seeing a lot more restaurants with our type of food opening up.”
Kirsammer and Lecakes make all the cuisine patrons will see upon entering Meze Morada. Lecakes crafts the hand-rolled grape leaves, and Kirsammer said she’s the expert taster and exceptional at plating food. She says vegan and vegetarian dishes like the ones at Meze Morada were missing in the area. All dishes are made with the freshest ingredients and the finest herbs and spices.
“We avoid shortcuts,” Kirsammer said.
For those going to Meze Morada, try a selection of spreads with some fresh pita bread. The roasted red pepper hummus is a must-get if you want a little kick. There’s also the zhug hummus and baba ghanoush.
On the hot dish menu, there’s no going wrong with the seared halloumi cheese, made with caramelized pear, date and walnut paste. The cheese is warm and salty, and the pears and dates complement it quite well for mouth-watering satisfaction. There’s also fried cauliflower, not battered, that’s dusted with hawayej and served with herb labneh, a cheese made from salted strained yogurt.
Meze’s herb marinated chicken skewer won a best entrée award during the Taste of Islamorada in the spring. The ground lamb and beef koftka and the shawarma spiced tender steak are also worth ordering up.
For dessert, try a house-made sorbet with pistachio cardamom the signature flavor.
“We do a lot of traditional stuff, but branch to nontraditional foods inspired by the palate,” Kirsammer said. “On Sundays, we’re doing wings with either zatar, a wild oregano with sesame, and harissa, a north African chili paste. We’re also working on a north African fish cake with snapper.”
Meze Morada is open Wednesday through Sunday from 5 to 9 p.m. More information is at mezemorada.com.