Eatery features dishes from Turkey, Italy and Greece
Falafel, dolma, gyros, spanakopita.
For residents craving an ethnic break from the ubiquitous fish sandwich and fries (me), there’s La Mediterranee, a new restaurant on the west end of Marathon at 22nd Street and Overseas Highway.
It’s the sister restaurant of Kennedy Café in Key West, located on the perimeter of the Kmart shopping plaza, which serves a similar menu.
“I have customers that come from the Upper and Middle Keys to eat in my restaurant in Key West,” said owner Shukhrat Rakhimov, a native of Uzbekistan. “It made sense to open another place in Marathon.”
Rakhimov expects to serve mostly a local clientele at the 50-seat restaurant open for lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. The casual environment and affordable prices are designed to be friendly and fast. And once those locals sample the food, he expects to be pretty busy.
The gyro sandwich has, hands down, the best and fluffiest pita bread I’ve ever tasted. The lamb is shaved thin and seasoned perfectly. And the homemade tzatziki sauce is just the right combination of creamy and tangy.
The Greek salad features fat wedges of tomato, crispy romaine and feta cheese. I also ordered the spanakopita starter — spinach and feta cheese in crispy filo pastry with tzastziki; and I plan to go back very soon to sample the dolma appetizer — grape leaves stuffed with rice.
I also sampled the Pasta Olivia. It’s hard to describe, except to say it has a delicious dark taste combining the best of kalamata olives, artichoke hearts, roasted red pepper and fresh basil. A friend of mine swears by the chicken piccata, big enough to serve two.
Rakhimov recommends the Iskander Kebab. A dish from Turkey, it features lamb in a tomato sauce and garnished with yogurt. At La Mediterranee, it’s served with roasted potatoes and pilaf rice.
The owner left Uzbekistan 14 years ago after completing a university degree in economics and international affairs. His first stop in the U.S. was language school in Miami before migrating to Key West. He spent time in various kitchens, including the New York Pasta Garden, before investing in Kennedy Café in 2009.
His itinerant lifestyle is reflected in the menu of the restaurant. And that’s what I like best — the seemingly odd combination of offerings, each one done so well it’s hard to care about cuisine labels after the first bite.
La Mediterranee is located at 22nd Street and Overseas Highway in Marathon. For delivery, available from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., call 305-517-6464.
Roasted meat, especially when cooked on a revolving spit and shaved for serving in sandwiches.