By Valerie Demicheva
Café Med looks like any cafeteria—tin counter tops, fluorescent lighting and linoleum floors. But here you won’t find frumpy hair-net clad lunch meat ladies. Something really special is happening in this kitchen for costs as low as Burger King.
The threadbare décor—campy table cloths and posters of Italy, Turkey and other Mediterranean landscapes—has no relation to the bellisma, or beautiful food, created by students enrolled in Restaurant Operations.
Lines of about four students at a time form in between classes and most order the practical in-class snack, the Grecian Gyro with lamb. The Gyro is hearty, compact and super fresh, made with meat from Saag’s Specialty Meats, based in San Francisco.
“I’m just here to make sure the school doesn’t burn down. The students do all of the work themselves,” said culinary instructor Vince Paratore, a former manager of Beach Chalet.
The gem in the rough is Bastila—a Moroccan delicacy under the guise of what one might think is a greasy egg roll. Crispy lumpia layers dusted with powdered sugar and with generous and moist cinnamon ginger-seasoned chicken put all preconceived distaste to shame. Little yellow raisins go nearly unnoticed and a syrupy, tangy flavor is introduced.
The Fattoush, a Lebanese dish, was as refreshing as a swim in the Mediterranean Sea. With romaine lettuce, mint leaves and an understated lemon vinaigrette, this gem cools down the mouth while the taste buds dance a dabke—a traditional Lebanese dance.
After eating such a healthy salad, one should indulge in Baklava, a dessert ubiquitous in most of the 21 countries that dip a coast into the Mediterranean Sea. The house-made Baklava made with crunchy pistachios and sweet sticky sugar is the perfect sweetener to accompany unsweetened iced tea.
Café Med orders its tea from Equator Coffees and Teas, based in San Rafael. The flavor is called Tropical Ice and it’s a surefire way to bring new life to anyone like me who’s in a happy food coma at the end of this meal.
Follow Valerie Demicheva at @vdemicheva.