Mediterra: The Warmth of Mediterranean in Princeton, New Jersey

Mediterra in Princeton, New Jersey has a simple goal; the restaurateurs want to make you feel at home. The second goal is to serve the best cuisine from nearly a dozen cultures surrounding the Mediterranean.  While the emphasis is on Spanish and Italian flavors, you can find dishes hailing from places like France, Greece, and Egypt.

Combine sophisticated food, wooden dining tables along with vibrant terracotta walls, and you get an ambiance that is inviting and upscale.

The rustic bread (made daily), the proteins, and produce are all organic and sourced locally. The curated wine list is affordable. It is a stellar combination for a restaurant that anchors one of the busiest squares in the bustling university town.

Mediterra is open for lunch, dinner, brunch, and happy hour in the Taverna. The Taverna menu includes traditional tapas with a modern twist.

Location: Mediterra is located at 29 Hulfish Street, Princeton, New Jersey.

Menu: Get ready to tour the Mediterranean region. Starters include Pan con Tomate, grilled sourdough bread with roasted tomato, olive oil, garlic, and feta. Mussels Provencal in a saffron broth or a trio of “Med Spreads” (chickpea, red pepper, and roasted eggplant with feta). After that, there are plates of pasta, like the house-made Spaghetti Alla Chitarra with sea scallops, saffron Pomodoro, confit fennel, spinach, and Calabrian chili.

The main dishes range from a Braised Lamb Shank to a Branzino a la Plancha, and creative vegetarian options such as Dahl Stew. The kitchen also offers a Paella Clasica for two or more. It is a fresh preparation, so allow at least 30 minutes for it to arrive piping hot and brimming with chicken, sausage, clams, shrimp, mussels and calamari.

Thoughts: Mediterra is a beautiful spot. A wall of windows faces Palmer Square. When you are inside, you get the feeling that it is an oasis in the middle of a busy town. In warmer weather, you can sit outside and enjoy some tapas, wine, and superb people watching. I have dined in Mediterra many times and always feel like I took a short trip to a warm and comforting place.

This visit, my friend and I met for lunch. We ordered the Med Spreads to start. The plate came with three different spreads and grilled pitas along with sliced carrots, cucumbers, and radishes for dipping. The chickpea,  garlic and Aleppo pepper was my favorite. The other two were tasty as well. The red pepper, sundried tomato, and feta tasted sublime spread on the grilled pita and the roasted eggplant, paprika and olive spread was so flavorful, I dipped all of the vegetables included on the plate.

After that, we pondered our main dishes. My friend follows a vegan diet and as a result, our server made sure to check on all the ingredients in her dish of choice. She chose the Mushroom Bolognese which was a combination of shitake and cremini mushrooms ragu with San Marzano tomatoes and herbs. He suggested that the kitchen leave off the Parmigiano cheese to make it vegan. It was sensational. The pasta was cooked perfectly and the ragu was rich and flavorful.

I chose the smoked falafel bowl and it was bursting with flavors and textures. The ingredients, layered on the plate,  began with cauliflower-almond rice on the bottom, then lettuce, cucumber, avocado, pickled red onion, and pumpkin seeds. The three falafel balls topped with tahini yogurt were crisp and spiced perfectly.  I absolutely loved each component and the dish as a whole. It was completely satisfying and delicious.

As a result of eating such wonderful, rich, comfort food, we passed on dessert.  I have tried the Tres Leches Trifle in the past which is comprised of a vanilla sponge cake, coconut custard, and whipped cream. In short, it is not to be missed.

Price Range: Lunch starters are $8-13. Soups and entree salads are $10 – 20 and mains range from $14 – 20. Desserts are $10.

Jeanine Consoli
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