Hidden amongst various take-out stalls that line the walls of North Berkeley’s Epicurious Garden lays one of city’s newest culinary gems. Flavor Mediterranean Food, tucked away in the back corner of this “one-stop-shop for gourmet take-out,” is serving up a fresh and delicious combination of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influences. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, eager to make suggestions concerning their wide selection of cold dishes, of which there are usually seven or eight, and the choice between a hot lamb or chicken dish. Since their menu is always changing, I would make sure to ask for the staff’s personal favorites. While I have yet to be steered in the wrong direction with their recommendations, some of my own choices turned out slightly disappointing.
Per recommendation, I tried the smooth, smoky Roasted Eggplant, a cold dish smothered in a creamy yet refreshing green tahini sauce with the taste of parsley. The Roasted Cauliflower and Hazelnut Salad, one of my favorites, manages to liven up one of my least favorite vegetables – cauliflower, with a surprisingly tasty blend of sumac (a lemony Middle Eastern spice), leeks, and sweet date syrup. Combined with the crunchiness of the crushed hazelnut, this salad is both refreshing and addictive. Unfortunately, I was a little let down by the Beet Salad, where every ingredient but the beets fell flat, overpowered by the lovely but singular taste of beets.
The hot dishes are where Flavor truly shines, with a choice of either chicken or lamb served over steamed quinoa. On my first visit, I tried the Lamb Kofta, chunks of thick, juicy lamb cooked with an array of aromatic Middle Eastern spices and paired with a thick tomato sauce. During my most recent visit, I opted for the hot chicken dish of the day, which was chicken baked with lemon and herbs. The skin was a crispy perfection and the meat literally fell off the bone.
One of the few negatives is the price. Flavor marks up their dishes a tad high, but you will find value in their combo meal, which includes your choice of a hot dish and two cold side dishes for about $14.00 after tax. With that said, the food at Flavor is well worth its cost and even the hike up to North Berkeley. If you live on the South side, I urge you to make the trek and sit outside in the back garden, a calm oasis of patio tables shaded by umbrellas and soothing Asian-inspired rock fountains. And for those of us that live on the North side, make sure to explore these tasty culinary options that are just a stone’s throw away.
Flavor Mediterranean Food is located at 1511 Shattuck Avenue (inside Epicurious Garden), Berkeley