When a seemingly neighborhood restaurant acquires a chef from the Ritz Carlton, people start to take notice. Thus is the story of Meze Tapas in the West Loop, who accidentally got hooked up with Antonio Lopez, a chef of twenty-five years at The Carlton Club at The Ritz-Carlton on craigslist. Yes, you read that right. On a crazy twist of fate, the owner’s cousin (who worked with Lopez at the Ritz) submitted his resume for the position for him having heard that two of the Ritz restaurants were planning to consolidate. The rest is history: it was a match made in heaven, and the proof is in the pudding.
Among glasses of the signature, “sexy” sangria made out of cognac and brandy with owner Stavros Korovilas, we learned that Meze came from the Greek word (with Turkish origin) meaning “taste” or “snack,” and that he created the international menu influenced by his travels and time in Ibiza. Staying true to tapas form, they are a smattering of international small plates, intended to indulge with friends. And with the rich woodsy interior, a good date place to share some aperitivos, as well. Chef Lopez hopes to create a larger portioned event menu soon featuring his signature pasta sauces and if the goat cheese and tomato tart is any indication, we are huge fans (I could’ve licked the bowl).
We also sampled the Peppercorn Beef & Gorgonzola (not being a huge meat eater, it was tasty, but no strong opinions either way), the Papas Bravas (these have a serious kick for all those spice lovers, be forewarned), Fresh Oysters (yum, I could be happy only eating these), the Sautéed Prawns with Jasmine Rice & Peas (served with a delicious ginger white wine sauce, upscale asian really does it for me), and the Pepper Crusted Tuna (a little too sweet/ tangy for my liking, but I am an Ahi snob) and the Baked Apple Tart with with a Crème Anglaise to top it off (amazing sauce and a nice light ending to the meal). Although still a neighborhood gem, looks like Meze is on the map now. ¡Qué deliciosa!
205 N. Peoria St. 312.666.6625. www.mezechicago.com