The Mediterranean offers lively atmosphere and generous helpings

May 17, 1991|By Lynn Williams | Lynn Williams,Sun Restaurant Critic

People who don't like to cook (and in 90-degree weather that includes most of us) would be well-advised to pay a call on the Mediterranean. Not just for an evening's respite from the stove, either. With judicious ordering, a three-course meal should provide you with enough leftovers to spare you a whole week's worth of culinary chores. You'll only have to spend as much time in the kitchen as it takes you to pop open a cold one and slip your moussaka from doggy bag to microwave.

Big portions are nothing new to Greektown -- an entree from the Acropolis once took me three whole dinner hours to consume! -- but the Mediterranean is not just the same old same old. A cheerful dining room, a touch more dressed-up than most Greek places but still casual and festive, helped put us in a matching mood, and the service was so swift that we finished stuffing ourselves even before the sun went down. And the fact that most of the other people in the room were speaking Greek augured well for the authenticity of the food. The only discordant note was an over-enthusiastic air conditioner, which supplied an atmosphere more Antarctic than Aegean.

As old Greektown hands, we were pleased to spot some items on the menu that we had never sampled before, including pan-fried codfish with skordalia ($4.95). The cod, firm and white in a discreet, greaseless batter, was marvelous at first bite, but subsequent ones proved distressingly salt-laden. However, the skordalia, a bracing puree of potatoes, a little olive oil and lemon, and plenty of garlic, was positively addictive.

Of course, we had some avgolemono soup ($1.50). The Mediterranean version seemed unimpressive at first, but its lack of lemon zip allowed the mellow richness of the chicken stock to shine.

"This is how pastitsio ($6.95) should taste," announced my companion as he delved into his generous portion. It was indeed. This Greek variant on baked ziti, layered with ground beef and bechamel, was delightfully scented with nutmeg, and so tasty he actually managed to finish it (certainly a rare feat at this restaurant).

The whole mountain trout stuffed with feta and spinach ($10.95) was not very attractive -- there are prettier sights in the world than a fried fish head -- but it offered a delicate combination of flavors.

True Hellenic gluttons can, for the same price, try the Mediterranean special, a feast for two or more which includes saganaki (flaming cheese), tarama (caviar), soup, salad, pastitsio, stuffed grape leaves, roast leg of lamb, dessert and more. We didn't so indulge, but I'd bet the leftovers from that one would provide dinners for two weeks.

Mediterranean Restaurant

Where: 4901 Eastern Ave. (at Ponca Street).

Hours: Open daily, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Credit Cards: AE, MC, V.

Features: Greek food.

Non-smoking section? No, but non-smokers can be seated away from smokers.

ll: 633-9495.

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