By Richard Eber
To a casual observer one might ask why an immigrant from the Adana region of Turkey, who obtained a degree in electrical Engineering from USC, would be interested in operating a new restaurant. You can ask Matt Eker.
Eker manages the Ristorante Mediterranean which is located across from Sun Valley Mall on Contra Costa Blvd in the spot previously occupied by Café Bravo. Eker, who enthusiastically discusses this regional cuisine which extends from Italy to the Middle East, says he has always been into food so operating a restaurant is a natural progression for him. “Being happy in life, is what really matters”, he says.
In putting the menu together for the Ristorante Mediterranean, Eker incorporated recipes from his native Turkey to go along with Italian and Greek standards put forth by Executive Chef Wolfgang Weber. This is first reflected in appetizers which has a hummus plate, Tzatziki, and a delectable baked goat cheese covered with roasted pistachios. In true California style, they offer other starters ranging from fried calamari to grilled chicken wings to appeal to different tastes.
In addition to traditional salad fare, Ristorante Mediterranean offers a Burrata Cheese Salad which is served with tomatoes and a subtle olive oil and balsamic dressing. All these dishes are made to order. Eker proudly states, “Our restaurant does not serve fast food. We want our patrons to have an authentic dining experience that cannot be found elsewhere.”
Typical of this is their house made French fries which are served with lunch wraps which include lamb, beef, and gyro and meat ball varieties. These special seasoned fries are made in the twice-cooked European style which contrasts to the much blander American version. The difference is in their crunchy texture, and immense flavor.
The menu offers a variety of Mediterranean moderately priced main courses as well.
House made Gyro, special Turkish meat balls (Kofta), and of course lamb are prominent. Along with these Mediterranean dishes, Chef Weber also offers such diverse dishes as Veal Scaloppini, a scallop plate served with saffron carrot cream sauce, and pan seared salmon, to name a few.
They also offer homemade pasta dishes which include the Turkish delicacy Manti which are tiny dumplings filled with seasoned Kofta and served with a garlic yogurt sauce. Sounds strange but this dish work very well and lends itself to sharing among diners.
Save room for room dessert. Ristorante Mediterranean offers an excellent choice of house made crème Brule, tiramisu, and cakes that one expects to enjoy at gourmet eateries. However, the prize goes to their Turkish version of Baklava which incorporates cream, walnuts, pistachios, made with a simple syrup. It is the best I have ever tasted. It is subtle without being sickly sweet.
For a unique beverage experience, they offer a strange Turkish drink called Shalgam which consists of fermented red carrot, turnip, and pickle juices. It is suggested diners should ask for a sample before putting in a full order. You might prefer the more traditional, a tasty yogurt drink which goes well with Mediterranean foods as does an excellent Black Turkish Tea.
A good way to experience this new restaurant is by sampling their lunch buffet which offers seven unique dishes each week day from Monday thru Friday. They also provide a special children’s menu and serve brunch on Sunday’s. In addition, Ristorante Mediterranean has a banquet room where large events can be held. They are open every day except Monday.
The hipster atmosphere is sharp and classy with live piano music on Friday and Saturdays. Reservations are recommended, and be sure to use the half-off offer on the front page of the March edition of the Diablo Gazette. Ristorante Mediterranean 1050 Contra Costa Blvd., Pleasant Hill.