We arrived a few minutes before our reservation and the hostess quickly and graciously seated us in the outside covered patio area. From what I could tell, the outside patio was the main seating area of Zov's and despite the cold night, the space couldn't have been more comfortable or elegant. Zov's kept out the chilly night by by utilizing space heaters and enclosing the entire are with a plastic tarp. Tiny whimsical glass light bulbs were hanging from the rafters, giving the space an almost magical feel. Although the bulbs didn't add much light to the room, they provided just enough to set a great romantic ambiance.
The service was outstanding from the start, giving us time to look over the menu and answering our questions about the menu honestly and informatively. Since everything on the menu looked good, we tried to cover as much ground as possible by ordering the Mediterranean Plate, which had samples of the different appetizers, and then split a couple dishes between the two of us.
The Mediterranean Plate came with enough food to be a main course. The tastes, flavors and textures on this plate were so diverse, it really provided a treat and prevented you from getting bored with the dish. There were several different mounds of dips including, a smooth garlickly hummus, a thick and creamy yogurt and mint dip called "Lebni", a crunchy walnut based paste called "Muhammara", and an sweet roasted eggplant spread called "Babajanooj". To accompany all these dips and help mop them up was was plenty of pita bread.
As if that wasn't enough food, the plate still had more to offer. A couple of tangy dolmadas provided a great flavor contrast to the predominant garlic and sweet flavors of the rest of the plate. Some super fresh tomatoes tossed with some red onions, mint and olive oil made a very light and fresh salad. But I've yet to mention my favorite part of the plate, caraway string cheese. Imagine the string cheese of your youth elevated to new heights. Although they took some of the fun out of it by already "stringing" the cheese for you, the strings were tender, slightly chewy and packed with flavor.
As if our waiter sensed that we were beginning to fill up on appetizers, our entrees arrived just in time to prevent us from ruining our appetites. The first entree we decided on was the filet of beef with swiss chard, garlic mashed potatoes, vegetables with a red wine thyme sauce.
As ordered, the beef was cooked perfectly to medium rare and plated on top of a dollop and mashed spuds and satueed swiss chard. Not only was the meat cooked properly, but the vegetables and swiss chard were cooked as to leave some bite in them. No mushy soggy vegetables or overly wilted chard here. The red wine sauce was very tasty and enveloped all the other components on the plate with its flavors. The meat was probably around 8 ounces and very tender and lean. I would only fault them for leaving a little bit of gristle on one corner of the filet. Not a big deal, but something that could have easily been detected and remedied prior to serving.
The other dish we ordered was the rack of lamb with pomegranate sauce. The chef had cut off the medallions of meat from the actual rack, leaving the bones for presentation while making it alot easier to eat this meal. The medallions of lamb were cooked to medium rare and were melt in your mouth good. I've never been a big fan of lamb but this dish totally won me over. The meat was juicy and full of flavor without being gamey or fatty. The tart pomegranate sauce was the perfect match and provided a great palate cleanser.
When a meal is going this good, you just have to order dessert and keep the momentum going. Doesn't matter that you're full. You suck it up and order some bread pudding with pumpkin ice cream. And you just have to have a glass of port with it. It's a law somewhere I'm sure.
The bread pudding didn't disappoint and really held its own against the rest of the meal. A thick slice of bread pudding was topped with a scoop of rich pumpkin packed ice cream, then dizzeled with caramel sauce and candied walnuts and then a twill of white chocolate for good measure. I really liked Zov's version since it was more like a rich moist cake then the watery gloopy dessert you are often served. As the ice cream melted it saturated the bread pudding and made it even more decadent. No doubt this was a creation of Zov's bakery, making me very curious to sample their other offerings.
Just an overall great meal in a wonderful atmosphere. Zov's is one of those places where you can linger over a meal with good company and really be thankful for what you have. Not only was the meal great but the service was really outstanding. My water glass was never left empty, the delivery of the courses was well timed and the overall attitude of all the wait staff was very pleasant. I actually had a conversation with the waiter who was in charge of refilling waters and he informed me about how great Zov's Cafe is for breakfast and brunch and that the same chefs work on the Cafe Side as well (I'll be there soon enough). I only wish that Zov's was more wine friendly since they charge $15 for corkage and their wine menu tends to favor pricier wines and neglect more midrange options. Still when the food is this good, I can easily be convinced to reach a little deeper into my pocket to pay for wine.