1636 Thames Street
Baltimore, MD 21231
Meli is the Greek word for honey and this third restaurant from the Kali’s Restaurant Group is dripping with it — from the honey butter served with the complementary bread to the honey comb shapes throughout the décor to the subtle hints of it used in nearly every appetizer and entrée.
Seared Diver Scallops: sweet corn polenta, acacia honey drizzle, apples: $13
I am a sucker for scallops and these were a dream come true — cooked perfectly with masterful carmelization and char provided by the chef’s use of a honey powder dusting. With all of the sweetness on this plate, this hot appetizer began to feel a bit like dessert, but the excellent addition of green apple added a tart, acidic punch to pull all of the flavors together; it was a breath of fresh air to pull out the natural sweetness of the scallop and balance the honey and sweet corn. This was a truly unique scallop dish that I would gladly taste again.
Slow Roasted Pork Cheek: rutabega purée, yucca chips, apple: $19
A truly lovely take on pork chops and apple sauce. The pork cheek reminded me of my grandmother’s slow-cooked beef stew — so moist and tender it falls apart with a little pressure from a fork. The flavors were rich and well-complemented by the clean flavors of the rutabega and apple. The crunch of the yucca chip was a welcome textural change-up from all of the succulent tenderness on the plate.
Surprisingly, while the influence of honey is in clear abundance, Greek influences are almost non-existent aside from two dessert offerings that incorporate phyllo — one Baklava, of course. To further confuse the issue, this self-described “Patisserie and Bistro” (both French words in origin), features a more Italian spin on ingredients that typify Greek cuisine. But what’s in a name?
Regardless of Meli’s slight identity crisis, the food and experience dining there are equally impressive. The interior is an opulent delight for the eyes: rich reds and patterns; rounded, organic shapes; secluded nooks and crannies on multiple levels of the building. It’s a happy medium between Kali’s Court’s posh, high brow ambience and Kali’s Court Mezze’s casual small plates. I felt perfectly comfortable in jeans and heels and found that some in the dining crowd were even more casually dressed.
The staff smoothly transitions between courses, tops off water (still or sparkling), and refreshes utensils with the grace and poise of any tuxedoed waiter at any five-star restaurant — and without any of the stuffiness. Our waitress was attentive, polite, and well-aware of the menu.
Overall, Meli feels like a special, intimate place to dine and I look forward to another “date night” there.