Ahh! Spring is in the air. Winter’s chill is slowly exiting as new growth is emerging. New foliage. A
renewed freshness in the air. Fresh, new spring produce. And a time to try new cuisines of the world.
From an epidemiological standpoint, Japanese in the motherland have the lowest incidence of
heart disease. Part of this may be attributed to genetics though diet probably plays the biggest role.
As we embrace the diet of our adopted Western culture, the incidence of heart disease approaches
that of the average American. Therefore, along with trying to maintain the soy and fish rich
cuisine of the motherland, I say we also adopt, or at least try, the cuisines of other cultures –
especially those who also benefit from heart healthy fare.
For starters, the Mediterranean diet actually is an amalgam of many different cultures and nations.
There’s the saffron-infused rice dishes of Spain, the cinnamon spiced poultry dishes of Morocco,
the spicy gyros from Greece, the pastas from Italy and the hearty bean stews of France. And that’s
just the tip of the culinary iceberg.
The common thread that weaves its way through the Mediterranean diet, like the Japanese diet, is
also known to be heart healthy.
So as time passes and we spring forward into a new season, so too should we try the Mediterranean
diet.
“But Ryan” you ask, “where do I start?” should I go to Alejandro’s for its paella and tapas? Or do I
make reservations at Kokkari Estiatorio for its hearty Greek fare? Or do I simply start at one end of
North Beach and work my way through the myriad of Italian restaurants? Or simpler yet, should I
just visit the neighborhood deli owned by the Middle Eastern couple to pick-up falafels, hummus,
and spanakopita? So many decisions to make with so little time…and money.
My answer is simply to visit la Mediterranee. There are three locations in the Bay Area, one in
Berkeley and two in The City. For starters they serve the traditional hummus – a spread made from
chickpeas (garbanzo beans), sesame paste, garlic and olive oil; Baba Ghanoush – a spread made
from roasted eggplant, olive oil and various spices; Tabouleh – bulgur wheat mixed with lemon
juice, olive oil and lots of chopped parsley; and Dolmas – rice and herb stuffed grape leaves steamed
in broth and olive oil.
They also serve a variety of salads and cheese, although at la Mediterranee it’s goat cheese. Goat
cheese? Isn’t that the crumbly white stuff that doesn’t exactly taste like Kraft American? Why yes.
But that’s the beauty of the Mediterranean diet. Mixed with different spices, olive oil and garlic, it
enhances the final dish. The solitary French horn playing may not sound great but throw in a little
strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion and you now have a symphony.
Moving on to la Mediterranee’s specialties they have Levant Sandwiches – Levantine bread rolled
with cream cheese, herbs and vegetables – a refined version of the supermarket hye-roller sandwich.
The Lule Kebab consists of ground lamb mixed with parsley and various spices served on rice pilaf.
The Chicken Pomegranate are meaty drumsticks marinated in a pomegranate sauce then baked
with herbs. There’s also an assortment of fillo dough specialties – the thin dough used in baklava
that’s baked to a golden crisp. Fillings may include cheese and herbs or chicken mixed with
almonds, chickpeas, raisins and cinnamon (my favorite) or spinach and feta cheese or ground beef
with pine nuts and spices.
They also offer several vegetarian dishes – alone or in combination as well as combination meat
plates. For those with hearty appetites, my recommendation is the Mediterranean Meza (served for
two or more). For $12.95 per person, it includes almost everything mentioned thus far (10 dishes
total!). If this sounds too excessive, they also offer several lunch specials (all under $7) that include
salad and Armenian potato salad.
By the way, they also serve several dessert selections but in all honesty, I’ve never made it that far
after the Mediterranean Meza. It’s usually open the door and let me roll down Fillmore all the way
back to the Miyako Hotel.

la Mediterranee is located at:

2210 Fillmore St. (Fillmore @ Sacramento) San Francisco, CA 94115.
Phone: (415) 921-2956.
Hours: Tuesday – Thursday & Sunday (11 a.m. – 10 p.m.)
Friday & Saturday (11 a.m.-11 p.m.)

288 Noe St. (Noe @ Market) San Francisco, CA 94114
Phone: (415) 431-7210
Hours: Tuesday – Thursday & Sunday (11 a.m. – 10 p.m.)
Friday & Saturday (11 a.m. – 11 p.m.)

2936 College Ave. (north of Ashby), Berkeley, CA 94705
Phone: (510) 540-7773.
Hours: Tuesday – Thursday & Sunday (11 a.m. – 10 p.m.)
Friday & Saturday (11 a.m. – 11 p.m.)
A New Leaf