• Dametra Café

    Mostly Delicious but Not Exactly Greek to Me
    by I. Ada Lot

    OPA! Greeks are known for concocting the food of the Gods, ambrosia, nectars and on certain special, but treacherous occasions hemlock tea. While I try to stay clear of the hemlock martinis, I crave the flavors of the Aegean. Give me lemon, oregano, olive oil, feta cheese and a couple of spoonfuls of yogurt and I am as happy as Homer’s Siren on an island full of swarthy sailors.
    Faisal Nimri and his partner Bashar have partnered up to open a Mediterranean themed restaurant in the space on Carmel’s Ocean Ave. that housed Café Napoli for many years and subsequent to that the short-lived, but excellent Vietnamese restaurant ,Julihanh. They’ve been open for a little over nine months and their cozy 40 seat spot is drawing lines of locals on a nightly basis.
    Why is Dametra Cafe so darned busy while you could drive a Greek Naval flotilla through so many other restaurants and not hit a single human? Their recipe for success is simple- good food, prices that hit today’s recession related ‘sweet spot’, a wide selection of flavor profiles to chose from and two hosts that bounce around their dining room hugging, kissing and introducing themselves to absolutely everyone. Remember the way restaurateurs ‘used to be’ before they got all uppity and stopped treating their customers like honored guests back in the ‘good old days’?

    And Here’s The Review …
    Who: Dametra Café
    Where: Ocean Ave. East of Lincoln, Carmel 622-7766
    Hours: Daily from 11am-10pm
    Bar: Beer and Wine
    All major credit cards accepted
    Price Range: 8.95-25.95
    Web site: www.dametracafe.com

    I’ve dined here for both lunch and dinner on five occasions. Without a doubt, this is the best and most real thing to happen to Carmel’s dining scene since the Rio Grill opened in the 80’s to great acclaim. Dametra Café and its’ owners are a breath of fresh Mediterranean air. Fun, lively colorful and heartfelt are the words that reoccurring as I review my dining notes.

    While most new-ish restaurants experience great difficulties in getting service issues and uneven food preparations down to some semblance of consistency and correctness, Dametra has galloped out of the gates at full pace. This phenomenon is largely due to three factors: 1. Faisal overseeing the kitchen operations and working the floor as well. 2. Bashar’s command of the dining room and willingness to accommodate any requests that guests may make. 3. The limited seating capacity that allows them to maintain both control and consistency.

    Dishes rated in order of best to not-the-best:
    1. Istanbul Kebab-(aka Koubideh at Amir’s Kabob House and Koobideh at the Persian Grill….a kebab is a kebob is a kebap…) (14.95) consisted of two large skewers of moist ground beef redolent with onions and garlic over long grain rice and a fresh little salad with cucumbers, iceberg, tomatoes and creamy feta vinaigrette. Perfect! 2. Tzatziki w/ warm pita featured very good quality creamy rich yogurt with balanced flavors of mint, cucumber and garlic. The pitas were warm and yummy. 3. Warm pecan tart with vanilla ice cream melting into the oozy filling and flaky light crust was enough for four to share following our filling meal. 4. Hummus- while appearing to be the perfect texture it was crying out for an extra squish of lemon to give an acidic balance and a dash more of salt. 5. Lamb Shank…hmmm, needs work guys. The only dish that failed to excite me. Needs to be made Greek Style or Kapama as it is called, with a rich tomato sauce with a pinch of cinnamon snuck in to mystify the masses as to ‘what is that spice I taste?”. 6. Greek/Turkish coffee needs help, help, help.
    Service: Hospitality from the heart at its’ finest. Two words…Faisal and Bashar.
    Atmosphere: Prepare to use your ‘outdoor voice’ here. It gets loud, but in a fun way. If you are looking for a quiet romantic dinner this isn’t the place. If lively fun is on your menu this is definitely the place. Tight yet comfortable seating where you should expect to chat with your neighboring tables about the dishes they ordered. Largely local clientele which is always a healthy sign for the future prospects of Dametra Café. If you’re very, very lucky Faisal and Bashar will grab their oud (a sort of mandolin type instrument) from it’s place on the wall and entertain you with a song or two.
    What I’d Do Differently: In short…not much. The menu is long and involved and could probably use a little thinning out of the dishes that don’t sell as well or that are problematic to execute, now that they’ve been open long enough to know which ones those are.

    The Greek coffee is time consuming and tough to execute correctly when the place is busy, busy, busy …which it usually is. So, perhaps…either ditch the idea of serving it or you’d have to have a ‘designated coffee person’ in the kitchen to watch over little demitasse cup full that is made.

    And Finally…
    Dametra Café’s owners get an A+ and a Gold Star for opening a Mediterranean food place that reflects the warmth and spirit of the region, with tasty, fresh and colorful food to match. OPA and Kali Orexi!

    As I always say, follow your nose and your gut and decide for yourself. Eat often, eat well and support our local restaurants during the slowest time of the already slow year.

    posted to Cedar Street Times on March 13, 2009

    Topics: Uncategorized


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