MEZ (epicentre)

We kicked off DJ Yummy’s week long birthday celebration this week at the Epicentre in Uptown Charlotte. Her parents came down from their castle in VA and we spent the weekend hitting up the Ren Fest, heading to the Lazy 5 Ranch, watching Denzel Washington’s new movie… “Flight”, then wrapping it up with dinner at MEZ.

We got our first glimpse of MEZ during the DNC but didn’t eat anything or watch anything. This time… we did both :)

We started out the night in the Epicentre Theatre watching Denzel’s new movie “Flight” and to say the Epicentre Theatre is our favorite theatre in Charlotte would be an understatement.

The seating is both oversized and luxurious, and since the tickets cost more than the average theatre you don’t have to worry about large swarms of annoyingly chatty teens and pre-teens kicking your seat throughout the movie :)

Before the movie started we hit up the theatre concession stand / bar and got a small plate of illegal bread and a plate of arancini to munch on while we watched the movie.

The illegal bread consisted of ricotta, feta, and cream cheese inside phyllo pastry served with a apricot-fig compote. We loved the lighter than air crisp of the phyllo and the blend of cheeses seamlessly mixed into the dough creating a euphorically cheesy feeling.

The arancini was four balls of risotto stuffed with a house made mozzarella and served over top a thin layer of spicy marinara. We really liked the arancini but wished there were more than just four bite size balls to enjoy :(

After the movie we made our way out to the main lobby and were seated promptly. It didn’t take long for me to start on my list of “likes” and “don’t likes”, first on the list were the seats. I don’t know if it was that they were a little low, they had no armrest, the wood edges were squared instead of rounded which was uncomfortable on the back of my legs while sitting… or a combination of the above, but I didn’t like them at all.

I did like a number of things from the beginning though. For starters.. I liked the way the lemons were presented with our straws. It sounds stupid… but its the small details that show when a restaurant has an attention for detail.

I liked the overall decor and feel of the restaurant. It came off as modern without being futuristic, classy without being snobby, and they even had ample lighting for taking some decent photos at our table.

The first thing to hit our table after our drinks was the small basket of sliced bread and its accompanying dish of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The bread was pretty standard… not much to say either good nor bad on that part, but we did find the balsamic vinegar too be pretty unwilling to stick to the bread without giving it an aggressive stir to mix it up.

After a couple minutes of munching on bread and combing the menu we placed our app orders. We started out the night with two apps, the Roasted Bone Marrow and the Popcorn Rock Shrimp.

I was way too squeamish about eating the bone marrow to give an accurate and unbiased opinion, so for this section we sought the professional opinion of our accompanying guest critic… “Mr. Tea Pot”.

Mr. Tea Pot says – “I found it quite delicious. The serving size of three rather large bones seemed a bit much due to the richness of the dish, and I found myself wishing for something a bit acidic to go with it to cut the richness (perhaps a cornishon). The gremelata spread over top just didn’t quite seem to do it. With that being said, I did manage to devour every delicious bite. An added bonus was the joy with which our dogs devoured the leftovers.”

DID try the roasted bone marrow and in my very unprofessional opinion.. I was just a little creeped out. I thought it had a decent taste but my issue was with the presentation. Scooping some slimy brown goo out of the center of a bone and spreading it across a burnt piece of bread didn’t seem very appetizing. Perhaps if the bone marrow were served in a bowl like caviar and called “marrow pâté” it would be slightly more appealing to a squeamish and somewhat reserved foodie crowd.

Nobody expects me to squeeze fish eggs straight out of the ovaries of a fish, dash on some salt, and spread it across a piece of bread. So why would it be any different for eating bone marrow straight out of the center of the bone? I’m certain that I’m in the minority with my opinion, but eating marrow straight out of the bone was too primal to overcome my Gen Y inhibitions.

DJ Yummy got the Popcorn Rock Shrimp for her app and loved it. The shrimp itself was nice and tender and the spicy aioli was out of this world. Her only critique was with the breading.

It was just not as crunchy as she was hoping for, it even starting falling off some of the pieces of shrimp, and although the micro greens were beautiful, she could have done without them since they were not very tasty.

Shortly after the apps were cleared from the table our entree’s started to arrive. Mr. Tea Pot kicked off the night with the Bouillabaisse (mussels, clams, scallops, shrimp, fennel broth, and red pepper rouille) and this is what he thought…

” This seafood stew was packed with delicious shrimp scallops, clams and mussels. The sauce was rich and delicious and the crostini with spicy rouille was the perfect compliment to sop up the delicious sauce. My only complaint was some of the clams were so small as to be almost non-existent.”

I didn’t try any of Mr. Tea Pot’s Bouillabaisse because of my lack of love for most seafood but the only thing I would say is I was disappointed that the plate came out looking messy.

I cant imagine its standard practice to have the broth splashed up along the walls of the bowl. An attention to detail was evident throughout the night so I’m sure this was just an oversight but for me it just made the dish look sloppy.

DJ Yummy got the Braised Lamb Shank over a haloumi cheese infused risotto served with sauteed spinach.

She said “The lamb shank was perfectly tender and each bite melted away in my mouth. I did find it a little under seasoned but it was the best part of the dish. The risotto was tasty and creamy, but a little mushy and I found the haloumi cheese to be an odd choice. It didn’t add much flavor and ended up getting lost in the dish.”

I (Gangsta Greezy) wasn’t feeling too terribly hungry and I knew I would pick off of everyone else’s plates so I got the margherita flat bread pizza for my entree. The mozzarella, tomato and basil over the crispy flat bread was pretty good but nothing worth recommending over anything else on the menu. The flat bread was cooked perfectly but didn’t have any memorable flavor and the toppings all seemed to get lost within each other.

The pear tart came with a scoop of home made pear ice cream over top and was very tasty. The pear ice cream was by far the best part for both its rich creaminess and subtle flavor. The pear tart was decent but we were all a little surprised to find the tart was served cold instead of warm.

My only complaint with the dish was the significant lack of presentation. A caramel drizzle zig-zagging across the plate would have made a significant visual improvement. With everything else at MEZ showing such high regard for presentation, it was a disappointing to see this come to the table.

Our photo of the pomegranate cheesecake at E2 Emeril’s Eatery in Uptown Charlotte…. need I say more?

The chocolate trio was a fun dish that came with a smoked almond truffle, flourless chocolate cake and chocolate chocolate chip ice cream. I needed a little palate cleansing so I decided to swap out the chocolate ice cream for an orange sorbet, which turned out to be a good choice.

The sorbet was super tart and went really nicely with the rich chocolate cake. The smoked almond truffle was very unique and a lot of fun. The smokey flavor was subtle, but delicious and added something different to a traditional dessert.

The Epicentre Theatre got high ranks on our first visit and we thought MEZ was kinda average for an upscale restaurant. We had a great experience as a whole… the dinner and a movie was awesome and we had a great night. But as a restaurant on its own it was just average.

If we went back we would probably hit up the theatre first, get some of MEZ’s small plates to eat during the movie, and after the movie get dinner at a different restaurant within walking distance of the Epicentre.

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