Critic's star breakdown
- Food: 4.5
- Service: 3.5
- Atmosphere: 3.5
- Overall: 4
Any restaurant that has “Mediterranean” in its name is an automatic visit, as far as I’m concerned. So naturally, I had been eagerly awaiting the opening of Aegean Mediterranean Grille in Bearden, which is in the location most recently inhabited by the now-defunct Bangkok Tokyo. The Grub Spouse and I stopped in on a weeknight to see what was in store.
From the parking lot, we spied white-linen-covered tables through the front windows, which gave me an initial expectation that AMG would present itself as an upscale restaurant. Once inside, the bigger aesthetic picture didn’t quite live up to that first partial impression.
Overall, the space — which includes both a bar area and a partitioned dining area — had the same unremarkable ambiance as Bangkok Tokyo, although a painted mural depicting Mediterranean countryside does surround most of the room with a canvas of color and notability. Featuring linen tablecloths and napkins as well as nice glassware and silverware, the table presentation was indeed above average, offset only by the white paper tabletop covering, a la Macaroni Grill.
The menu, though not extensive in the number of offerings, packs a lot of punch considering its brevity. Interestingly, there are more items in the appetizer section than in either of the main dish sections. Starters include avgolemono — creamy lemon- and egg-infused chicken broth with orso pasta; and saffron wild mushroom arancini — Arborio rice balls stuffed with ricotta impastata, served over a fire-roasted tomato confit with shaved Parmesan cheese. Other appetizers that caught my eye were semolina-crusted smelts, beef carpaccio, spanakopita strudel and octopus salad.
We went with the Chef’s Mediterranean Platter — a selection of grilled veggies, cured meats and Mediterranean cheeses. They were accompanied by the traditional Greek condiments tsatziki, taramosalata and melitzanosalata for dipping. We ordered a small platter for $8 and were presented with a generous spread of delicious Greek goodies.
I had a hankering for pasta, so I considered dishes like the linguine vongole (with fresh littleneck clams in a white wine sauce) and penne a la vodka (pasta tossed with vodka, prosciutto and English peas in a light tomato cream sauce). My selection was the pastitsio — baked pasta layered with spice-roasted ground veal, pork and beef and topped with egg custard.
The Spouse looked over entrees that included chicken Milanese, braised beef short ribs, grilled jumbo prawns and ladoregano lamb chops. The Spouse settled on the branzino picatta, branzino being a white fish that AMG has shipped in from the Mediterranean. It’s pan-seared and served with red potatoes and a sweet baby pepper salad.
We were very pleased with both of these selections. The spices infused in the meat mixture of my pasta were uniquely delish but managed not to shout down the inherent meat flavors. The egg custard topping was a tasty additional touch. The Spouse’s fish, served with the skin, was wonderfully mild but noticeably flavorful and complemented nicely by the side dishes. For dessert, we shared a homemade lemon cheesecake with raspberry glaze. It was light, whippy and full of sweet, creamy flavor.
I thought some of the pricing was on the high side (the branzino was $22), although this is more likely to affect lunch diners who must order from the dinner menu. But I found the quality of the food compelling enough to recommend putting Aegean Mediterranean Grille on your list of restaurants to try.
© 2011, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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