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$5 Falafel
By: RJ

Pera Mediterranean
1026 Delta Avenue, Mt. Lookout

I’m always looking for good Mediterranean. There is good abound but it often comes with a hefty price that frankly I don’t find merited. So I’ll rephrase, I’m always looking for good cheap Mediterranean. Pera Mediterranean has been on my list. Finally I stopped by for lunch and I admit I was surprised. Why surprised? Well mainly due to the (undeserved) dissin’ that Ole’ Polly Wolly savagely stained Pera with. She wrote “adequate but not outstanding”, described the lamb kabobs as “...tough chunks of lamb cooked to about medium, with tasteless, lumpy mashed potatoes and some sautéed vegetables.” She claims her Apricot chicken dish was “topped with a cold, sweet chutney that just didn’t go far enough in quantity or in taste to create a distinctive dish.” And lastly summed it up with “There is no wine or alcohol to liven things up unless you bring your own.” Sh!t she started off with “Pera... is not doing much to wow anyone... it was dead... the food wasn’t great, the owner wasn’t visible, the server did not make any special efforts.” She titled the article “Pera Mediterranean can’t match ambience, quality of Café Istanbul.” Damn Polly, bring a flask when you leave home! Obviously you need your beverage or you get cranky.
I often seen Polly dis good food before. I think she just wants to be the “tough nut” in the foodie reviews, for whatever reason. So I took her slam with a grain of salt. Fact is Pera is owned by Umit Ayyildiz. A previous owner of Café Istanbul (Newport on the Levee). Unlike Polly’s visit my lunch was attended to by a quite competent friendly server, plus owner Umit himself came out to the table, asked about our food & service, answered some questions on recipes and cooking techniques and even surprised us with a free dessert. His wonderful baklava ranked “Best In Show” so far for me. He was quite down to earth and genuinely concerned with our satisfaction. Nothing indicated this was the same place Polly found foul.
I don’t know about Apricot chicken or Mushroom Ravioli, I was at Pera Mediterranean to eat Mediterranean. Go figure. I ordered a falafel & hummus ($5) sandwich and it sounded good enough that my lunch date did the same. It was obviously fresh made, weighed in at a nice full portion and was offered with fries or side salad for a buck fifty. We got one of each. I’ve had good and bad falafel, this was up there in the top 4 or 5. Not the bar none best I’ve ever had I’ll admit, at least in my taste. But worth the $5 lunch price? Every penny. And probably a hundred more. That’s not all that’s worth buying at Pera either. Five bucks will get you; Gyro or chicken sandwich, Penne Mediterranean (Chives, Parmesan and crushed red pepper in a creamy tomato sauce), Fettuccine (Tomatoes, mushrooms, Parmesan and Romano cheese sauce), Spaghetti Pesto (Garlic, feta cheese, sundried tomato and a creamy pesto sauce) and the only dish Ole Polly did like- Mushroom Ravioli (Portabella-stuffed ravioli served with sautéed mushroom, tomato and Parmesan and Romano sauce). $5 take your pick.
Judging by Umit’s warm reception, I’d be willing to bet If you don’t care for your food or something is off in some way, just say so and you’ll be taken care of. Judging by the reviews posted by our Cincinnati dining peers on online review sites you’ll not need to complain. Here are a few direct quotes;
“...mostly delicious menu.”
“The food was wonderful!! It was fast, and fresh and reasonable for what you get. I loved the Mediterranean atmosphere and the service was really friendly. BYOB. “, “I loved it. It was great! Amazing.”, “ was lovely. No kidding, it was really wonderful.”
“Nice, inexpensive, great interior, healthy, delicious. What more can you want? No more Subway for me... I love Pera’s Mediterranean food, especially the appetizers, the lamb, and the service. The sampler appetizer for four is the best in the city with a wonderful fresh taste, using this for my ladies’ lunch place.”
“I love Pera. We go there so often I have started calling it my second kitchen. It is neighborly, friendly with great food. I am addicted to the appetizer plate. It is fresh, tasty, and don’t tell (healthy)! I even order it takeout as appetizers for parties I host at home.”, “I expected it to be awful. Well, I stand corrected. Pera was surprisingly good.”
“I have eaten at Pera several times since it opened including their opening night. I have always found the service professional and food wonderful.”
“I decided to give Pera Mediterranean a try and we loved it!... Everything was delicious.....My husband had the Apricot Chicken (chicken was cooked perfectly, topped with a wonderful apricot chutney)..he absolutely loved it... I had the seafood casserole and it was cooked very well and very flavorful.... and on top of a great meal.... we were surprised to have the owner bring us delicious homemade Baklava that we didn’t even order..... it was a very nice touch.”
“Excellent food - try the lobster bisque and Seafood Fettuccine if you’re a seafood fan - awesome!”
“The food was great. We shared a Shepard’s salad which was a great start to the meal. I had the lamb chops and my husband had gyro kabobs - both of which were very tasty and well presented.”
Although I often get pissed at some sites (like urbanspoon’s ridiculous “cheap food” rankings) I have to say that all sounds good to me. In addition 38 people tagged Pera Mediterranean as “I like this” on, a great local site for dining info and coupons (Always check that site for good deals). Even City Beat consistently complimented Pera in their review article (Karen Christopfel).
Wow, seems your out voted Polly. Folks, forget the hype good or bad, go try Pera Mediterranean for yourself, tell us what you think. If you get cranky dining without a cocktail like Ole’ Polly, feel free to bring your own. Apparently, Pera Mediterranean is a good place to get good food at good prices. And as if good falafel isn’t hard enough to find, considering the neighborhood that Pera is in, good cheap food is a rare find in itself.