Restaurant review: Schaumburg's inviting Meze Mediterraneo serves bevy of well-made Mediterranean dishes

Upscale yet casual, inviting without being intimidating … Mezé Mediterraneo in Schaumburg makes a great first impression.

This year-old dining spot bordered by Woodfield Mall to the north and Streets of Woodfield to the east is not simply a Greek or Italian restaurant, but a place where Mediterranean cuisine inspires dishes that originate from many areas of the world, along with a contemporary twist. If you've wondered what defines Mediterranean coastal cuisine, then Mezé - which translates to a variety of tastes, bites and savory snacks to complement drinks - is a great place to start. Shall we?

Upon entering the restaurant, you'll come to the roomy bar area up front with high-top tables and an illuminated countertop stretching around the square bar, which is inviting for dining or grabbing drinks and watching the game on a flat screen behind the bar. The dining room is set up to welcome couples on date nights with cozier areas decorated in earth tones, white tablecloths and dimly lit dinner settings, while also featuring tables for larger groups and celebrations. Adding to the ambience, the music in the dining room was perfect for table conversation but a bit loud in the bar area.

On our Saturday night visit, we started with a couple of glasses of red wine from Mezé's list of house and brand-name wines. Wine lists can be a bit intimidating with difficult-to-pronounce vintages and exorbitant prices. But Mezé makes wine ordering easy by clearly categorizing bottles and glasses by country and price. Whether you're looking for an $8 glass of something new to try or willing to splurge for a bottle of Napa's finest, Mezé covers the wine bases well, and knowledgeable servers are ready to answer your questions. Not into wine? Mezé also offers a full cocktail menu.

  Mezé's full bar features a variety of spirits and an extensive wine list. Rick West/

Turning to dinner, a simple yet elegant one-page menu devised by executive chef Panagiotis Chalikiopoulos features many starter and entree selections from the sea and land, plus vegetarian and gluten-free options. From the hot tapas menu, we started with the Borek, an appetizer featuring four egg-roll-looking wraps of spinach, feta cheese and herbs carefully encased in smooth phyllo dough with a healthy helping of arugula. Not only did it taste fantastic, but this hearty appetizer could have been a meal in itself.

Other eye-catching hot starters include the bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese and the lobster mac and cheese with an herbed panko crust. If you're in the mood for an old-school flaming square of Kefalograviera cheese, there's also saganaki. Diners will find a cold tapas menu offering tzatziki, spicy feta spread, a seafood mix and hummus as well as a selection of salads, shareable sides, flatbreads, pasta and risotto.

  Mezé's chicken kabobs come nestled in a bed of rice pilaf. Rick West/

For entrees, we selected a couple of choices From the Sea. Gleaming white plates carrying salmon and scallops arrived at our table shortly after ordering. Mezé's seared scallops come in a long row that rests on a bed of lemon quinoa and draped in Sicilian salmorigilio sauce featuring lemon, olive oil and herbs. Our other dish was the cilantro pesto Scottish salmon - a thick, weighty salmon filet topped with a dark green, seasoned spread of pesto along with pan-roasted sautéed asparagus spears on the bottom. Both choices were prepared well and tasted so good that we had a hard time deciding which entree we liked the most.

If you're more turf than surf, Mezé's From the Land options include filet mignon, New York strip steak and lamb cutlets, plus a few poultry selections. The Tuscany chicken features a free-range chicken breast in a marinated medley of tomatoes along with arugula, fresh mozzarella and a balsamic glaze. There's also a roasted half chicken and the chicken kabob with Moroccan herbs.

  Mezé Mediterraneo serves a variety of seafood, including pan-roasted Chilean sea bass. Rick West/

If you have room for something sweet at the end of your meal, take a look at the desserts menu. At the top of that list is the raspberry almond torte with chocolate buttercream and sliced almonds. There's also a traditional chocolate cake with a twist of Belgian bittersweet chocolate ganache and strawberries, plus New York-style cheesecake, crème brûlée and gelato.

Beyond dinner, the restaurant offers lunch, a kids' menu and Happy Hour available on weeknights before 6 p.m. On Thursday nights, a piano player plays in the bar area. And during warmer weather, seating is available on a covered outdoor patio.

  Tuscany chicken comes with a marinated medley of tomatoes, arugula, fresh mozzarella and balsamic glaze at Mezé Mediterraneo in Schaumburg. Rick West/

Throughout our meal, service was spot-on and orders came to our table quickly. Mezé does an excellent job of combining a fine dining experience in a casual, friendly and unpretentious atmosphere. There aren't any multiparagraph dish descriptions on the menu that seem like you're reading from a cookbook. And Mezé's welcoming vibe and simplicity make this a great dining and drinks spot for any occasion.

Mezé Mediterraneo

680 Mall Drive, Schaumburg, (847) 598-6393,

Cuisine: Mediterranean

Setting: Upscale and contemporary, with a bar and covered patio

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to midnight Friday; 4 p.m. to midnight Saturday; 3:30 to 8:30 p.m. Sunday

Price range: $12-$45

Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not publish reviews of restaurants it cannot recommend.

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