NAR MEDITERRANEAN GRILL
3402 Technological Drive | 407-277-4774 | narmedi.com | $
The double doors flung open to let the early-summer humidity in, playoffs murmuring on the TVs, neon lights illuminating the specials board – nothing about Nar Mediterranean Grill seems all that special. Until, that is, you taste the food.
I’d stopped by Nar when it opened a few months ago. The owners were more than happy to offer samples of their homemade grandma-style Turkish delights – a few thin shavings from the rich doner kebab, a piece of tender chicken kofte, a bite of the cumin-spiced cannellini bean salad – and it was all deliciously simple and unfussy. When we returned to eat a full meal, I was happy to find that the same philosophy is still apparent.
Nar takes the customize-your-meal concept and applies it to Mediterranean cuisine: Start with your favorite protein (meat or house-made falafel) and either stuff it in a sandwich ($6.99), layer it on top of rice and two sides ($10.99) or have it atop a salad ($7.99).
I overheard one patron gushing to his companion that Nar’s falafel is the best in Orlando, and I have to agree. The chickpea patties are shaped and fried when you order, and are incredibly crispy and herbaceous. Slathered with spicy red sauce inside one of Nar’s homemade pitas, it was a sandwich I’d go back for again and again.
The kofte, savory beef and lamb patties, also grilled to order, are cooked to medium-well and are exceptionally tender and juicy. I ordered mine on top of tomato-cucumber salad, a perfect fresh foil for the unctuous meat. A little drizzle of Nar’s homemade tahini dressing on top tied everything together. Nar also offers eight different sides, all of which hearken back to that simplicity that first caught my attention. Pass over the unremarkable roasted vegetables ($2.99-$3.99), which lacked any caramelization or indication that they had, in fact, been roasted instead of sautéed or steamed. Instead, opt for the potato salad ($3.99-$5.99), which is lemony and refreshing.
Portions are gigantic, and halfway through the meal we were already stuffed, but we plowed through dessert, starting with the Turkish rice pudding known as sutlac, a slightly sweet, gelatinous dish studded with chocolate pieces, walnuts and a sprinkle of cinnamon ($3.50). Though I didn’t see any crushed nuts, usually a significant element of baklava, the small piece we enjoyed was beyond buttery and flaky ($1.50).
Pizza and calzones are also on the menu, and if the fluffy crumb of the house-made pita and lavash was any indication, the crust for Nar’s pies is probably a winner. The UCF area has plenty of late-night restaurants, but very few for those looking beyond pizza or tacos. Luckily there’s Nar, closing at 11 p.m. on weeknights. The friendly staffers were more than willing to explain preparations and recipes when I had questions – just another reason I’ll be happy to return to try another round of mix-and-match Mediterranean.