Mediterra Restaurant and Taverna is one of the restaurants part of the Terra Momo Restaurant Group. It’s centrally located in Princeton at the north of Palmer Square on Hulfish Street. If you haven’t guessed by now, it’s a Mediterranean restaurant, but its menu is more tilted toward Italian cuisine.
From the outside, the restaurant is wide with many windows, and there’s a fountain in the small courtyard just in front of it. In mild weather, al fresco dining is available along the windows. You feel like you’re in a Mediterranean setting even before entering.
Two parties entered just before us, and they were both quickly seated. We were warmly greeted, and within seconds shown to our table. The interior was both elegant and rustic. There was exposed brick surrounding the glass walls, and wood beams across the ceiling, which was wired with modern halogen lighting. The wooden tables were set with square woven place mats, a white bread plate, flatware and glasses. The colors were warm, giving a feeling of comfort. The corner mural was quite unique, and I think it has become an icon for the restaurant. Mediterra was nicely filled for a Sunday evening.
Our server greeted us after a minute, gave us handsome brown leather-like tri-fold menus, and took our drink orders. I was happy to see so many bottles of their own still and mineral water self-filtered with the Vivreau system on many tables. About two minutes later, our server assistant placed bread and herbed olive oil on the table. Our server brought the drinks and took our order shortly after that.
I decided to have the Wild Organic Arugula Salad with watermelon radish, red onion, dried cranberries, candied walnut, crumbled gorgonzola, cherry tomatoes, and a Chardonnay vinaigrette as a first course, and the Red Snapper with a roasted sweet potato garlic purée, Swiss chard, beets, whole wheat grains, sprouts, and a Dijon olivade. Let me tell you, the salad was divine! Actually, it was one of the best salads I’ve eaten in a long time. The skin on the red snapper was nice and crispy, and the sweet potato purée was the creamiest, most velvety potatoes I’ve ever eaten!
My husband ordered the Baby Octopus with red bliss potatoes, black olives, capers, olive oil, and smoked paprika as a starter and the Pork Osso Buco with creamy gorgonzola polenta, baby bok choy and peas, topped with a gremolata as the main course. He doesn’t like olives, and the menu didn’t indicate they would be included, so he was disappointed when the dish came with lots of them. He also didn’t enjoy the capers or smoked paprika. I had to investigate. I don’t eat octopus, but tasted everything else and loved it. Well, to each his own. The osso buco on the other hand was a hit. I tasted his polenta, and it was really creamy and not overwhelming with the taste of gorgonzola.
Dessert is always a guilty pleasure that we’re happy to partake in when dining out. I ordered the rice pudding bruleé with strawberries and blueberries, and he had the marscapone cheesecake with mango sorbet and a blueberry compote on the side. The rice pudding was standard, but the bruleé was a nice touch. I tasted his cheesecake, and it was good, but I knew he wouldn’t be a fan because I detected goat cheese. I liked the twist, but he wasn’t thrilled, though he completed it.
The taverna is on the right side as you enter. There’s a bar and a couple of long café tables with bar stools, as well as a few tables and chairs for a bit more private conversation. The warm colors and textures continue on this side. The back section would be nice for a group of about 20 to enjoy tapas and cocktails.
As the evening progressed, it became darker outside. The outdoor trees were wrapped with white lights and became more magical. Looking out the windows, you get a perfect view straight down Palmer Square West. Honestly, this must be one of the best locations in Princeton for a restaurant. The trees and fountain in the courtyard in front of the restaurant gives it a natural, park-like feel; yet, the view of Palmer Square gives you the vibrancy of Princeton, and this location sets you in the middle of town ideal for shopping and more.
We could only book through Open Table (at the time). While we arrived about 10 minutes late, it didn’t seem to be a problem. The following day we received a notice from Open Table that we hadn’t shown. Perhaps our tardiness caused this, though Open Table mentions the restaurant should wait 15 minutes before marking as a no-show. Perhaps they forgot to mark it off, or our watches weren’t accurate due to the time change. In any event we responded to Open Table’s e-mail and got everything straightened out. (If you’re marked as a no-show three times, they close your account.)
On a side note, I wish the server actually served the meal instead of the server assistant who brought the food and just asked who ordered what. There was no description of the food, which would’ve been helpful, since there were things on the plate not described on the menu. I asked the server for fresh ground pepper (there are pepper mills lines up on a table near the entrance), and she said she thought the server assistant offered us some. This is service I expect from an upscale or fine restaurant.
Overall, we loved the ambiance, and location. We thought the staff was friendly, I enjoyed my food choices, and my husband had mixed feelings. There were only a few kids there, so adults can have a business or romantic meal here. They have an extensive wine list, and there’s also the taverna with occasional live music. Mediterra will provide a wonderful upscale dining experience without pretentious food, just lots of locally raised meats and organic produce. My compliments go to Chef Luis Bollo. I highly recommend Mediterra!
Disclosure: I received a complimentary gift card to write this review. As you can tell, these are honest opinions. I never disclosed to anyone that I would be writing a review, and took the photos after dining so I wouldn’t make anyone suspicious.