Dining on a budget: Mediterranean Garden Grill in Monrovia

By Lafayette C. Hight Jr.

After a visit to the Mediterranean Garden Grill in Monrovia, I believe I’ve found a new favorite location for Middle Eastern food in the Valley.

While I often find myself dining along Myrtle Avenue, or Huntington Drive, I drove around town, looking for something new and exciting, and happened upon this restaurant, located next door to the Aztec Hotel.

At first I was a bit confused after walking inside. The dining room is designed to look like an anteroom and has the feel of a large covered patio for outdoor dining. The ceiling is even covered with faux grape vines. And when I tried to walk in the direction of what I thought was the “indoor dining” section it turned out to be the kitchen.

But after I recovered from my discombobulation, I did make it to a table where I ordered the $6.50 fried kibbeh appetizer.

When it arrived – along with some piping hot pita bread – garnished with lemon wedges I decided to accept the invitation to sprinkle lemon juice over them, despite the fact that I can’t recall any other ground beef dishes that work well with added citrus.

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I’m glad I did, though. The kibbeh (pronounced kib-bay) was seasoned well and the meat tasted more like ground steak.

Deciding on an entree, however, was harder than I thought. My first instinct was to go for the $22.00 Sauteed Frog Legs, however my dining companion would have had a conniption watching me eat a green amphibian. Next time I think I’m going to go alone, or find a kindred who wants some “ribbet” satisfaction.

They also offer $22.00 Sauteed Quail, in a recipe that seems like the Cajun-style, chardonnay-sautee’d version I’m familiar with, kebabs and shawarma that can be served as a sandwich, or an entree in the $6 to $10 range, as well as salads, falafel and other standard Mediterranean fare.

I settled on the $12.99 pan-flamed salmon served on rice, though for an extra $2 the rice may be substituted for marinated spinach.

The salmon arrived with an abundance of garlic and lemon, which is just the way I like it, and though it was a thin fillet it was very juicy, which to me, signified that the folks in the kitchen know what they’re doing.

The vegetables and rice that accompanied the salmon were good as well and I thought that the latter was buttered rice. But after inquiring with the staff, I learned that the restaurant doesn’t use butter and it had been cooked with olive oil.

I later found out that the restaurant’s many windows, and patio-style atmosphere are conducive to hookah, which is available for $15 with a dozen or so different varieties of honey and molasses flavored tobacco.

Mediterranean Garden Grill is located at 335 W. Foothill Blvd. in Monrovia. They are open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, closed from 2:30 to 5 p.m each day except Sunday which is open from 11 am. to 8 p.m. For information, call (626) 301-0555 or visit www.mediterraneangardengrill.com .

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