Walking into the dark wooded, richly leathered, and warmly lighted interior of Karta Bar at 284 Thayer Street, your senses become imbued with the essence of the Mediterranean. The tactilely smooth sufficiently stuffed leather seating melds perfectly with the visually rich wood accents. Strategically placed mosaic tiles and large vibrant abstract canvases collect the autumnally hued light escaping through heavy textile shades. It is at once comfortable and sexy. Undoubtedly this is a contributing factor to its success. Close enough to downtown to attract the working class looking for something to snap them out of the doldrums of a long day and within walking distance of the colleges the variety of clientele has determined the mix of food, drink, furnishings, and entertainment that make this an outstanding restaurant, bistro, and night club. Though it is stunning enough to be enveloped by the furnishings it is no less enjoyable to be greeted and treated by the outstanding staff.
The menu is indulgent, affordable, and touched by the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. The most popular appetizer, Barcelona Shrimp, is a plate of plump shrimp floating in a savory broth spiked with chunks of chorizo and garnished with crescents of toasted bread drizzled with olive oil. Once the shrimp and chorizo are gone you’ll need the bread to sop up the spicy broth. French Onion and Tomato Basil Cream soups are standard every day fair while an additional soup du jour and seven salads with the option of chicken or shrimp added up the variety for lighter fair.
With eight gourmet pizzas under $12.00 you’d be hard pressed to find a better deal, you certainly wouldn’t get it from one of those cardboard disc wielding chain store delivery joints. The Kartabar signature pie boasts red wine poached pears, figs, Gorgonzola, mozzarella, Fontina and Reggiano cheese. The recent rise in the popularity of tomato and mozzarella with basil cannot be denied but toss it on a pizza with the added kick of prosciutto and you’ve taken it to another level.
Sure sellers include eight not so all American versions of the hamburger under $8.00 including fries; seven Black Angus and one veggie. The Kartaburger is topped with sautéed mushrooms, bacon, lettuce, tomato, Bermuda onions and Swiss cheese. The Mediterranean Burger finds favor with more complex palates; a Black Angus burger topped with roasted red peppers, goat cheese, and kalamata olive tapenade for a true fusion of Mediterranean flavors. All of the sandwiches on the menu are also under $8.00 and feature such succulent ingredients as: grilled tuna, plum tomatoes, caper and lemon aioli, sautéed mushrooms, a trio of roasted peppers, gorgonzola cheese, Portobello mushrooms, and artichokes.
Pasta dishes include: Penne Enotecca (sautéed chicken, mushrooms, tomato, pancetta, white wine, basil, parsley, house marinara and Reggiano cheese), lobster ravioli, and Gnocchi Diablo con Filet Mignon (gnocchi in spicy marinara with pieces of sautéed fillet mignon and mozzarella). The Gnocchi in pink vodka cream sauce with shrimp offers pillows of slightly sticky potato pasta evenly coated with a sweet and tangy sauce with four large shrimp nestled on top.
The epitome of the entrée section is a Grilled Fillet Mignon for a meager $21.95. Cooked to your specifications and stuffed oozing with gorgonzola cheese. Sides include seasonal sautéed vegetables and a mountain of rustic mashed potatoes. With this dish there is no crying over spilled cheese because any that escapes the steak can be used to enhance the already delectable potatoes. Ringed with glossy rivulets of a red wine reduction that compliments every item on the plate it is a culinary work of art.
As for a finishing touch to an exemplary meal I have two words for you… fried cheesecake! It is a distinct possibility that this is the single most unexpectedly amazing dessert you will ever have. A thin but glistening layer of crispy fried corn flakes encrusts a thick slice of smooth cheese cake surrounded by a pool of warm Chambord sauce with two dollops of freshly whipped cream and strawberries. Your fork cracks through what can only be described as a crème brûlée on steroids. The first mouthful is a shock as you get the crunch of the coating, followed by a rush of warm molten cheese cake at the outer edges and finally a cold center. Mmmmmm…..