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At Mediterranean eatery, emphasis is on quality fare

by on December 01, 2013 2:00 AM

First of all, an explanation on the name: Tazé (tah-ZAY). In Turkish it means fresh, as in fresh seafood, fresh pasta.

Freshness was a guiding principle for Levent and Mary Beth Akbay when they opened Tazé Ristorante in August in the former train station at 1125 Philadelphia St., Indiana.

“We wanted to be a 90 percent scratch kitchen,” with as many dishes and their ingredients made on-site as possible, Mary Beth Akbay said.

“Some of the achievements in freshness would not have been possible even a few years ago, she said. For example, fish caught off the coast of Greece on Monday arrives at Tazé’s door Wednesday. And they arrive whole.

“We cut it and fillet it here,” she said.

Tazé is open for lunch and dinner and offers cuisines from Spain, France, Italy, Greece and Turkey.

“Our goal is to present Indiana with an option of fresh Mediterranean food done right so people don’t have to travel to Pittsburgh or Altoona,” Levent Akbay said.

“Quick bites” on the menu include calamari, mussels marinara, beef tartar, cheese drop soup, seafood chowder and spinach salad with salmon.

Entrée choices include grilled swordfish or pork chop, pan-roasted Chilean sea bass, sweet potato ravioli, pasta bruco, herb-crusted chicken and more.

Selections from a wood fire oven include calzone and a variety of pizzas.

Diners may finish their meal with crepes, creéme bruélée trio or other desserts.

Salads, sides and sandwiches are also available.

The emphasis on freshness is also evident in the breads, pastries, salad dressings, gelato, cheeses and soups made on the premises.

“We also use local farms in season,” Levent Akbay said.

“We wanted to offer wines not available at state liquor stores,” Mary Beth Akbay added, and Tazé’s list includes eclectic selections from boutique wineries.

The restaurant also has a full bar with top-shelf liquors and an eight-tap double-chilled beer system that serves beer at about 29 degrees.

“Familiar yet unique” is the slogan on Tazeé’s menu, and the uniqueness is especially apparent in the presentation of food, Levent Akbay said.

For example, Tazé infuses some of its vodka with fresh peach, vanilla beans, watermelon and other flavors.

A compressed apple salad is prepared by treating the apple in a vacuum with citrus and mint flavors.

“We’ve taken a typical bruschetta and added an eggplant puree,” Mary Beth Akbay said.

And French pressed coffee is brewed in individual serving pots at guests’ tables.

The Akbays are also the proprietors of Romeo’s Pizza in Indiana, and Levent Akbay has more than 30 years experience as a chef.

“We have some young chefs — culinary graduates — with great ideas” on the staff of about 35 full- and part-time employees, Mary Beth Akbay said.

The wood oven also turns out some of Tazé’s appetizers, including il ciccio, a traditional Italian flat bread served with roasted red pepper sauce.

Even the ambiance is unique. Some remodeling was done inside the 110-year-old train station, which opened up the interior a little and created an atmosphere Mary Beth Akbay describes as “rustic-urban.”

“It’s a relaxed atmosphere,” Levent Akbay said.

The waiters and waitresses take customers’ orders on iPads, shortening the ordering-to-serving turnaround time.

Tazé has table seating for 74 guests. Alfresco dining on the Philadelphia Street side of the restaurant is an option in warm weather.

Mary Beth Akbay said there is a misconception around Indiana that Tazé is “exclusive” or pricey.

“Of course we have our high-end fillet mignon (at $36),” Levent Akbay said. “The prices — for what we serve — are extremely affordable. I don’t want to compromise on the quality. … We pay special attention to every aspect. The food we serve is top-quality at extremely affordable prices.”

“We care about our food,” Mary Beth Akbay added. “The quality of the food is first and foremost.”

Tazé Ristorante’s dining room is open Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and from 4 to 9 p.m. Pizza is available those days from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and the bar is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

On Thursday, Friday and Saturday the dinning room is open 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and from 4 to 10 p.m. Pizza may be ordered those days from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and the bar is open from 11 a.m. to midnight.

PHOTO: THE BAR and dining area at Tazé Ristorante, 1125 Philadelphia St., were crowded Wednesday during a United Way fundraising event.



Randy Wells has been a reporter and staff writer at The Indiana Gazette since 1988. His regular assignments include coverage of the Indiana County commissioners, Indiana Borough council and the Marion Center Area School District. His email address is rwells@indianagazette.net.
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